Chris Brown â€“ Graffiti – Album Review
After a tumultuous year, spurred on by â€˜the incidentâ€™ which reverberated around the world, R&B star Chris Brown is back and looking to reassert his place at the top with new LP â€˜Graffitiâ€™. With the worldâ€™s glaring eyes fixated on the performance of the project, itâ€™d be hard to deny that this is the most important record the 20 year old will ever release. Therefore, itâ€™s no surprise that the album, Brownâ€™s 3rd, boasts production from some the industryâ€™s most renowned hit-makers and artists alike.
The question on the lips of many, though, is: Does â€˜Graffitiâ€™ do enough to redeem Brown in the court of public opinion? I vote â€˜Yes!â€™, albeit cautiouslyâ€¦
Largely comprised of up-tempo, club-destined tracks, the 13 song set kicks off to a cracking start with the Swizz Beats produced â€˜I Can Transform Yaâ€™. Featuring Lilâ€™ Wayne, the trackâ€“ one of the albumâ€™s lead singles â€“ sees Brown enlist rapper-like delivery in detailing how he can change the life of a lucky lady. Beyond being a rather good ode to self-indulgence, the song formally introduces the listener to a markedly different Chris Brown in comparison to the clean-cut teen who burst onto the scene back in 2005. In its place, an older, lyrically fearless, and sexually-unguarded Brown pervades the record.
Indeed, on the ridiculously catchy â€˜Sing Like Meâ€™ (produced by Los Da Mystro), Brown delivers the suggestive lyrics (â€œlooking for a â€˜right nowâ€™ donâ€™t need no wifeyâ€) with such subtlety that one almost forgets the risquÃ© nature of what heâ€™s singing (a feat only Janet Jackson has perfected better). Whilst elsewhere, the sexual undertones become overtones, on the Tank-assisted â€˜Take My Timeâ€™. Ushered in by African drums, and featuring a distinct 90s R&B aura (especially the vocal arrangements), the track â€“ put simply -oozes sex (sound effects inclusive). Put it this way, if â€˜Take You Downâ€™ (from Chrisâ€™ last LP â€˜Exclusiveâ€™) had an older, more experienced and all-round kinkier cousin, this would be it.
Not to be mis-pegged as a bedroom record, the album also excels with its grittier offerings, particularly The Runners produced â€˜What I Do (ft. Plies)â€™ and â€˜Waitâ€™, which was crafted by Polow Da Don and features Trey Songz and The Game. Brown re-enlists his rapper-esque tongue on street-anthem â€˜What I Doâ€™ (yes, street anthem), really surprising with his rapid-fire delivery. While the banger â€˜Waitâ€™ hits a home-run with stellar production, which Brown, Songz and Game ride effortlessly. The selection of Songz for the record is somewhat â€˜hitâ€™ and â€˜missâ€™ in that, while he compliments the track well, more times than not he and Brown sound too alike â€“ making it difficult to distinguish who is singing. Nonetheless, a great track.
Produced by Brian Kennedy, â€˜Pass Out (ft. Eva Simmons)â€™, is a blazing up-tempo, which should assemble clubbers of all persuasions on dance-floors across the globe. Featured is a sample of Eric Prydz club classic â€˜Call On Meâ€™, which works surprisingly well.
It is the lyrically explosive â€˜Famous Girlâ€™, however, that is undeniably the albumâ€™s centre-piece and will have MANY tongues wagging. The songâ€™s sparse production allows for the illumination of its lyrical content â€“ which is explicitly aimed at a certain Rihanna (yes you read right, and will want to read on!) The reflective mid-tempo sees Brown acknowledge his fault in the relationship breaking down, however there are quite shocking revelations levelled up against his one-time love. Lyrics include: â€œDrake would say youâ€™re the best he ever hadâ€¦everywhere we go, rumours followâ€¦yet I still love youâ€ // â€œshould have known youâ€™d break my heartâ€ // â€œâ€¦you were the first to play the gameâ€¦though I was wrong for cheating in the beginning â€ // â€œI was wrong for writing Disturbiaâ€. Brazen, naked and deeply insightful, this drum-driven cut highlights that thereâ€™s more to the pairâ€™s story than meets the eye and ear. My jaw is still on the floor.
Elsewhere, while epic ballad â€˜Crawlâ€™ (produced by The Messengers) serves as one of the albumâ€™s standout cuts, really showcasing Brownâ€™s matured vocals, itâ€™s largely the LPâ€™s slower-paced offerings which leave much to be desired. Besides not re-capturing the grandeur of â€˜Crawlâ€™ or exhibiting Brownâ€™s artistic growth as well, tracks such as â€˜So Coldâ€™ and â€˜Lucky Meâ€™ sound as if they were placed on the record with the sole intent of garnering pity. Particularly interesting to note is the sarcastically titled â€˜Lucky Meâ€™, for in reality Chris couldnâ€™t be any luckier to even have a record out, a fact Iâ€™m sure he should be/is grateful for. Hence, the poor-me gig could have been left on the cutting-room floor. Other tracks which could have joined it there include 80s Synth-Pop filler â€˜I.Y.A (I Wanna Wake Up In Your Arms)â€™ and â€˜Iâ€™ll Goâ€™ (produced by Brian Kennedy) â€“ which sounds a little too similar to Oasisâ€™ â€˜Stop Crying Your Heart Outâ€™ (I kid you not).
Despite its shortcomings, â€˜Graffitiâ€™ succeeds much more than it doesnâ€™t. Brownâ€™s newly-embraced adulthood, a recurrent theme during the album, never comes across as contrived or pretentious. Instead, listeners will eject the CD at the end of its run-time having acquired a deeper sense of who Chris Brown is. Between the albumâ€™s highly charged up-tempoâ€™s (which seem to have been specifically crafted with his trademark choreography in mind), mid-tempos and ballads, Brown bares all lyrically, vocally, and artistically. A great album by an artist, who regardless of the odds, is destined for great things.