New Music Review: Chris Brown; ‘F.A.M.E.’ (MUSIC VIDEO)

New Music Review: Chris Brown; 'F.A.M.E.' (MUSIC VIDEO)Will there ever be a point when we can stop analyzing Chris Brown’s music for references to the Rihanna incident? Probably not. “You make me wanna say bye-bye to her,” Brown sings on “Deuces,” the subtly slinky single from his latest album, F.A.M.E. (short for Forgiving All My Enemies). Is it about RiRi? Maybe, maybe not. He ain’t telling, in any case.

Not that there’s anything new we can learn at this point. The now-infamous ordeal (Brown referred to it as a “mishap”) where the R&B singer beat up his then-girlfriend will likely hang over him, if not the rest of his career, for at least one more album. But there’s something to be said for Brown the artist that he’s still hard at work.

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F.A.M.E. is equal parts brilliant and forgettable, a wonderfully constructed record that will probably be remembered, as ‘09’s Graffiti was, as another stepping stone in his rehabilitation rather than what it actually is: a decent pop record by a gifted hitmaker. Brown is as versatile as ever in the studio, lacing each song with efficient production so that, even when he veers headlong into schmaltz –witness the R. Kelly-channeling “Up 2 You” and the lovely “Next 2 You,” featuring a post-pubescent Justin Bieber – it at least has a good backing track. Brown is still at its best with full-blown club bangers, like the vibrant jam “Yeah 3x.” With its scatman synths, caveman hollers and caterwauling “yeah, yeah, yeah” refrain that could have come off of a Cher record circa 1999, the song was built to get the blood pumping, and it does.

“Look At Me Now” is an unexpected surprise surprise: an all-star collaboration with Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes with production the Wu-Tang Clan would find sparse, it’s the anti-club song by a bunch of guys who practically invented the practice. The song finds its fireworks on the rappers’ verses, especially Busta’s dizzying contribution (it’s one of the few times on a song that Lil Wayne finds himself outclassed).

Brown’s tendency to court tastelessness is, as always, his biggest Achilles heel. “No Bullshit” sounds lovely but turns out it’s an anthem about unprotected, earth-shattering sex. It’s funny in the complete wrong way, like Brown was soundtracking the latest R. Kelly sex tape.

This goes on for a bit, with Brown sounding finally like a man in control of his art and his life. But just when you think he’s out of the woods, Brown gets sentimental again for some lady he never quite musters the courage to name. “With you I had a bad romance…nobody could ever pass you up,” he sings over a swirling sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” on “She’s Not You.”

Later, he croons “I want it all back,” on the hook of the weepy “All Back.” In art and life, Chris Brown’s worst enemy remains himself. Now, when he forgives that guy, he’ll really have his masterpiece.

WATCH: Chris Brown feat. Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne; “Look At Me Now”:


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