While Maroon 5‘s V album that they dropped a couple weeks ago was in fact their 5th release, X is not Chris Brown‘s 10th album. That would be pretty crazy for a 25 year old. Granted, Chris has liven a lot of life in his quarter of a century, but this is actually album #6 for him, which is still pretty impressive. Since his life went off the rails in 2009, Chris’ albums have struggled to be consistent, which kinda makes sense: he’s a little distracted.
X has some strong moments, especially as it starts out. The opening title track, with its cutting kiss-off lyrics, manages to be a soft piano ballad, an R&B slow jam, and EDM song all in one. “Add Me In” has an upbeat vibe reminiscent of Michael Jackson, and singles “Loyal” (with Lil Wayne and Tyga) and “New Flame” (featuring Usher and Rick Ross) are extremely catchy.
From there, things falter. Chris singing about going down on a girl on a song called “Drown On It” (yup) goes past being sexy and is just creepy. It doesn’t help that R. Kelly is on the track too. Eek. The production on “Songs On 12 Play” featuring Trey Songz, “Came To Do” with Akon, and “Stereotype” is just tired. They sound like thousands of R&B songs you’ve heard before. Chris didn’t put much creative energy into those ones.
Things finally pick back up with “Time For Love” with its sunny, varied sound. Kendrick Lamar pops up on the standout “Autumn Leaves”. Along with the presence of Kendrick, the song manages to combine guitars and R&B beat while still sounding smooth. Then Brandy pops up on “Do Better”, and it’s an incredible duet. Both performers are passionate on the song about self-loathing. Then nothing will prepare you for the sound on “See You Around”. It’s like Chris found a leftover song from the Mumford And Sons playbook. It’s pretty freakin’ cool.
Next is the Ariana Grande duet “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” that she probably wanted to bury. I believe it was meant to be part of her My Everything album, but once Chris went to jail, the plan to release it as a single was dropped. Well, now Chris has included on his album. Actually Ariana isn’t even credited on the track listing, unlike every other guest artist on X. It’s a solid duet. Their voices spend most of the time singing in unison and it works.
After a string of thoughtful tracks, it’s a shame Chris then goes back to “Body Shots”: a song destined for grindin’ on the dancefloor. It’s a decent song, but has an out-of-place slot on the track listing. Things wrap up with the solid “Drunk Texting” with Jhene Aiko. Classy title, but it has a fun beat.
The deluxe edition consists of other songs Chris has released over the past 18 months, including the fantastic “Fine China”, “Love More” with Nicki Minaj, and the Aaliyah-sampled “Don’t Think They Know”.
Once again, Chris has given us an album that you have to pick apart in order to find the good stuff. With a stellar opening and strong finish, it’s really the middle section that consists of cliched R&B beats.