Monday, 2 January 2012

The Urbanite R&B Album of 2011 - F.A.M.E

1. F.A.M.E (Chris Brown)

"I get what you get in ten years, in two days". 

Before his assault on Rihanna, Chris Brown was widely tipped to be the new all singing, all dancing successor to Usher's crown as the King of R&B.  For a short moment after being charged with assault Brown was a persona non-grata in the music industry, an artist that everybody was afraid to touch in case they were tainted with the same brush.

There were three things, however, that changed Brown's status from a nobody back to a hotshot.  The first was the release of a song, the remorse filled Changed Man, shortly after his conviction.  The second was his tearful appearance at the BET awards, where he broke down on stage.  Finally, it was the release of his joint mixtape with Tyga, Fan of a Fan, that reminded fans of his natural talent, ability and rapping skills.  The highlight of the mixtape was the track Deuces; a two fingers up to all his haters and detractors.

It was all a sign to say that Brown was sorry, he was remorseful and, most of all, he was back.

And boy, was he back when he released his fourth studio album.  Aptly titled F.A.M.E (Forgive All My Enemies) the album is a perfect mix of slow love ballads, up-tempo dance tunes and hip hop beats.

Kicking off with the aforementioned Deuces, Brown begins the album in bullish mood as he sticks his fingers up to the haters and girlfriends that have gone by.  His confidence doesn't stop there; on No Bullshit he successfully persuades a girl to come over for a late night booty call ('you already know what time it is, reach up in the dresser where them condoms is").  And on Wet The Bed, which surprisingly isn't about pissing yourself in your sleep after a late night out, Brown and Ludacris subtly go back and forth over how they are going to give it to their respective girls ("I ain't afraid to drown, if that means I'm deep up in your ocean").

But it's not just the explicit lyrics that make this album what it is.  Surprisingly, some of the ballads are F.A.M.E's finest moments.  She Ain't You explains that awkward moment when you are stuck in a dead end relationship whilst still in love with your ex.  Should've Kissed You is about that time and place that all of us have been in the past; presented with the chance to kiss someone you like but regrettably passing over the opportunity ("how come every time I get the chance I lose my cool and I blow it").  The themes of these ballads have been done before; but with great production and songwriting by up and coming producer H Money, Brown sounds revitalized and fresh.

The epic moment of the album comes on the fantastic Look At Me Now; 3 mins plus of rap madness produced by Diplo that has Brown joined by Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne on one of the tracks of the year.  Busta's verse is particularly stunning (I can manage to rap along to about two-thirds of the verse before losing my way) and the video is equally good.

Other notable features are Wiz Khalifa, on the bonus track Bomb, and Benny Benassi on Beautiful People.

All in all, this is the R&B album of the year and should go some way to restoring Brown's career.  And they said comebacks of this kind were not possible.

Choons to download: Look At Me Now, She Ain't You, Bomb, Paper Scissor Rock, 

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