Speaking of fortune, Chris Brown’s has been remarkably good in the past few years. Commercially, at least, he seems to have rebounded from his 2009 assault on Rihanna, his girlfriend at the time. He even won his first Grammy earlier this year for 2011’s “F.A.M.E.”
More astounding than turning his career around, though, is how he maintains his popularity with such bland music. “Fortune” is full of some of the most boilerplate R&B and urban pop to have been released this year. Strip away the million-dollar beats and the star cameos (including rappers Nas and Wiz Khalifa) and the album, his fifth in seven years, rings jarringly hollow.
Brown is credited as a co-writer on all of the songs, but he has little on his mind beyond the expected themes of “sexing” and turning up the music. Sample lyric: “Oh, baby, let’s get naked / Just so we can make sweet love.” Ladies, please control yourself when Brown pleads on another song, “I just wanna see you strip.”
When Brown does bare his teeth, it mirrors how defiant and even cocky he has appeared in public. (Consult his Twitter account for further reading.) “You heard about my image / But I could give a flying [expletive] who’s offended,” he sings on “Bassline.” He’s more effective as a balladeer. “Don’t Judge Me” is not as defensive as it sounds; he’s directing the message to a lover riddled with jealousy and insecurity.
“Fortune” has at least one moment of redemption: “Don’t Wake Me Up,” a thumping club cut that’s irresistible on an otherwise forgettable album. (Out now)
ESSENTIAL “Don’t Wake Me Up”