Label: Jive Records
Release Date: March 18, 2011
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Bri LaPelusa
Chris Brown has been blowing up the radio and Top 40 charts for the first time in a little over two years since his teen dream personae was destroyed with his domestic abuse charges against Rihanna. The R&B singer attempts to repair his image and re-establish himself as an artist with his fourth studio release, F.A.M.E.
On my first listening of F.A.M.E, I was confused as to whose album it actually was—nearly every track is sung and/or rapped by someone else. Not only do nearly all the tracks feature other artist/s, but the entire album is dominated by them. Notable guest spots include Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Timbaland, and yes—Justin Bieber. It's no surprise then that F.A.M.E feeds off the fame and star power of its featured artists—as though Brown’s talent is validated by the support of his A-List collaborators.
I was especially surprised by Bieber’s support—the fact that his squeaky clean Teen Beat image remains untarnished by his appearance on “Next To You” might be affirmation that Chris Brown is once again an accepted celebrity. Digitized violins resound on the sugary track, melting Brown and Bieber’s angelic vocals into one another. The dreamy ballad is ironically preceded by the ode to alcohol and F.A.M.E’s first single, “Yeah 3X”—a true party anthem with the chorus: “You love to drink/So do we/Get my bottles/Bring ‘em to me/Hold your glasses up/People everywhere”. On F.A.M.E, Brown manages to produce annoyingly catchy pop songs that are destined to coincidentally stick themselves in your head, and sicken your stomach.
The album’s second single, “Look At Me Now”, is undoubtedly the most “gangsta” track on the album—the dirty South inspired rap song involves very little singing, and a drawn-out beat that’s irritatingly infectious. Though, the paradox in being able to let said sick beat ride out and enjoy the song comes from its lyrics; while Brown’s chorus is innocuous enough, “Look at me now/Look at me now/I’m gettin’ pap-errr”, the abruptly homophobic/misogynistic lyrics and elementary rhyming from Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne dampen the song’s appeal.
Three out of five meatballs go to Mr. Brown for managing to reassert himself as a representative mainstream pop singer, as well as for convincing F.A.M.E’s A-List featured artists to actually sing with him.