In a 2006 interview with Oprah, Sean "Diddy" Combs said that the Notorious B.I.G.'s murder was a self-fulfilling prophecy. "His albums were called Ready to Die and Life After Death. One of his album covers was shot in a cemetery," he said. "Anything I've ever put in a record, I've seen it come true. So I try to teach the artists. I might ask, 'Is that really worth saying?'"
If we take Diddy at his word, he may have advised Chris Brown about repeatedly rapping and singing about bottle service on Fortune, his latest effort (July 3, Sony/RCA). "Thousand bottles, on these models; n---a, this ain't your night," he sing-raps on "Bassline," a track on the album.
But save for connections with Brown's bottle-throwing fight with Drake, the
R&B singer pop star's album doesn't have much in its favor. Fortune endeavors to hit every popular genre (dubstep, reggae, pop-house, ballads, resurgent R&B sex jams), and misses just about every time.
Like Usher and pretty much all other R&B artists (D'Angelo excepted), Brown veers haphazardly toward club tracks for much of the album. The dance songs are strikingly spare. Benny Benassi-produced "Don't Wake Me Up" has eight non-chorus lines against three renditions of the hook, which pairs a capable soar ("don't wake me uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup") with a simple four-on-the-floor beat that is painfully uncomplicated if listened to in the context of infinitely richer tracks made by actual electronic dance music acts. "Trumpet Lights," the album's final song, sounds like producer Polow da Don's grasping attempt at making a Diplo beat.
There's even a lame Sarah Palin joke on a track which features Big Sean ("Till I Die"), who already made a lame Sarah Palin joke in another song ("Mercy").
The album's slow songs approach some semblance of potential, but ultimately fall short as well. On "Don't Judge Me," Brown admits that he cheated on his lover, but argues that it's OK because it was before he really "fell" for her.
"If you love me," he says, "then let it be beautiful." (Ladies?)
Elsewhere, on "2012," Brown reaches for an in-your-face frankness, but lyrics like "I'm gonna kiss your other set of lips" still ring juvenile. It's supposed to be sexy, but it comes across like something you'll hear in a fitting room at Marshall's.
In fact, much of the album's bedroom anthems just feel like rewrites of each other. "Biggest Fan" and "Sweet Love" are virtually the same song, full of plaintive depictions of sex and making women scream ("Sweet Love": "Girl, you sure you wanna slow it down / And you start screaming when I go downtown"; "Biggest Fan": "When you scream I need / To pull your body closer, let me sexy you baby").
Much of "Sweet Love" is Brown telling a girl, "Let's get naked, just so we can make sweet love." "Strip," the next song, opens with the following line: "Take it off, I want to love you."
On "Mirage," a reaggae-ish track which features Nas, Brown goes through verse after verse without actually saying anything. There's an appalling absence of heart. "Four Years Old" sounds like a singer-songwriter tune that would have been much better handled by a Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson.
Brown's album stumbles the most, however, when he hints at a more menacing, lethal side of love. On "Biggest Fan," he tells a woman, "you better not change your mind" and that "no is not on option." "I'm gonna put you on the wall," he rap-sings on "Bassline." On "Mirage," he sings "she want me to hold her, hold her down." It's fine for R&B singers to position themselves as dark Lotharios, but its most certainly not acceptable for a singer who brutally beat a woman to whine that "no is not an option."
Also, he has a song called "Stuck on Stupid."
At Sunday's BET Awards, Brown thanked those who worked on this, his "last" (meaning latest). MTV rashly reported that he was announcing his retirement. He was not (and the network walked back their article), but Fortune makes one wonder if hanging up his mic might be the best thing he could do.
Fortune hits stores July 3. Check out some of the album's more unfortunate lyrics below. Brown's music follows.
1. Save my life, all I wanna do is party ("Turn Up The Music")
2. Girl can I see that? I really wanna touch that. Baby can I feel that? ("Turn Up The Music") (Ed. note: Some lyric sites have the last line as "Maybe I can beat that.")
3. You're a model? I got bottles, pour it down ("Bassline")
4. Pretty motherf---er, I'mma put you on the wall ("Bassline")
5. Thousand bottles, on these models; n---a, this ain't your night ("Bassline")
6. Pimps up, hoes down / Ass up, nose down (Big Sean on "Till I Die")
7. Said she wanna check the pole, I said, "OK Sarah Palin," so I lay down and lay in ("Till I Die")
8. I be smokin' that fire, and she be smokin' my d--k (Big Sean on "Till I Die")
9. You're hearing rumors about me / And you can't stand the thought / Of someone touching my body / When you so close to my heart / I won't deny what they're saying / Because most of it is true / But it was all before I fell for you ("Don't Judge Me")
10. I love the way you sound / When you rain on me ... I'm gonna kiss your other set of lips ("2012")
11. You would think we in a waterbed / All the sheets are soaked ("Biggest Fan")
12. And no one asked you if you got a man / And do I care? I don't ("Biggest Fan")
13. Two girls and one champ, no is not an option ("Biggest Fan")
14. You movin' right, I wanna see what's up under then back it up, beep beep like a truck-ah ("Strip")
15 If you told me to go rock climbing / To prove my love to you / You know I would have died trying ("Stuck on Stupid")
16. The stupid things I do, I do it for you ("Stuck on Stupid")
17. If your heart is a pillow, this love's the bed ("Don't Wake Me Up")
18. Hey little mama all that ass in them pants / Drop it like you're single even though you got a man ("Trumpet Lights")
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously indicated that the line "Thousand bottles, on these models; n---a, this ain't your night" was on "Till I Die." It is on "Bassline," and the article is corrected above.