The last two years have been anything but breezy for Chris Brown as he worked to repair his tarnished image and regain his following. After 2009s underwhelming Graffiti, the R&B star bounced back to the top last summer with singles “Deuces” and “No BS.” Now he faces his critics once again with his fourth album F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies), available now. Did they raise him up or tear him down? Find out below.
USA Today: But it is a more mature, confident, and adventurous Brown who has emerged in the wake of all the drama, and he has delivered the strongest album of his career. He’s much edgier than before, which is a good thing, since the 22-year-old has clearly outgrown that nice-kid-next-door persona he had six years ago. 3 out of 4
Rolling Stone: F.A.M.E. is a pop ‘n’ b album with something for everyone: bedroom ballads, dance-floor thumpers and even “Next 2 You,” a puppy-love declaration with guest vocals by Justin Bieber. 3 out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Graffiti clearly came too soon. And some still think Brown should go—and stay—away. But on its own merits, F.A.M.E. deserves to be heard. B+
The New York Times: This album’s highlight is “Look at Me Now,” a fabulous, insidiously catchy production by Diplo and Afrojack on which Mr. Brown double-time-raps about stealing girlfriends. At least here Mr. Brown is clever, funny, and pushing himself technically.
Los Angeles Times: All of it is done capably, even superbly in some cases, though F.A.M.E. also feels strained and sometimes downright desperate. That said, there’s no denying he pulls off some neat coups. “She Ain’t You” is carried aloft on a gussied up sample from Jackson’s “Human Nature” and the sentiment of the song is refreshingly complex. 2.5 out of 4
The Boston Globe: Only a handful of tracks truly showcase Brown’s strengths. “She Ain’t You” derives much of its charm from a hefty sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” It is totally shameless and completely effective.
The Associated Press: Even on smooth grooves that aren’t sexually charged, Brown sounds top-notch. “Deuces,” a No. 1 R&B hit, was one of last year’s best songs, and like it, “Up to You” is destined to hit the top spot—and it deserves to be.
The Guardian: This record’s syrupy mid-section makes good on his desire to write “songs that your grandma can love,” while Justin Bieber duet “Next to You” will appeal only to your tweenie sister.
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Look at Me Now,” “She Ain’t You,” “Yeah 3X,” “Paper, Scissors, Rock”