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Review: Brown has R&B on lock, but what about pop?

Review: Brown has R&B on lock, but what about pop?

Chris Brown, "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)" (Jive Label Group)

March 22nd, 2011 in News

Chris Brown's "Graffitti," which arrived on the music scene 10 months after his attack on Rihanna, landed with a thud. But a sinister public image wasn't his only hindrance.

The 2009 album didn't do him any favors: Most of the songs were weak and simply not up to par with his past two albums, especially 2007's "Exclusive," a near-perfect CD.

Brown is back on "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)," but artistically, he's still not all the way there. The singer, who turns 22 in May, continues to advance when it comes to making Quiet Storm hits: "No Bull" is a certified R&B jam, and the Ludacris-assisted "Wet the Bed" is just as good.

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.

But here's the problem: On the dance songs, Brown is just average. That's unfortunate since he is a skilled leg-mover and is (or was) seen as the heir to Michael Jackson behind Usher and Justin Timberlake.

"Yeah 3x" follows the formula currently dominating pop radio: There's endless drum loops, crowds cheering and pulsating beats. It's a song any current pop singer could sing. The same goes for the Euro-flavored "Beautiful People."

Then there's "Say It With Me" and "Oh My Love," two songs that sound too similar. For an album with only four up-tempo tunes, that's a pretty bad batting average.

So it begs the question: While Brown is a solid R&B singer, can he be a real pop star? After listening to "F.A.M.E.," the answer is unclear. "Should've Kissed You" and "She Ain't You" are R&B tunes with pop flavors that are semi-winners: Brown's voice sounds annoyingly nasally on the first song, and the second samples Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," so much work isn't needed to make the song work; SWV also sampled the Jackson song for their 1990s hit, "Right Here."

Brown's had major crossover success in the past; his debut song "Run It!" went to No. 1 on the pop charts, and he's had hits like "With You," "Kiss Kiss" and "Forever." Most of "F.A.M.E." - which is overloaded with 37 songwriters - can't compete with those tunes. Even enlisting pop's boy wonder doesn't do the trick: "Next to You" with Justin Bieber is the disc's worst track.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Up to You" has Brown learning from his mistakes in a past relationship and making sure he doesn't duplicate them in his current one.