Chris Brown - Graffiti
The less professional writer would probably abuse their “analysis” of Chris Brown's new opus to fly off the script and get “morally superior” with a savage critique of his 'leisure pursuits'. They might argue anyone who ('allegedly' is the word you're after – TMF Lawyer Bigwigs) beats a lady (yes, even Rihanna) unconscious and leaves her for dead ('allegedly' reprise) has no place in civilized society. Yes, the less dignified critic would've scoffed as said singer went on TV “avec Mummy”, resplendent in a pastel jumper 'n' dickie bow bemoaning “the pressures of fame”. They might call for such a 'weasel' to be tarred, feathered and paraded through the town. Well that might be other writers matey but not me, no way, no how, I'm professional to the core. With me it's ALL about the music (winks at camera). So let's get down to business eh?
First impressions? Eeek! The artwork is tragic (Brownmeister wielding axe and spraying what might be Domestos gremlins) and – gulp – an endless highway of twenty songs stretch out before me. Does any album need twenty songs?? No, not even 'skits', full songs. Chris Brown, barely out of nappies, surely he can't have this much wisdom to extol? I'm betting by track five he's just making stuff up.
Well colour me badd, I must confess a fondness for daft single I Can Transform Ya. Despite winning 'The Worst Single Artwork of 2009' it's a nutcracker of metal machine music with the kind of throbbing twitch that usually wins you a night in the cells 'to cool down'. It's a slight reminder that in an age when muppets like N-Dubz are considered pioneers, R'n'B can still occasionally hit a bullseye in cutting edge pop.
Oh but the descent is so swift it gives me whiplash. Straight back to the faux romantic “Let's hold hands and walk through the park” bobbins that so many peddle to keep rollin' in those starry eyed teenage dollars. Let's tick off a few for fun, “Everyone says we're through, where do we go from here?”, “Let her know it's so cold here without her”, “Where can love take us?”. Über nonsense!! The gold medal however goes to the grubbily unsexy Crawl with its key McGuffin “If we crawl, crawl back to love”. Yes, girls just want to crawl through life. Would Otis have made his woman crawl? Hells no, he would've carried her in his arms like every Loverman should.
Take My Time is another lyrical marvel. “Girl step outta the shower...stay naked, I'm staring at you for an hour”. Poor lamb'll freeze!! At one stage, two chaps threaten to “do her right” and they'll be “kissing and licking on you everywhere”. Urrlk! Blimey if it doesn't work though as said lass magically hits an Oscar worthy pervo-climax “yeah, right there, oooh”. Amazing! Later, during Gotta Be Ur Man Brown wistfully lists his girl's finest qualities, “your face and your booty”. Strange that, whenever I compare a woman's face to her arse I get slapped. Must be a fame ting.
But one knows Brown is more interested in himself than any Dames. “I see my name in the sky” he sighs. He even feels compelled to keep reminding us he's CHRIS BROWN! This is made possible by employing some halfwit to periodically enter stage left and bellow “IT'S CHRIS BROWN!”. Oh and the endless parade of guest raps bangin' on about cars, chains and cribs. Seriously, fuck off.
No, being a billionaire swordsman isn't enough. An undercurrent of some imagined struggle is written through Graffiti like a stick of Blackpool rock. Check out the woe-is-me hand wringing on Fallin' Down or I Need This. “It's getting heavy, I'm about to break down...don't give up on me”. Diddums. “I'm only human we're all the same” yeah tell it to the Judge. Book 'em Danno!
Of course it's not totally terrible. So Cold has some lovely piano tinkling and I'll Go is actually – amazingly - bloomin' gorgeous. It's weepy ballerinas and basically Stevie Wonder singing Oasis' Slide Away. The Captain Pugwash lunacy of I Need U is admirably cuckoo too. IYA could be something from the Valerie Collective – Miami Vice style '80's tenderoni – until it's ruined by what might be a cat meowing into a Vocoder. In fact it's possible Chris Brown has shares in Vocoders, they're like bloody Pigeons leaving crap everywhere.
Graffiti is however, totally, perversely soulless. It's music made by committee. I'd imagine his lawyers have picked through EVERY single line (although there is that ouch! chorus “I wanna take your breath / wait 'til you pass out”). Lordy, 20 songs too. 20 songs and you learn zip about its creator. Just every R'n'B cliché imaginable and then some. Any sparks of innovation are buried deep beneath the king sized mattresses of 'Hey-I'm-a-man-with-a-six-pack-and-designer-stubble but I'm-sensitive-to-your-every-need-girl-oh-by-the-way IT'S CHRIS BROWN!'
Just a decade ago, R'n'B / urban / whatever made the smartest, most exciting music in the world, Cookies, Say My Name, One Thing, Try Again – people, what the fuck happened? Where d'ya go? Oh and chuckles at the “Thanks Most Of All To God” liner note. Chris, I just spoke to Big G and He asked me to tell you, “You're on your own pal”.