Chris Brown’s latest album chalks up an ‘X’ in the loss column

R&B’s prodigal son returns only to fail miserably on latest full-length

Fresh off a year in jail, Chris Brown returns to the world of pop music with latest album “X.” After two years without a full-length album and a string of run-ins with the law, Brown had a lot to prove when returning to the studio. Despite solid indication of a comeback with singles “Loyal” and “Love More,” great expectations were met with sheer disappointment.

“X” proves to be a hodgepodge of R&B and pop songs which never seem to coalesce into a work which can stand on its own. The release boasts a grand total of 17 tracks, with 21 on the deluxe edition. This album definitely cannot be listened to in one sitting, damaging its image overall.

Very few people want to spend more than an hour listening to the same Chris Brown album. Being concise and straightforward with an album is what works. For a project this long, Brown should have considered a split into two separate projects (i.e. Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience”).

Another problem which plagues “X” is the lack of evolution in Brown’s artistry. The album contains no exceptional songs or singles, and Brown doesn’t explore any distinct topics or themes. Brown last evolved as an artist with his 2011 release “F.A.M.E.”, in which he explored themes of his own success and experimented with new genres of music ("Beautiful People," "Yeah 3x," and "Look at Me Now"). It is clear, however, he has since stagnated, putting out bland, unoriginal music which sounds like a collection of Usher or Michael Jackson songs.

This latest offering is also tragically bogged down by collaborators. There are far too many songs which aren’t simply his own. There is everyone from pop singers to rappers to a dead R&B star (in sampling from Aaliyah). The star-studded cast also includes Ariana Grande, Tyga, Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Usher and Kendrick Lamar. What ever happened to Chris Brown songs which were just sung by Chris Brown?

On the album, songs like “Add Me In” remind listeners why features may be safer, though. Hearing Brown croon lyrics like, “Your body’s an isosceles / and I’m just tryna try angles” make anyone’s skin crawl.

Despite some commercial success — yes, he does know how to make a hit every few years — Chris Brown’s “X” makes it obvious he is holding on to his pop culture relevance for dear life. This incredibly long and convoluted album, with no clear message or theme, once again has lowered the expectations for Brown and for pop music.

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