Brown’s soulful new direction

Stints in jail and rehab, mandated court appearances and most recently, a shooting at his pre-VMA party this summer has made 2014 yet another troubling year for Chris Brown. The constant media coverage of the many problems in Brown’s personal life detracts from the fact that he has been and continues to be one of the most popular hit-makers currently. 

His sixth studio album, “X,” released on Sept. 12, is full of hits, as one would expect from the R&B/hip-hop singer.

In an interview with Ebony magazine, Brown expressed his intention of going in a different direction with his new music by straying away from pop-sounding and sexually explicit songs. “X” executes these goals as a deeper, more soulful and mature album. Brown explained in the interview why he chose this particular title. 

“It’s the Roman numeral for 10. 5/5/89 is my birthday: five plus five is 10, and this is my tenth year since I got into music,” said Brown. “‘X’ is the 24th letter in the alphabet, and I will turn 24 when this album comes out. ‘X’ is also a metaphor, as in ‘ex-girlfriend’: it implies you’re progressing and moving on in life, not holding on to the past and your old ways.”

The album uniquely features 21 songs, nine of which are collaborations with well-known artists. “X” sounds distinctively different from Brown’s past albums and successfully stands out the way he intended it to. 

His soulful lyrics are combined with hip-hop and beats of new-age music. In his continued interview with Ebony Magazine, Brown explained his new album. 

“I tried to stay away from the Euro beats, and not go totally pop. Instead, I wanted to take the Quincy Jones approach,” said Brown. “The record pays homage to the Stevie Wonders, the Michael Jacksons, the Sam Cookes. I wanted to put that classic essence of R&B and soul with the new age of music now. There’s a lot of live instruments, and a lot less Auto-Tune. I really wanted to demonstrate my vocal ability, creating the vibe of me singing along with a band.”

Brown’s songs “Fine China” and “New Flame (feat. Usher and Rick Ross)” demonstrate his R&B and soulful side with smooth and relaxed lyrics and beats. They are songs about love and romance, which are much more appropriate and sexually toned down from Brown’s earlier songs. In the chorus of “Fine China,” Brown sings: “It’s alright, I’m not dangerous. When you’re mine, I’ll be generous. You’re irreplaceable, collectible, just like fine China.”

The hit song, “Loyal (feat. Lil Wayne & Tyga),” shows off the type of music that Brown is best known for – catchy, sing-along party music with a simple repeating chorus and inappropriate lyrics. This song was produced by up-and-coming Bay Area producer and recording artist, “Nic Nac,” who is a part of the group, Starting Six. Although the lyrics are somewhat tasteless, the upbeat sound and production the song are ear pleasing. 

“Love More (feat Nicki Minaj)” also demonstrates the more typical pop and hip-hop sounding Brown of the past with fast-paced club/dance beats.

“X,” Brown’s title song, is experimental with a whole new sound. At first it starts out very slow and soulful, but quickly changes into a fast-paced electronic dance music beat produced by Diplo. 

Throughout the song, the sound continuously merges back and forth between the two. This song truly encompasses Brown’s vision for this album in sounding unlike anything else he’s done before.