If 2011′s “F.A.M.E.” proved Chris Brown could still be commercially successful despite his increasingly volatile reputation, this year’s “Fortune” sees Brown taking something of a victory lap.
Cryptically referred by Brown as his “last” album at Sunday’s 2012 BET Awards, “Fortune” picks up where “F.A.M.E.” left off stylistically by bouncing between hip-hop (“Bassline,” “TIll I Die”) and EDM-influenced dance pop (“Turn Up The Music,” “Don’t Wake Me Up”), with a couple pure pop moments (“Party Hard / Cadillac,” “4 Years Old”) that helped “F.A.M.E.” singles like “She Ain’t You” and “Next 2 You” featuring Justin Bieber cross over.
As talk of partying and rough sex pervades most of the album, Brown often asks the listener to both remember and forget his bad rep. “I – I – I’m winning / You heard about my image / But I could give a flying motherfuck who’s offended” he raps on “Bassline.” Later, he addresses an entire song called “Don’t Judge Me” to potential girlfriends by asking, “Take me as I am / Not who I was / I promise I’ll be / The one you can trust.”
Ultimately designed to please the hardcore fans who’ve stuck by him since 2009′s Grammy incident, “Fortune” is a fully adult R&B record that will likely churn out at least two or three more singles to Brown’s growing repertoire.
Which songs on “Fortune” are repeat-worthy? Check out our track-by-track breakdown of Chris Brown’s fifth studio album.
1. “Turn Up The Music”: One of Brown’s most infectious (and innocuous) singles to date, “Turn Up The Music” sets the tone for the album’s remaining 13 cuts right away — who needs stress when there’s hot beats?
2. “Bassline”: Breezy gets his Weezy on, with helium-like giggles and ice-cold beats reminiscent of the Young Money captain, complete with a finger-snappin’ chorus (“Girls like my / Bassline / Gonna shake it to my / Bassline.”). If any non-single here is destined to break out among the hip-hop circuit, this is it.
3. “Till I Die,” featuring Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa: The closest “Fortune” comes to recreating a “Look At Me Now” moment, two of the moment’s hottest rappers trade guest verses with lines so alternately memorable and profane we won’t bother quoting them here.
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4. “Mirage” feat. Nas: Brown turns the drum loop of TLC’s “Waterfalls” into a reggae-lite kiss-off to an ex. “Sorry boo boo you gets no love, no love / Must be cuckoo got me fucked up fucked up,” he sings.
5. “Don’t Judge Me”: Intended as a “take me as I am” ballad to potential paramours, “Don’t Judge Me” doubles as a metaphor for Brown’s current PR strategy, which has seen him avoid interviews ever since a “Good Morning America” interview the day of “F.A.M.E.’s” prompted him to throw a chair through a window of the show’s studio. “I don’t wanna go there / We should never go there” he begins, later singing, “I won’t deny what they’re saying / Because most of it is true,” Breezy croons.
6. “2012″: It’s an apocalypse-turned-sex ballad, with Brown too preoccupied by his lady’s body parts to think about the end of the world. Surely this is what the Mayans prophesized.
7. “Biggest Fan”: Perhaps Brown’s ickiest sex jam yet, with the opening line alone crossing the TMI line (“You would think we in a waterbed / All the sheets are soaked.”). While there’s nothing wrong with a little raunch, it’s hard not to get chills of another kind when Brown sings lyrics like, “You scream / I need / To pull your body closer / let me sex you babe / Girl you better not change your mind.”
8. “Sweet Love”: Another love-making joint, this one a strategic throwback to 90s favorites like Silk’s “Freak Me.” The lyrics are strictly single entendre, but at least the scenario depicted here sounds consensual.
9. “Strip,” feat. Kevin McCall: One of Brown’s biggest R&B hits ever, “Strip,” is a nightclub anthem for the aughteens. It doesn’t tread any material that Lil Jon or the Ying Yang Twins didn’t already cover 10 years ago, but at least it’s better sung (albeit Auto-Tuned.)
10. “Stuck On Stupid”: The pop portion of “Fortune” kicks off in full gear with this ballad, in which Brown compares his crush to going crazy (“You got me stuck on stupid / Look what you do to me.”) The couplets never rise beyond the trite (“And I’d do anything for you / You know that much is true”) so the song doesn’t stick long after one listen.
11. “4 Years Old”: Brown goes semi-country with this acoustic guitar-backed ballad about a love that makes him child-like. “It feels like I’m 4 years old all over again / Cuz I just keep running fast should be walkin’,” he sings.
12. “Party Hard / Cadillac,” feat. Sevyn: A throwback to his “With You” days, “Party” is a shuffling pop song about how the girl “with the perfect lips, the perfect body” is also bit of a wild child. There may be spilled drinks, but no broken hearts when Brown sings “She’s such a rock n roller but exotic / She’s the life of my party.” The song is accompanied by a short a capella, doo-wop ballad called “Cadillac” in which Brown sings of happiness as he knows it best” “I got a life movin’ very fast / Got a girl with a big ol’ ass.”
13. “Don’t Wake Me Up” : The kind of dance track Brown has become known for in recent years, “Don’t Wake Me Up” starts off with a promising Empire of the Sun-worthy first verse before quickly O.D.ing on Auto-Tune, Brown’s voice so scrambled by effects it literally sounds like someone threw up into their iPhone. But get past that and you have a dance jam reminiscent of 2011′s “Beautiful People.
14. “Trumpet Lights” feat. Sabrina Antoinette: The album’s most sonically adventurous track, “Trumpet Lights,” rides a rubbery EDM beat with a hands-in-the-air breakdown sure to get fans jumping. “Gonna be there / I’m gonna be there / I’m gonna be there,” Brown sings. Weaving effortlessly through salsa, dubstep and dance pop, “Trumpet Lights,” is a fitting coda to an album more occupied with hitting genre trends than pleasing new fans.