Chris Brown makes his return after two years with Exclusive! Will he rise above the sophomore jinx or will it be just another release in the sea of modern R&B?
Chris Brown’s self-titled album actually impressed me. With the exception of two songs, production was typical of what you would find on a mainstream R&B release but was well used and fitting for the song’s content. Lyrically, the album was simple and didn’t rise beyond the stereotypical R&B release either but this again worked for him as it made the album easily accessible for virtually anybody.
Based on the success of the album’s lead single, Run It!, the album received Platinum certification by the RIAA, and has since been certified as Double Platinum. All this by the tender age of 16.
Fast forward to 2007 and three Top 10 singles, a handful of TV appearances as well as a minor role in the movie, Stomp The Yard, Chris Brown is returning with his sophomore album, Exclusive.
Originally titled, Graduation, the name was changed due to Kanye’s album being called the same. Having been pushed back twice due to the poor performance of the lead single, will Brown’s new album, Exclusive be a success like it’s predecessor, or will Brown fall victim to the sophomore jinx that has plagued so many artists in recent times?
2. Kiss Kiss Ft. T-Pain
3. Take You Down
4. With You
5. Picture Perfect Ft. will.i.am
6. Hold Up Ft. Big Boi
9. Wall To Wall
10. Help Me
11. I Wanna Be
12. Gimme Whatcha Got Ft. Lil Wayne
13. I’ll Call Ya
15. Nice Ft. The Game
16. Down Ft. Kanye West
The album starts on a bad note as, Throwed is just…there. The beat is fair but drowns out Brown’s vocals and the song itself isn’t terribly impressive, nor is Brown’s vocal outing. Immediately after is Kiss Kiss featuring T-Pain. Kiss Kiss has charted significantly better than the album’s lead single, Wall To Wall had, peaking at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. However, T-Pain is pretty terrible and the song itself is a shameless attempt at self-promotion by both artists.
”She want that lovey dovey,
That kiss, kiss
In her mind she fantasize (about getting with me)”
Take You Down has significantly better production than the previous songs but suffers from poor subject matter. The song itself is about sex and is a bit disappointing, as Brown had managed to avoid having to lower himself to stereotypical sex songs on his debut album. Brown had stated in interviews that this album was going to have songs directed at an older audience, it’s understandable why he’s included this but it’s a little odd coming from someone still young.
The album finally takes a step in the right direction with the next track, With You. Production is handled by Stargate who have recently produced Hate That I Love You by Rihanna and Because Of You by Ne-Yo. The song is a beautiful ode to his girl and how much he needs her in his life, especially whilst he’s traveling around the world.
Hold Up again falls under the ‘just there’ category and unfortunately Big Boi’s verse drags the song down as he spends a couple of bars mumbling complete nonsense during the song.
The Dream who wrote Umbrella and more recently, Bed produces You and you can tell that he wrote it to. There’s the word repetition in the chorus which I hope isn’t becoming a trademark of his songs as well as a shout out to his own song Shawty Is A 10. The production is a bit mismatched, as it is very upbeat whereas the song is about lamenting a lost love after cheating.
Damage is another standout song featuring production by The Runners. The song is about Brown cheating with another girl. The production is mournful and fits the tone of regret in the lyrics perfectly.
Lead single, Wall To Wall is next and surprisingly didn’t chart well. It’s got the same kind of energy that Run It! yet only peaked at Number 79 on the Billboard Top 100. Regardless, the song is a decent club jam produced by Swizz Beatz who’s been doing some excellent club work this year.
I Wanna Be is another more serious attempt at relationship dealings as Brown finds himself longing for a girl that unfortunately has a man already, something that a lot of guys can easily relate to. Production handled by Tank is well suited for the song featuring equal parts sadness but equal parts hope that the girl will take Brown in the end.
Gimme Whatcha Got is awful. Jazze Pha produces a largely forgettable beat (complete with shout out for himself at the beginning) and Lil Wayne continues his string of horrendous guest appearances with terrible metaphors like:
”Baby the balls in your court like Serena’s
Make me jump over that net between us”
Brown’s no better with some questionable lines like:
”That’s it baby girl, put it on my zipper
We ain’t in the club but I still wanna tip her”
Nice featuring The Game has a decent club beat provided by Scott Storch but the lyrics are similar to Run It! without the energy behind them. The Game drops an average verse and manages to name-drop The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Def Jam, Bad Boy, Star Trak and Scott Storch in that short space of time.
The final track is Down with Kanye West on the beat and as a guest appearance. The beat itself is good with a guitar line in the background over some synthesized horns, which slowly builds to the hook each verse. Kanye’s verse is pretty bad (”I am so retarded, went to spit like a retarded kid that spits…oops, didn’t mean to say that s***”) but Brown’s verses round out the album in a melodic fashion, which manages to save the song from Kanye’s terrible verse.
The 411: Chris Brown actually excels without the help of guests. The six songs with guest appearances are ultimately the worst on the album and the standout songs are those that Brown takes on solo. The album itself is solid and definitely has the signs of a star for a more grown audience in the near future. An enjoyable if not flawed album, which saves Brown from the sophomore jinx.