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Album review: Chris Brown's 'Graffiti'

December 7, 2009 |  6:42 pm
Chris_brown_album240 It's unlikely that there's anything Chris Brown could have said on his new album -- his first since pleading guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna -- to convince listeners that he's still the sweetheart that early hits such as "With You" and "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" presented him as.

But if Brown's goal with "Graffiti" was to begin the rehabilitation of his damaged image, you have to wonder how he and his handlers convinced themselves that including the song "Famous Girl," in which Brown insists that his cheating on a pop-star girlfriend came after her own infidelity, was a good idea. "Should've known that you would break my heart," he sings at one point, prompting a presumably unintended question: Has pop ever produced a less sympathetic victim?

Brown spends most of the rest of "Graffiti" in upbeat party mode, which given the clumsy audacity of "Famous Girl" was probably a wise decision. In "What I Do" he's "throwing up [his] cash, acting like money ain't a thing," while opener "I Can Transform Ya" stresses spending power of an even more exclusive kind: "Whatcha need? You can have that," Brown promises over Swizz Beatz's robo-crunk groove, "My black card, they don't decline that."
A handful of lovingly arranged power ballads were evidently designed to illuminate the singer's remorse over the Rihanna incident. Yet Brown doesn't seem up to the task of contrition; in "Lucky Me," for instance, he's really sorry only about how hard it is to "pick [himself] up and perform for the crowd" after the year he's had.

-- Mikael Wood

Chris Brown
One and a half stars (Out of four)


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