“I AIN’T BUILD THESE WALLS SO YOU CAN PISS ALL ON MY PAST.”
Title track “X” opens up the doors to Chris Brown’s longly awaited, highly anticipated, sixth studio album with a big bang. Produced by the man himself and “Look At Me Now” producer Diplo, the song is harmoniously narrated before taking a drastic, bass pounding, edm turn. And this alone sets the tone for this turbulent ride.
The thing is, Chris can blend well with almost anyone, but everyone doesn’t blend as well with him, and this is because of his adaptable range that has developed over the years.
Out of the 21 tracks on the deluxe version, 11 of them feature another artist. It’s overwhelmingly disappointing because “New Flame’s” melodic production and Usher’s vocals could have sufficed perfectly fine without Rick Ross, and although it was exhilarating to hear Akon on “Came To Do,” he wasn’t necessarily needed either.
But there are those that flourished, like the honesty in the Brandy duet “Do Better.” Or the explicitly driven “Songs on 12 Play,” with fellow heartthrob Trey Songz, that pays homage to R&B legend R. Kelly’s (also featured on the album) classic, 12 Play. No doubt the most imperative and unavoidable collab is stored between Chris and Kendrick Lamar on “Autumn Leaves.” Kendrick mindblowingly delivers a lyrical masterpiece from the perspective of a critic in a personal conversation to and/or with Chris, who it might as well feature because after that verse, it’s basically Kendrick’s song.
X is simultaneously heard in multiples. It’s the R&B side, the pop side, and the everything else all at once. While “Add Me In,” just like “Fine China,” are feel good, sing-along songs, the romanticism that dwells in the album’s nucleus has records like “Time For Love” and “See You Around.” Aforementioned songs both have country qualities but is beautifully sang and beautiful written; it’s quite weird.
Surprisingly, Chris is not dropping any bars this time around, but he is projecting his heightened pen skills. He co-wrote 100% of this material, which seems like a lost art nowadays in artists. There is a lot of phonetic wordplay like “Your body’s an isosceles and I’m just tryna try angles (triangles),” that are experimented. And then there are those consciously aware lyrics such as, “Why are my hands bleeding, I think I know why, I’ve been holding on to the words from your every lie” that let’s you know he has some depth that’s worth a keen ear.
Chris’ vocals aren’t to be questioned. Even with the consistent buildup of “Stereotype,” you are still drawn to the strain in his voice, or the serenading on the two interludes, or the overlapping vocals of “Drunk Texting” ft. Jhene Aiko that fits extremely well… or “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” which originally features Ariana Grande. “Lost In Ya Love” is a standout bonus track that’s brilliant in every aspect. He vocally holds a diversity that he willingly mixes and matches. The way it’s received just depends on the type of listener you are.
Although Chris Brown is multifaceted and undeniably talented, X dishes out some very interesting components. And who knows, this could have been the vision all along. A vision to push the envelope and try new angles to connect to a wide variety, but it’s alot to take in at once. It’s chaotic, but some of these songs are the best of his career. Just thank God “Loyal” isn’t X’s greatest accomplishment.
What did you expect from ‘X?’ What did you think about the features? Let us know in the comments.
*This review of X is based on the 21-track Deluxe-Edition.
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