If I had only one word to use to describe Chris Brown's latest studio album, Royalty, it would be mistake.
The most compelling thing about Chris Brown the artist is that he has all the components to be excellent—as in the sort of megastar his most ardent supporters often say he should be—but rarely is that reflected on his albums. He’s a decent singer with a nice tone, a proven songwriter, and an excellent performer, so in theory, he should be to the 2010s what Usher was to the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, Chris, like many of his contemporaries, lacks a cohesive vision, and that is, more often than not, reflected in his work.
There was some progress in a more singular sound on last year’s X, but he has since fallen back to old habits. Royalty is many things all at once though much of it is not particularly good. One minute Brown is a singer, the next a rapper, and not long after, the quintessential pop act. It’s fine to have many facets of yourself, but without vision, and in Brown’s case, understanding the virtues of editing, the end result is a mess.
What’s even more frustrating is that in trying to do so many different things, Brown steers away from what he’s actually quite good at doing. Take “Wrist,” in which Brown basically goes back to rapper ’n b with lines like, "I'm a champagne-pouring nigga. I like big asses and tits." Normally, the Houstonian in me would appreciate references to still tippin’ on four-fours, but it comes across as rather banal and beneath Brown’s talent.
The same goes for “Liquor,” in which Brown lazily croons about wanting to drink and fuck. I mean, who doesn’t like that, but again, how many times can one echo this sentiment in his career? On top of that, you hear songs like that only to be placed alongside his pop leanings like “Zero,” “Anyway,” and “Fine by Me.”
On Royalty, you’re essentially taking a trip to the trap, and you make a pit stop at your mama’s house, who is clearly still a fan of pure R&B, only to later end up in West Hollywood; by the end of the trip, you just want to take your ass home and nurse your neck that’s been sent in so many directions sonically.
I can already hear someone arguing that the album is a relic and Brown is no different in releasing a string of singles as opposed to a cohesive effort. Sure, but don’t you want more for someone capable of producing such? Actually, there is one constant found throughout the album: misogyny.
there is one constant found throughout the album: misogyny.
On “Picture Me Rollin’,” Brown sings, “Baddest bitch, you know she mine, but you know I don’t love them. I don’t cuff them.” Brown couldn’t be any more boring here if he tried. He does try, though.
Brown attempts to evolve from that on “Little More (Royalty),” which he dedicates to his daughter, Royalty, but there are some double entendres present that might make the listener uncomfortable. Brown is an R&B singer who has absolutely no idea how to talk about women outside of the context of sex and distrust of the opposite sex. Maybe his daughter will change him, but as of now, for all the love he has for his child, other women continue to have it tough on his works.
If it’s anything, his reworking of Keith Sweat’s “Who’s Gonna (NOBODY)” and “Discover” are solid. Chris Brown is quite good at bedroom music and baby-baby-baby please forgive give me tunes. There’s not enough of either, however, and none of it would distract from the other problems all too prevalent here.
Considering Brown’s output, it won’t be long before we get another album. Between now and then, I hope Brown finds a vision, people who can help him achieve it, and frankly, grows up a little bit. It would do wonders for him moving forward.