Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chris Brown - F.A.M.E.

While it stands for "Forgiving All My Enemies," and "Fans Are My Everything," Chris Brown's fourth studio album, F.A.M.E. is more than an acronym -- it's actually an okay album.  When I initiated this blog a little over a year ago, my first album review was of Chris Brown's Graffiti, which was a major disappointment to me.  But where Graffiti has failed, F.A.M.E. succeeds.

Foremost in this album, Brown shows strong versatility; he performs pop, R&B, dance, house, electro, reggae, and hip hop inspired music.  And expanding beyond his appeal as a singer, Brown demonstrates his skills as a rapper on "Look at me Now," featuring Busta Rhymez and Lil' Wayne and hip pop bonus track "Champion," featuring Chipmunk.  The fusion of so many genres and Brown's choice to deliver rapped verses were big opportunities for failure.  But in his willingness to take chances, Brown proves himself as an artist worth taking seriously. 

I tip my hat to Brown and the producers of "She Ain't You," which samples the melodic theme of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and the beat from SWV's "Right Here," which also samples Jackson's classic tune.  Instead of coming across as a tired and played out remake, Brown reinvigorates Jackson's popular song with fresh lyrics, themes, and motifs.

I'm not a fan of dance/electro music, and songs like "Beautiful People" and "Yeah 3xs" don't change my mind.  I am also not fond of the adult, yet rather immature nature of "Wet the Bed," featuring Ludacris, "No BS," and bonus track, "Bomb," featuring Wiz Khalifa.  The music featured in these songs is contaminated by the lyrics, which encourage hyper-sexuality and promiscuity.  In fact, many of the other songs on this album have a heavy dosage of sexual imagery.  I find it more sexy for men to compliment a woman's inner beauty instead of objectifying her by rating her worth according to her body.

While I don't like the aforementioned tracks, I am constantly replaying "Deuces" and all of the remixes. And even though they contain a few sexual innuendos, I enjoy "Love The Girls," featuring Game and "Paper, Scissors, Rock," featuring Big Sean and Timbaland.

My favorite track on the album is the smooth number, "Up to You."  Yes, I am an ├╝ber R&B head and a sucker for slick musicality.  In addition to exhibiting these qualities, "Up to You," in which Brown admits his past mishaps in love and gives his lady control of the relationship, is sincere, charming, and a great listen.

Brown has managed to redeem himself musically and is working his way back into my good graces.  F.A.M.E. is a successful integration of various musical genres and styles, and is a chronicle of Brown's artistic, conceptual, and cultural person.  However, his self-titled debut album is still #1 in my book.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers

Released on March 8, 2011, Lupe Fiasco's third studio album, Lasers, has made a happy home at the top of the Billboard charts.  Lasers emphasizes that those of us who are generally labeled or characterized as the lower-class individuals actually encapsulate truth, light, and promise; put simply, the world may see us as losers, but we are lasers -- beaming and shining.    

For an album dedicated to defying popular culture, conformity, and convention, it is quite a feat for Lasers to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200.  Songs like "State Run Radio," featuring Matt Mahaffey and "All Black Everything" confront issues like the intellectual and moral deterioration of younger generations, racism, war, and other highly controversial topics.  Fiasco excels in challenging listeners to "beware what's on the air waves, and be more aware of whats not getting air play" (lyrics from "State Run Radio").

That being said, the tracks on this album are viable in the world of contemporary music -- today's listeners are embracing artists and songs that combine elements of various genres.  As can be heard in "Words I Never Said," featuring Skylar Grey, and "Beautiful Lasers," featuring MDMA, many of these tracks  oscillate between rock, alternative, electronic, and hip hop.  Quite cleverly, Fiasco crafts music that can succeed on the radio while also succeeding in spreading a profound and positive message.

Personally, I don't care for some of the slower tunes like "Never Forget You," featuring John Legend.  But even though I don't particularly care for these more alternative-sounding songs, I will not discredit them.  And although Fiasco ventures away from his norm to rapping about, or rather around, a love interest on "Out of My Head," featuring Trey Songz, I think the track is hot; the beat is infectious and the hook has me hooked!

As a new and unattached listener to Fiasco, I am deeply impressed by most of the songs on Lasers.  My favorites are "All Black Everything," "Coming Up," and "Til I Get There."  Even though Fiasco has struggled with his record label over album content and appeal, he was able to remain true to himself, who he describes in "Til I Get There" as, "just a little ol' hope with his back against the ropes, fighting for his fans and, fighting for his folks."