Chris Brown: F.A.M.E.

Fans Are My Everything / Forgiving All My Enemies? More like Flaccid, Audacious, Marginal Excrement.

Chris Brown


Label: Jive
US Release Date: 2011-03-22
UK Release Date: 2011-03-21

Graffiti may have housed the party hit "Transform Ya", but otherwise it was a massive trainwreck. Chris Brown was never going to be mistaken for a crooner, but the mismatch of sorrowful lyrics framing Brown as a victim with cold, soulless production just made for bad listening. Between his continued anger problems and his inability to pick decent material to sing, Brown's career seemed on an ever-downward current. But then a pair of funny things happened: first, Brown embraced his bad boy image. By covering his body in tattoos Lil' Wayne style and releasing a collaborative mixtape with Young Money's Tyga, Fan of a Fan, Brown reinvented himself as half-singer, half-rapper. In the process, he convinced a surprising amount of women that his sexiness trumped his attitude (as is the bad boy's wont) and with the surprise success of that mixtape's "Deuces" (which leads off F.A.M.E.), Brown began his public rehabilitation.

All of this surprise goodwill manifested itself in a tribute to Michael Jackson during which Brown appeared to tear up during his performance, and more than anyone save Usher (who has consistently served as Brown's career template) he appeared affected by Jackson's loss. With a hit single, the audience's sympathy, and graduation from his anger management classes, Chris Brown seemed to have done the unthinkable and rescued his career.

F.A.M.E. appears unaware of any of this, however, and takes advantage of nothing. Back are the impersonal beats that dominated Graffiti, back are Brown's apathetic vocals, and in place of all the whimpering over being ostracized are stupefyingly basic lyrics about sex, sex, and sex. R&B has always been about sex, granted, but in comparison to something like Trey Songz' "Love Faces" or "Alone", songs like "Up 2 You" and "Next 2 You" are childish and trite, while "Wet the Bed" is simply explicit for the sake of being so, not to mention a juvenile and clumsy allusion to female ejaculation. It's also hard to take his songs about love seriously regardless of their lyrical content, because Brown's vocals are often processed to the point that he sounds like any generic kid who enters a talent search with any talent other than singing, and then is asked to sing some songs before he takes his show on the road.

Much of F.A.M.E. feels like an album tailor-made for stadium tours and sold out shows, songs more focused on mood and energy than message. Stuff like "Yeah 3x" and "Oh My Love" just feel like obvious stage moments, points at which Brown's adoring pubescent public can lose their shit to his amazing dance moves while remaining blissfully ignorant to his lip synching. But then there are the songs like "No Bullshit" he'll no doubt be expected to slow his sets with. The "no bullshit" is his ability to make love for an entire night, of course. He'd also prefer that you "don't be on that bullshit" as far as disbelieving him is concerned.

Besides "Deuces", the album's lone other triumph (though this in itself is a surprise after Graffiti's "Transform Ya" + 12 other faceless songs format) is it's official lead single "Look at Me Now". The song is a red herring for the album, as it features some of Brown's rapping and I do admire him for his effort. After all, the song's main point is just to listen to Busta Rhymes and Lil' Wayne kick blisteringly fast triple-time raps over a super fresh Diplo production, and Brown gamely tries to do the same rather than sing. Unfortunately, it's also the home of one of the worst rap lyrics since Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: "Oops, I said on my dick, I ain't really mean to say on my dick / But since we talkin' about my dick, all of you niggas say hi to it." Busta Rhymes may or may not acknowledge the humor in following that monstrosity with his disgustingly Twista impression, but his "Ay yo, Breezy, let me show you how to keep the dice rolling when you're doing that thing over there, homie" never ceases to make me giggle like a school girl.

Besides "Look at Me Now" and "Deuces", though, F.A.M.E. is just as much a graveyard of bland, Radio Disney-oriented pop and dance songs as Graffiti was. Its only saving grace is that Brown isn't wasting our time trying to garner sympathy for beating Rihanna to a pulp here; the bad boy stuff might not ring enjoyable, but at least it's not appalling. Well, besides "She Ain't You", a "Human Nature"-sampling mess about Brown's desires to have a "bad romance" with one girl while having simple sex with another. I fail to see the difference between the two, and the song's use of "Human Nature"'s melodies as a crutch and, I assume, ARK Music Factory as inspiration helps nothing. F.A.M.E. will satisfy 12 year Malibu and Miami beach frequenters, but anyone with a soul should steer far clear of this mess.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.