A little more than a year ago, Chris Brown's career seemed dead in the water. Massive negative publicity in the wake of his brutal beating of then-girlfriend Rihanna torpedoed sales of 2009's Graffiti, which failed to sell even half-a-million copies. (His first two efforts scored platinum and double-platinum success.)
But time, it seems, not only heals but makes folks forget, too. Several singles from F.A.M.E. have already charted (including the Top 10 single "Look at Me Now"). And as of this writing, F.A.M.E. itself is all but guaranteed a No. 1 debut.
What does it all mean? Hard to say. I can tell you that F.A.M.E.'s title originally stood for "Forgiving All My Enemies." And that before the album's release, Brown amended the acronym's meaning, saying the letters now stand for "Fans Are My Everything."
OK. That only gets us part of the way there. Maybe a quick look at the lyrics—some of them sung by Justin Bieber—will shed more light:
"Beautiful People" is one of the few songs on the album that's not focused either on romance (succeeding or failing) or sex. Instead, it reminds us that beauty comes from within.
As for the romance, Brown's collaboration with Justin Bieber (on "Next 2 You") majors in awestruck, thankful, twitterpated wonder. "You've got that smile/That only heaven can make," Brown begins. "I pray to God every day/That you keep that smile." Justin adds, "You are my dream/There's not a thing I won't do for you." Then promises of loving, faithful attentiveness meander into something approximating wedding-vow territory. "I'll give my life for you," Justin croons. And both singers promise, "Everything that I have is yours/You will never go cold or hungry."
Three songs reflect on how Brown's mistakes have impacted his romantic fortunes. "All Back" pines for a second chance in a failed relationship ("I was just a fool/ … When I loved you so childishly"). And on "Should've Kissed You," Brown recognizes and regrets his habitual pattern of letting anger undermine his good intentions ("Seems like every time I get the chance/I lose my cool, and I blow it/ … I should've kissed you"). "Up to You," meanwhile, promises not to repeat the mistakes of the past in a current relationship.
Whatever those positive moments might do to atone for Mr. Brown's past misdeeds, however, the singer utterly sabotages them with just as many tracks full of braggadocio, obscenity and uncensored sexual swagger. Album opener "Deuces" unloads an angry denunciation of an ex ("You ain't nothin' but a vulture/Always hopin' for the worst/Waitin' for me to f‑‑‑ up") before devolving into a misogynistic dismissal of women in general. Sleazy, sex-filled seduction consumes "No BS," on which Brown leers, "It's three in the morning, you know I'm horny/ … So won't you come over to my place and put a smile on my face/ … Shawty, hurry up/ … Take your clothes off now/You already know what time it is, reach up in the dresser where the condoms is."
As bad as that may sound, most of the other sex-oriented lyrics on F.A.M.E. are too explicit to repeat here. Brown devotes an entire verse on "Look at Me Now" to his male anatomy. (That song also includes an extremely vulgar reference to a woman's body as well.) And "Wet the Bed" is borderline pornographic in its detailed description of carnal strategies for pleasing a woman. On "She Ain't You," Brown tells an old girlfriend that he still thinks about her even when he's having sex with his current girl.
Featuring guest rappers Ludacris, Tyga and Lil Wayne, about half the tracks on the album feature multiple uses of the f-word, s-word and n-word, as well as "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑," "d‑‑n," "b‑‑ch" and "f-ggot"). A handful of references to alcohol pop up as well.
Chris Brown delivers a few nice moments on F.A.M.E. The song with Justin Bieber is nice. Talking about finding beauty in everyone is nice.
But trust me, nice isn't the character quality Chris Brown is most interested in cultivating here. "I'm a bad man," he brags on "Oh My Love." "Ima show you the meaning of what a man is/I'm nasty."
Well, his music surely is.