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Review: Chris Brown Plays The Blame Game On Cathartic Album 'X'

Chris Brown always has some making up to do. More than other artists, it’s hard to hear his songs and not consider the real-life circumstances—his assault on Rihanna in 2009 and the subsequent series of public fuck-ups, including his D.C. assault case, which resulted in a 108-day jail sentence. His relationships and his music are eternally linked. Mentioning the worst sometimes feels like you’re failing at forgiveness. Forgiving him feels like conceding. It’s everything like a break-up. So when Chris sings lyrics like this on his sixth album, X, it seems deliberately twofold: “I’m starting to hate me a little more and more each day/I don’t know me/It’s like I can’t get out of my own way/You don’t love me/You don’t love me/If I knew better, I would do better.”

Playing off this theme of loss and Ex-Factors, X explores the fallout of a failed relationship in all its phases—the fresh grief, self-pity parties, real partying and fake forgetting. Mostly, though, the album dwells on the initial post-breakup aftershock, purging and the holding-on part, versus the smart introspection that comes later. Chris attempts to move forward and find new love. He sort of does but gets stuck looking back. He tries to take blame, but it’s overshadowed by bravado. He’s sorry, but not that sorry. He’s a mess of ego, and that frustrating emotional clutter is what makes this album a compelling listen.

The two greatest loves of Brown’s 25-year-old life (Rihanna and Karrueche) have wreaked havoc on his psyche. A homemade video titled “The Real Chris Brown” that popped up in 2012, showed Chris confessing. In it, he considered whether it’s possible to unconditionally love two women at once and said, “I don’t wanna hurt either or. I’m not trying to be a player. I’m not trying to be a dog, none of that… I just care too much.” Which is funny because in his music lately, he’s been prone to player behavior, as if that’s where he enjoys the freedom of being the angry bad guy without consequence.

The macho posturing is the most flagrant on his groupie takedown “Loyal,” an obnoxious NicNac production and slow-building sleeper hit that you still hear everywhere. Here, in a matter of a few bars, Chris manages to flaunt new money (“Just got rich”), steal another man’s girl (“Took a broke nigga bitch”) and consider upgrading a groupie's status before deciding against it because of her lack of coins. You're forced to love it, conditionally.

Chris has a knack for making memorable songs on forgettable albums (“Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Turn Up The Music” on 2012's Fortune) For a while, he coasted with elliptical-friendly Euro R&B like “Forever,” "Don't Wake Me Up" and “Yeah 3X,” all great guilty pleasures. Those international club anthems seem part of his DNA now, but rather than the vexing rule (like on Fortune) they're the welcome exception on X and feel less forced—"Body Shots" features a weird-cool clash of vocal spasms and synths. The album instead opts mostly for straight R&B and pop from a mixed bag of producers (NicNac, Danja, Anonymous), and it's either snappy club tracks or the type of depressive, moping records currently resonating with Eeyore's favorite millennials.

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SZA Calls For Peace While Receiving 'Rule Breaker' Award At Billboard Women In Music

SZA called for peace and understanding at Billboard's Women In Music event Thursday (Dec. 6).

During her speech for the Rule Breaker award, singer-songwriter recalled today's climate, asking her peers and those watching at home for a little bit of peace.

"I'm sorry for the state of the world honestly, for everybody in this room and I pray that all of us just get through it a little bit easier and just try not to lash out at each other," she said.

The recurring theme of unity among women was also heard on the carpet from artists like Tierra Whack. In addition to her message of love, the "Broken Clocks" singer also thanked her TDE family for rocking with her creative process.

"I'm just so thankful for everybody having patience with me, " she said. Shouting out the key members of her family in attendance, the TDE affiliate gave praise to her mother, father, and grandma. In this brief speech centered around the artist's growth Solána Imani Rowe, known more commonly as her stage name, Rowe everyone for their trust in her.

"I'm grateful for everybody taking the time to have the patience to watch someone grow, it is painful and sometimes exciting but mostly boring. And I am thankful for Top (Top Dawg Entertainment's Anthony Tiffith) for not dropping me from that label. For Peter, who I change my ideas every day and he be like okay I like this," she continued.

Thanking the likes of musical powerhouses like Alicia Keys and Whack, "The Weekend" singer offered her appreciation and condolences to Ariana Grande.

Watch SZA accept the Rule Breaker award above.

READ MORE: Anderson .Paak, Tierra Whack And More Praise Female Artists At 2018 Billboard Women In Music

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Beyoncé, Rihanna, And J. Lo Make Forbes’ Highest-Paid Women In Music List

As November comes to a close, many publications will be crafting their year-end lists for all things pop culture. Forbes released a ranking of the world's highest-paid women in music on Monday (Nov. 19), with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna holding it down for women of color.

Beyoncé comes in at No. 3 on the list with an earning of $60 million as she made most of her money through her historical Coachella performance, the joint album with husband JAY-Z, Everything is Love, and the Carters' On The Run II Tour in support of its release.

Jennifer Lopez made No. 6 for earnings tallying of over $47 million thanks to her lucrative Las Vegas residency, endorsements, and shows including World of Dance where she serves as a judge.

Rihanna follows behind the "Love Don't Cost A Thing" diva at No. 7 with earnings of over $37.5 million. Although she hasn't toured since 2016—thanks to her cosmetics and lingerie lines, Fenty Beauty and Savage Lingerie—the Bajan pop star has been keeping herself busy.

Forbes' annual list (which factors in pretax earnings from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018) has placed Katy Perry at the top with over $83 million in profits due to her gig as an American Idol judge and her 80-date Witness: The Tour that brought in an estimated $1 million per night.

Scroll down to see Forbes' full list below.

Katy Perry ($83 million) Taylor Swift ($80 million) Beyoncé ($60 million) P!nk ($52 million) Lady Gaga ($50 million) Jennifer Lopez ($47 million) Rihanna ($37.5 million) Helene Fischer ($32 million) Celine Dion ($31 million) Britney Spears ($30 million)

 

READ MORE: Nas Makes Forbes’ List Of ‘Hip-Hop Cash Kings’ For The First Time

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Kelly Rowland Hops In Her Bag With New Single "Kelly"

Kelly Rowland has it all and isn't afraid to brag about it on her new single, "Kelly."

Released Thursday (Nov. 22), the singer goes the clubby, confident route while rightfully dropping her attributes like her relationship with God, smoldering looks (a.k.a the drip) among other things. With "Kelly" being the first single since her 2013's Talk a Good Game, the singer comes out swinging, reminding everyone of her power in the game.

The mother of one has promised that her new tunes will be edgier and most honest than her past work that included vulnerable tracks like "Dirty Laundry" and massive hits like "Motivation" and "Commander." Speaking with Vogue over the summer, Ms. Kelly disclosed a few details behind the album.

“It’s about love, loss, and gain and whether it’s professional or with family or whatever, it’s just honest," she said. "I had no choice but to be honest and authentic with this record: it’s about friendship and marriage.”

She also explained a drop in confidence caused her hiatus. “I was thinking about pulling back from recording, but I couldn’t help myself: I still wanted to record. I still felt like I was missing something. The third year just came and left so fast. The fourth year I said: ‘I have to get to work’ and now I’m ready to release some music! I felt like I wasted so much time, and it was my husband who actually called me out on it. He said: ‘Babe, as great as those records were, I think you were nervous, you got gun-shy’, and when he said that it was like boom, a gong went off.”

Glad to have you back, Ms. Kelly. Listen to the eponymous record up top.

READ MORE: Kelly Rowland Debuts Smoke x Mirrors Eyewear Collection At Barneys New York

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