With their respective albums approaching, Chris Brown and Rihanna have both released soul-searching ballads. Everyone’s expecting them to sing about the assault incident, but you’ll have to read between the lines. Here’s how the two songs stack up. —Clover Hope
Title: “Russian Roulette”
Producer: Chuck Harmony
Kicks Off With: Crying Guitar
Concept: As a lover tempts her to pull the trigger, Rihanna plays with the idea of taking control out of one’s life. Ultimately, she’s game because love makes you do crazy things.
Vocals: Rihanna’s still stuck in that nasal non-diaphragm range, which makes it seem like she’s not quite pushing hard enough.
Sample Lyric: “You can see my heart beating/You can see it through my chest/I’m terrified but I’m not leaving/I know that I must pass this test/So just pull the trigger.”
Ends With: A cylinder spin and a gunshot
Producer: The Messengers
Kicks Off With: Eerie Chords
Concept: Repairing a broken relationship is like learning to walk again. It takes time and perspective to pick up the pieces.
Vocals: Strength and range is lacking but it does the job. Chris is going for that worldly “Forever”-esque sound that techno mixers go crazy over.
Sample Lyric: “Everybody sees it’s you/I’m the one that lost the view/Everybody says we’re through/I hope you haven’t said it too/So where do we go from here.”
Ends With: Eerie chords
Both are dark ballads that could be more powerful in more capable vocal chords. Beyoncé would blow the socks off “Roulette,” as would Usher on “Crawl.” Still, Rihanna is ready to take risks with this project, and she’s at her best when she’s feisty. Brown is fighting to stay relevant, so he’s introspective and cautious, pleading, “Where do we go from here?” If he’s really talking about Rihanna? At least 100 yards away.