If you want to know where Chris Brown‘s head is right now – other than the 50 million interviews he’s done – there’s a song on Graffiti that will tell you. Not the soul-baring ballads “Crawl” or “So Cold,” or the passive-aggressive “Famous Girl,” which is trashing if not Rihanna then a very “Rihanna”-ish character. Listen to “What I Do,” a boastful Runners-produced jam about being the best. Innately.
The track is particularly obnoxious given “the situation,” but even without that, it’s simply superficial: “I be throwin’ up my cash, actin’ like money ain’t a thing/I be speedin’ down the fast lane stuntin’ and they mad ’cause they can’t/Feelin’ like I can’t loooose/And when they ask me ’bout the cars and the girls and the cribs, tell ’em it’s what I doooo.”
Where the song wins is its attitude. Chris Brown is back to the business of being Chris Brown, doing what he does best – make dance-able songs for the R&B-pop generation. The truth is, he can’t lose. Because the music is good.
Chris spends much of Graffiti either trying to explain “the situation” or moving past it. The best stuff is the latter. When he’s not apologizing, he’s dutifully bragging about his luck with the ladies (“Sing Like Me”), abusing the dance floor (“I.Y.A.”) or slow-grinding like Spectacular (“Take My Time”). Melodic tunes topped, on occasion, with Auto-Tune.
Skip the slow joints, though. The high points are the mid-tempo and Krump-able cuts, like the metal-clanging Swizz Beatz-produced lead single “I Can Transform Ya.” A throbbing house anthem, “Pass Out” sounds like Chris found a Lady Gaga track (Eric Prydz’s “Call on Me,” actually) lying around. In a good way. Cheesy similes commence on “Wait” (“Make it bounce like a bunny,” “I wanna make you sing like opera,” etc.), but luckily there’s an attractive fast-paced beat attached to it, not to mention Trey Songz, who outshines Brown in every way.
Amid the madness, however, Chris has advanced musically with his best album. Some won’t want to hear that, because everything the man does will stem from how he beat Rihanna, and I’ll never fully come to terms with his heinous act. But as long as young girls and women are willing to buy into Chris Brown, to forgive him, he’s never really lost. —Clover Hope