's career was trending sharply downward. The singer’s self-titled debut went double platinum. Exclusive
went single platinum. 2009’s Graffiti
fell well short of gold-sales status, though it was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary R&B Album: far and away the worst disc to receive the honor. Rather than vanish and position himself for a spectacle-like comeback, Brown
wisely continued to release new music through 2010. The offhandedly belligerent “Deuces” hit that summer and topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, while Brown
also appeared on numerous singles headlined by others, including Twista
’s Top Ten “Make a Movie.” By the time F.A.M.E.
was released in March 2011, the album’s variety of styles was already known. A total of five songs, including the slinking pop-R&B of “Deuces,” had hit various singles charts. The bleepy rap track “Look at Me Now,” where Brown
displays some competence as an MC but is devoured by Lil Wayne
and Busta Rhymes
' rapid-fire verses, was one of them. The celebratory “Yeah 3x” and the anthemic “Beautiful People,” a pair of club singles, nodded to Eurodance. And then there was the smoothly percussive “No BS,” a slow jam with chivalrous sweet nothings like “I’m-a leave it in when we do it” and “Don’t you be on that bullshit.” Despite the success of some of these pre-album singles, they don’t represent the best of F.A.M.E.
On the earnest ballad “Up to You,” the Michael Jackson
-sampling “She Ain’t You,” and the remorseful “All Back” (written and produced by Timothy Bloom
, one to watch), Brown
plays to his strength as a boyish, romantic pop-R&B singer, while “Say It with Me” shows that he can handle harder grooves that are more R&B than pop. This all makes F.A.M.E.
the equal of Forever
, if not slightly better, and it hints that Brown
’s best is yet to come.