Review: Chris Brown

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Pop fans have grown accustomed to welcoming disgraced stars back into the limelight. But even arriving on the heels of R. Kelly's post-trial comeback, Untitled, Chris Brown's latest is in a class of its own. Given the 20-year-old R&B crooner's February assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna—whose recently issued Rated R offers a steely dissection of the pair's relationship—much of Graffiti can be summed up by a single phrase: too soon.

Throughout the album, Brown bafflingly ping-pongs between hedonism and contrition. "Sing Like Me," a mischievous ode to the clubhopping high life, sits right next to the regretful, lovelorn ballad "Crawl"—two otherwise strong songs that make for a maddening juxtaposition. Graffiti functions best when Brown skirts these issues entirely, as on "Famous Girl," a breezy pop-soul number built around name checks of various contemporary hit makers. (You have to wonder how Kid Cudi, Drake, Keri Hilson and the others cited here will feel about receiving a shout-out from such a notorious artist.)

If, much like Brown's Larry King Live appearance, Graffiti offers no satisfactory statement regarding his crime, it does poignantly illustrate the plight of the troubled entertainer. On the unsettling, electric-guitar-tinged "Fallin' Down," Brown growls, "Can you imagine / Weight of the world / Placed on your shoulders?" The more pressing question is whether his fans are willing even to try.

Chris Brown plays Nokia Theatre Times Square Tue 15.

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Graffiti (Jive)