I have been listening to a lot of music lately and have been wanting to review a lot of music. Old albums, new albums, tapes and records, double-discs and sides. One of my greatest possessions in terms of music is and has always been Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, or his entire collection, which I assemble into a playlist – which includes New Edition – and then that ultimately becomes my greatest possession. When I listen to Bobby Brown, I feel this urge to not only dance, but to own and critique this valuable, incomparable gift. I finally got an opportunity to right here on my blog once I revisited his 1988 classic and 1992’s Bobby album. Before that, I reviewed Drake’s double-sided instant classic, Scorpion, which also gets assembled into a playlist often and gives me an unavoidable urge to listen, to own, to critique and score that I spoke about in the review. With Drake, I’m not sure if it was because it was Drake or because it was a reminder of the old, double-sided classics. To pass the time until I decided, or in order to decide, I listened to music and looked out for the artists and the albums that gave me this urge to own and critique, that reminded me of the old classics, that made me promise to review it all on my blog.
Here, Chris Brown presents Indigo. Chris Brown’s new and ninth album takes a page right out of the old classics and Drake’s book with 32 tailormade tracks. Or so it seems, as Chris Brown’s 2017 release, Heartbreak On A Full Moon, experimented with the long platform, so much so that it had 57 tracks, so the singer may be taking a page out of his own book. And he often does. Unlike Drake, Chris Brown is a singer, but like him, he is one of today’s musical idols. And Brown seems to be even more equipped than Dizzy because of his climb atop the rare and often lonely, singular rhythm and blues world. So, he’s clearly taking a page out of his own book, creating a new world even, and including the others – singers, rappers, producers – and making a complete compilation of his own masterful work.
The new and lengthy project isn’t necessarily an instant classic, but it isn’t necessarily a project either. It isn’t low-budget, low-expectation, or a pointless aim at superstardom like Brown’s camp, but it is, instead, masterful. It is a very good impression of the work of masters, which in this case makes the heartthrob at the very least impressive. But we have to remember that Chris Brown is not a heartthrob; he’s a heartbeat, moving along to a beat and the beat of his own drum. He’s a hit-machine, a dancing-machine, and a singing utensil, too, that makes him no longer impressive, but a master. Like his idol, Michael Jackson. To, at first, plan a double-sided album is the work of masters and geniuses. Then, to fill the album with original songs and singing is a true follow-through of that mastering and genius. This logic is significantly comparable to the genius of Michael Jackson. The album, the artwork, the songs, the singer – all make up this complete masterpiece worthy of such longevity and creativity, and what’s so great about Chris Brown is that he’s able to incorporate M.J.’s inspiration into it while still incorporating his own. With the album at his sole discretion, he’s able to showcase his most valuable gifts, much like M.J. did.
There’s a song that reminds me most, personally, of the great Michael Jackson: “Take a Risk.” The title alone stands out and perfectly fits this album and the risk C.B. took in making it. The song banks on this risk-taking with the singer crooning over wanting to take risks with a girl, whom furthermore is not wanting to take the risk with him. He sings, “Let go of my hand/You don’t wanna fly, live with me” and later, “If you can’t hear me/I hope you feel me/I know you see me.” The latter bridge especially explains the risk. In it seems to contain the whole point of the album: if you’re not listening to Chris Brown and his music, you can certainly feel him and and see the risk that he’s taking. And there are a lot of risks. The risk of being the current R&B King, the risk of impersonating almost to perfection the great M.J., and his risks with women.
Then, there are songs like “Come Together,” which at first looks like a rendition of Jackson’s rendition of the classic Beatles hit, and maybe it should’ve been, but it sounds like and actually is a ballad showcasing his valuable gift of singing. With new songstress H.E.R., it’s a fresh groove that fits in perfectly to Brown’s masterplan for the music industry. The song calls for us to “come together” through beautiful vocals between the two artists, and it is a sure standout at Track 3. It’s certainly a standout collaboration, with its extraordinarily artistic intent, which makes it as unconventional as those rare, classic duets.
The track before, “Back to Love” is a gem, if not the signature as Brown is calling for us to get “back to love.” It’s powerfully similar to “Come Together.” It’s another slow ballad that tests our endurance during Brown’s double-disc experiment. Endurance is what you will need to get back to love and through Brown’s signature combination of singing and dancing and through his combination songs. Combination songs like, “Natural Disaster/Aura,” “Emerald/Burgundy,” “Trust Issues/Act In,” and “BP/No Judgement” show off Brown’s abilities the best, as he is allowed to switch between the singing, dancing, genres, and the subject.
Combinations are a thing of the past due to his combination style and combination songs, and this is a thing Chris learned from his second idol, Usher, whose singing and dancing and storytelling inspired a single generation. To add to the combinations and build of the album, Indigo also contains features. “Emerald/Burgundy,” for example, features rap legends Juvenile and Juicy J, and Brown sings us into their one-of-a-kind verses. There are other features, tons of features: H.E.R., Nicki Minaj, Justin Beiber, Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, Lil Jon. And of course there are features, to make certain of the album being contemporary and uptempo. Perhaps, the greatest feature comes obvious, via the verse of Drizzy Drake on a track titled, “No Guidance.” The feature and the song is obvious: it’s all about Chris and Drake and having no guidance. As the song goes, “You got it girl, you got it girl,” it proves to be a standout and warrants our listening ears, and just as they want it, without guidance.
Indigo is full of Drake, not just in terms of collaboration, but in terms of Brown’s use of his foe’s style. In a battle for the top throne of today’s hip-hop and r&b, Chris, nicknamed C. Breezy, forges ahead of Drizzy in the genre, in the combination of songs, and sometimes in the subject matter, even if Drake’s beloved hip-hop excels in each of these things. Drake’s Scorpion, like the rest of his music, contains features and samples, meaning, and his valuable gift of rap. But it’s in Brown’s collection of all these things and his creative use of them, along with the help of a persona like Drake, that makes not only his double-album stride work, but him and the rest of his music last in an industry where not even pop icons, r&b icons, or hip-hop icons can fully last. The other features too, full of hip-hop and genre and no guidance, provide the album with a boost and shows Brown’s dedication to his craft and the craft of others.
The album as a whole is a gift amongst other albums, certainly amongst longform albums, and surprisingly amongst Brown’s others. It trumps the hefty, although lovable Heartbreak on a Full Moon and stacks up against the Scorpion creation. The length, originality, creativity, and professionalism are modeled after perfection, a certain and unique perfection, even if the music is not perfect. The music is kind of perfect, not as perfect as expected, as the single releases on his debut album or the previous single-disc releases which we loved and scored highly. The album ends just as it begins, with ballads like, “All On Me” and “Dear God,” and in between this is everything else that puts a grasp on it. What this album grasps in its entirety is its entirety and fullness and wholeness, and it gains this from Brown’s conceptualization of wholeness and music, especially the music.
That’s precisely why, in the music, there are concepts and stories. There are rhythms, there are concepts, and he pieces them together. It’s not just random samples, or Aaliyah tributes on a song titled “Throw It Back” or degradation on a song like “Temporary Lover.” And even if it is a pop culture reference or a current trend here and there, he pieces them, he stacks them on top of another, so that they continue on and sound like a classic playlist, one that you could stand back-to-back. Two tracks, back-to-back, are clear examples of this, “Sorry Enough” and “Juice.” One of which samples Clipse’s “Grindin” and the other is a reference to the classic 90’s movie. It’s more than sampling; it’s an ode to all of the stuff before Chris Brown. In the music, is the influence and inspiration.
And of course, in him, is the music. In him are concepts and rhythms and pieces and inspiration. There are pieces of himself which are very clearly hidden, but they’re perfectly hidden between the music. Much like the up-and-down road to superstardom, which Brown has conquered, there are pieces and then there is privacy, and at the end of the road there is music. There is always music, and Chris Brown, for a very special reason, has been allowed to create music, and furthermore his own type of music. It’s the type of music which begs for a double-disc, and he is very much so deserving of the space for 32 tracks and an opportunity to create a sound reserved for artists like him.
If you haven’t been listening or if you have been listening, either way, you should be listening to Chris Brown’s Indigo, which is trying to suggest this mood you’re in. For his ninth album, it doesn’t necessarily slow down and put you in the mood, but Chris’ multi-gift on the breadth and array of songs leaves you with all sorts of thoughts, feelings, and emotions about him and about music. If any listener had to tune in, score it, and compare it, and assess Brown’s reign as a musical idol, they’d tell you that you’re in for yet another special gift. If you haven’t been listening or if you have been listening, either way, you should be listening to Chris Brown. The album and its contents contain a simple message: Chris Brown is an artist and Indigo is a complete work of art.
We have to remember that Chris Brown has been playing with our emotions for awhile. Since his infamous assault case, the beloved singer has gone up and down in the limelight with many personal and professional woes. Fights in parking lots. Fights in clubs. Random outbursts. The usual. So it comes as no surprise that the music, Brown’s natural and greatest possession, would be used as an outlet for all of his eccentricities. Like M.J. And Indigo, the album and the title track, which is my favorite, inhibits all of his problems, his emotions, his ideas, and most importantly, the talent which he uses to express it.
I remember seeing Chris Brown, in his “Smooth Criminal”/”Don’t Be Cruel” suit and light baby-faced skin, for the first time in his “Gimme That” music video, and that was a classic then. I remember watching his dancing, and not knowing if he was either Michael Jackson or Bobby Brown or Usher. Not that it mattered because he found other times to impersonate idols before him and peers right next to him and he was Chris Brown. He was, at the very least, a dancer and a singer, moving to the rhythms and catching ahold of the tide, of everything. 15 years later and 9 albums in, he’s kept up and he’s a King. Once a slave to the rhythm, now a King to it, Chris Brown is an incomparable artist with a valuable gift that urges you to own and critique, that reminds you of the classics, that makes you make promises to yourself about your own gift.