Although several singles have been unleashed in advance of Chris Brown’s “Fortune,” many people won’t have to hear the first note of any track on his new release to have an opinion about it. Those who see him as a violent, egomaniacal bully will predictably hate it, and just as inevitably, it will be loved by those who think he’s a brilliant talent who deserves to be forgiven for his past.
Yet Brown doesn’t have all that much to do with the merits of “Fortune.” He’s an above-par singer, bordering on anonymous, and the lyrics are simply rote lines about sex, braggadocio and love ... the kind of stuff that might be expected of a hedonistic 23-year-old man.
“Fortune” rises and falls at the command of its producers, and there’s a different lineup at the helm of each song. Plus you don’t even want to know how many songwriters had a hand in conjuring this often-formulaic material.
As a result, Brown is tossed about in the choppy seas of inconsistency. He’s nondescript in the bone-jarring “Bassline,” serviceably winsome in the contemplative “Party Hard” and adequate (if unconvincing) in the wooing ballad “Don’t Judge Me.” Meanwhile, his voice could be exchanged for virtually any other in the pounding/glitchy drama of “Turn Up the Music,” though his playful antics on the wobbly stoner strut “Till I Die” make him a fitting companion to guest vocalists Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa.
Ultimately, Brown’s honest fans ought to acknowledge some of the more perfunctory cuts are simply dull — including the standard-issue seducer “2012” and the overponderous, self-pitying “4 Years Old” (“Ain’t it funny how I spend my whole life running?” Brown whines). And his detractors ought to admit admiration for the likes of compelling dance tracks such as the banging “Don’t Wake Me Up” and the electro-rousing “Trumpet Lights,” where Brown confidently proclaims, “I’m gonna be the one you love.”
It may be hard to find middle ground for such a polarizing performer as Brown, but “Fortune” is inescapably middling.
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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