Chris Brown’s album X still awaits release, and the singer’s problems continue.
I’m just trying to move forward and learn from every mistake,” Chris Brown says as he explains the genesis of X, his upcoming album.
It’s late March and Brown is at a Burbank, California studio previewing tracks from a record meant to jolt a career plagued by repeated scandal.
But after numerous push-backs, X still isn’t coming anytime soon – despite a handful of charting singles, high-profile collaborations and prime TV performances.
To satisfy patiently waiting fans, Brown issued a free mixtape, X-Files, recently.
Album postponements are common – tracks are cut at the eleventh hour, guest features are secured, new singles are launched – but Brown’s rollout has faced a trickier hurdle: his ongoing legal troubles and himself.
Since the mixtape arrived just days after the R&B singer exited a short rehab stint – a judge ordered him to return for 90 days at a probation hearing last week – it highlights the confounding position the singer has routinely found himself in since that night in 2009 when he brutally assaulted Rihanna.
He wants his music to speak for him, yet given his life outside the studio, it’s often considered nothing more than a soundtrack to Brown’s drama.
X was meant to remind the public that behind the incessant tabloid drama – either warranted by his frequent missteps or propelled by ravenous gossipmongers targeting him – was an undeniable talent.
The new mixtape is a grab bag of libidinous slow jams and bass-heavy club-thumpers that fans quickly ate up, but it isn’t nearly as striking as what Brown previewed for the album.
Even if X was a stellar effort, the buildup for it has taken a back seat to legal woes for an oft-troubled singer who just can’t afford any more trouble. And regardless of great singles such as the retro-dipped Fine China, the Aaliyah-assisted Don’t Think They Know or a bouncy club banger with Nicki Minaj, the kid is making it downright impossible to sell an album about “transitioning as a man and not trying to focus on the past stuff and trials and tribulations,” as Brown said earlier this year.
In conversation nearly eight months ago, he talked in earnest of wanting to move beyond the controversy and instead focus on crafting a deeply personal album.
“I know there’s always stories or this or that out about Chris Brown,” he admitted, “(but) whatever you think you know about me, just listen to the album.”
But with every TMZ headline, it has become increasingly hard to focus on the music.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles accused him in February of failing to perform his community labour sentence in relation to the Rihanna case (he agreed to perform an additional 1,000 hours). And a judge briefly revoked the singer’s probation after a hit-and-run incident in July (that case was dismissed).
In late October, the singer was arrested on suspicion of felony assault after what police said was a fracas with another man outside a hotel in Washington, D.C. The case was reduced to a misdemeanour, and after pleading not guilty Brown, who is still on probation for the 2009 assault case, was released on his own recognisance.
“To gain focus and insight into his past and recent behaviour,” a rep for the singer recently said, Brown opted to seek treatment at an undisclosed Malibu facility last month. But 16 days later he was out and with new music.
Perhaps he can overcome all this again. After all, his fans and peers seem to unconditionally love him.
Brown won his first Grammy after the Rihanna incident for his comeback record, F.A.M.E., and his last effort, 2012’s Fortune, reached No.1.
The singer is also one of the most in-demand voices in music, lending his vocals to everyone from Pusha T to Pitbull to, yes, even Rihanna (her fourth collaboration with Brown since the 2009 incident is slated to appear on X.)
His fans took to Twitter to buzz about the project as blogs posted the mixtape for downloading. But none of them asked the pressing question – what happens next?
At a probation hearing last week the singer was ordered by a judge to 90 days in rehab, complete 24 hours a week of community labour and undergo periodic drug tests, but the order isn’t a sentence for a probation violation.
A Washington, D.C., judge set a Jan 8 hearing on the misdemeanour simple assault charge. Brown faces up to 180 days in jail and a US$1,000 (RM3,200) fine if convicted in that case.
At the listening session earlier this year, the album’s title track captured at least Brown’s hopes for the future.
“You can start a fight, I ain’t fighting back,” he sings, “I swear to God I’m moving on.”
Brown can surely pull off a redemptive album. He’s done it before. But can he expect the public to move on if he hasn’t yet delivered on that promise? – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services