Music Reviews

Chris Brown F.A.M.E.

(RCA) Buy it from Insound Rating - 0/10

If you’d been charged with felony assault resulting in five years’ probation and a course of domestic violence counselling, there’s a good chance you’d find yourself out of a job. At the very least, your career would be likely to suffer. What you wouldn’t expect is that you’d return to your place of work to find some of the biggest and best names in your industry willing to work with you. This is because you aren’t Chris Brown. Yes, despite Brown’s convictions, there are a host of guest stars and collaborators on new album, F.A.M.E. It’s true what they say; there really is no business like showbusiness.

At this point, you may be wondering what this article’s about, and thinking that you came here to read a review of the new Chris Brown record, rather than a character assassination. However, past events are pertinent to F.A.M.E., and that’s apparent from the opening track, Deuces. Deuces is a statement of defiance aimed at a former paramour (widely accepted to be a certain Bajan recording artist) that paints Brown as the innocent victim of the relationship. He sings about how his ex was, “waiting for me to fuck up,” and how “you’ll regret the day when I find another girl,” who “knows just what I mean when I tell her keep it drama-free.” This is genuinely astonishing stuff and how Brown can be so tactless defies belief. Over mid-tempo, insubstantial R&B, guests Tyga and Kevin McCall get in on the act, informing us “thought it was true love, but you know women lie,” and “it finally hit me, like Tina did Ike in the limo.”
When taken out of context in a review, lyrics can often be bent towards the will of the writer, but these are pretty stark in meaning. There’s an uncomfortable feeling of Brown trying to coerce you, to convince you that his actions can be excused, and that he’s not sorry for what he did, only sorry he got caught. You might think he’d want to keep his head down and not mention past transgressions, but clearly that isn’t the case. Since being usurped by Bruno Mars, F.A.M.E. is Brown’s attempt at relaunching himself as a kind of “ladies’ man thug” a la Tupac.
The rest of F.A.M.E. – it stands for “Fans Are My Everything,” or, showing a staggering lack of foresight, “Fighting All My Enemies” – is little better. Worst of all are the sex-fixated slow jams, which display some of the least alluring imagery seen outside of a morgue. On No Bullshit, the noted violent misogynist boasts, “I’m gonna leave it in when we do it” in a heavily auto-tuned voice over a clichéd backing track.
In years gone by when censorship was rife, artists had to be imaginative and euphemistic when making allusions to sex. However, this is clearly now not the case and Brown has taken this as carte blanche to be very literal, removing any semblance of mystery and intrigue. The result is something about as enticing and erotic as a two hour documentary on the history of teapots. The nadir of F.A.M.E. – and perhaps of all recorded music in history – is the charmingly titled, Wet The Bed, featuring well-known campaigner for women’s rights, Ludacris. Brown and Ludacris are extremely confident of their sexual prowess, and this pleasant ditty lets us all know how they intend to please a lady so well, that she will – and let’s not mince our words here – experience multiple orgasms. As Brown coos, “put your legs behind your head, I’m gonna make you wet the bed” (no, seriously, he actually says that), you’ll probably start to feel nauseous. By the time Ludacris’s ridiculous boasts have begun – notably, “they call me the super soaker,” and “you about to get baptised, baby” – there's a good chance you'll be genuinely ill.
There is one genuinely hilarious track on F.A.M.E. though, when cowardly felon Brown teams up with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne for Look At Me Now. Over a bed that sounds like The Clangers having a party with too much jelly, Brown attempts to rap. He then becomes fixated on his own penis (“since we talkin’ about my dick, all of you haters say hi to it”) before deciding he’s fed up of hip-hop and grinding to a halt. Then, Busta Rhymes criticises Brown’s flow, tells him he’s not good enough, and shows him how it should be done. It’s an odd situation, where an artist not exactly short of bravado is put down so comprehensively in his own record. When this happens, you might like to do what I do, and let out a barely audible, but still significant, cheer.
The music itself is depressingly by-numbers R&B with few (read: no) redeeming features. Justin Bieber crops up on one track (nice decision by your management there, Bieber), making the listener lose the will to live. Even the almost-listenable tracks (Up 2 You, Yeah 3x) have all been done before, and done a lot better too. By the time this album finishes, sticking knitting needles through your eardrums seems like a decent proposition.
F.A.M.E. is a vile, despicable album that doesn’t deserve to be supported in any way, shape or form. Its very existence is a frightening indictment of our times, in terms of our attitudes to music, women and the cult of celebrity. If, in 2011, you’re wondering why feminism still exists, this record could go some way towards explaining why it’s still necessary. Please, please do not buy this album. If you do, you are likely to hear a loud creaking sound; that will be either your family opening the door and leaving the room, or Emmeline Pankhurst turning in her grave.

Comments for F.A.M.E. review


Love it. But in with your well executed decapitation of this records clout among NR readers you may have inadvertantly encouraged every damn one to go and have a listen - I know I'm about to. With each insult you've added to the pile the more I want to explore it for myself, and as you've alluded to thats an experience that will probably end badly. Thanks for that I guess, and nice review.

Thanks for the kind words

Did you go and listen to it afterwards? If so, was it as bad as you expected?

Devil's Advocate

I'm not trying to defend Breezy, but isn't there some credence to the idea that albums exist in a vacuum? This album didn't cause anyone physical harm (feel free to take a swing at that softball) and I hold that, free of cultural context, it wouldn't be rated any lower than the average pop R&B record. Yeah, it's pretty dumb, but its no more or less dumb than the Omarion and Dru Hill records that came before it.

No disrespect to you, Joe. I'm not trying to make character snipes or criticisms of fellow NR staffers, but this Chris Brown business seems like an amplified version of people who don't like Kanye West because he runs off at the mouth and was mean to some white teenager. I feel that there has to come a point when one separates the art for the artist, because they are two different things. It is possible to love one and hate the other.

Still, on the real, this album isn't very good.

Ordinarily, I'd probably agree with you

There is a line, but it's certainly blurry. The reason I feel this review is justified (and yes, there was a fair amount of exaggeration for comic effect, but that's my prerogative) is because it explicitly references the acts of the past. Especially the track Deuces, which I think is in extremely poor taste.

It's an interesting point though. I think Nick Cave's Murder Ballads album is great, and that's got some pretty rum stuff in there. Eminem rapping about killing his wife though is another matter. On '97 Bonnie & Clyde, it was comic, and obviously far removed from reality. However, on Kim, the fury seems genuine and it makes me very uneasy.

What's worrying, to me, is that in this world, transgressions seems to get forgotten all too quickly. Quick example for you. Piers Morgan is pretty popular in the States right now - is anything made of why he left his job as a newspaper editor in the UK? Sure, I'm not the guardian of what's good and right by any means, but I think it's symbolic of how fame (or should that be F.A.M.E.?) affords people a kind of immunity it shouldn't.

What in the world???

Joe - Even if this was meant to be an op-ed on domestic violence instead of a critique of an R&B/Hip-Hop album, you sound like a highly uninformed and disturbed person at the peak of hysteria. You'd like to review Chris Brown's felony assault two years ago and his subsequent punishment, which you seem to know almost nothing about. 5 years of probation, 180 days of community service, and nearly two years of mandatory counseling while becoming the poster boy for assaulting women is no walk in the park for any 19 yo first time offender, famous or not. While Charlie Sheen was getting away with multiple felony offenses (his long history of violence against women is unimpeachable) Chris Brown was a pariah, making mix tapes underground. After two years of being justifiably black-listed some of those tracks became hits, including "Deuces", which, for the record, contains lyrics not entirely written by Chris Brown. The song is about a break-up. Anyone's break-up. No one but you has ever stated that this was an autobiographical record by Chris about Rihanna. How you came to that conclusion is anyone's guess. But I digress....

These mixtape hits gained traction and Chris slowly but surely gained much of his fan base back. His performing talents have also helped his resurgence. The album is highly successful and critically acclaimed, outside of white, male-centric Indie rock circles.That you personally feel Chris Brown's crime should have had him cleaning toilets for the rest of his life is totally irrelevant when it comes to album critiques in addition to being totally irrational when it comes to the subject of a one time domestic violence incident.

The man's a convicted violent misogynist.

And because he's "served his time" we're supposed to FORGET about that?

What about Gary Glitter? Shall we have him on "Later"? After all, it's been simply AGES since he last fucked a child.

Get some proper perspective

This is too moronic to respond to.

Ah well that's nice and clear then.

You simply don't think beating your girlfriend up is that serious. Good to know.

Joe's not alone

Wikipedia says "Critics noted the song was about Brown's former relationship with Barbadian singer Rihanna". Not just this chap here.

The review refers to Chris Brown's past, but the bulk of the review is about the music. Which seems to be pretty rotten, by general consensus. I thought it was really lame.

What do you think of the music ?

"Critics noted"

Anyone can submit an entry to Wikipedia. The song has multiple song writers all contributing lyrics, none of which directly address Rihanna or the domestic violence incident. Additionally, "Deuces" is urban slang for "I wish you peace. I'm out." Joe's willful interpretation is just that.

I disagree with you regarding the "review". The bulk of it is NOT about the music.

What do I think of the music? It's great and that is reflected on the pop, r&b and rap charts where various singles from the album have been doing extremely well. So, I am not alone in my opinion either.

More to the point, Brown's personal life is off-putting, no doubt, and this is a white male-centric Indie rock site. I don't expect many guys on here WOULD like his type of music. So, what's the point here? It seems like a bunch of guys making themselves feel better by trolling about domestic violence. Ok, fine. Then where's the negative "review" on Ozzy Osborne's new box set? That dude is infinitely more violent than Chris is. Look it up.

Let the kid live already. Don’t worry, if he does it again he'll be finished for good (unlike his more famous white counterparts (hi Ozzy & Charlie). In the meantime, leave the pop, r&b and hip hop to those who know something about it

Back to my point

MTV's review stated "features what appears to be a dig at Rihanna, Brown's ex-girlfriend."

Would you accept MTV as being informed on this genre?

Yes, MTV is informed on the

Yes, MTV is informed on the genre of hip hop and R&B. It doesn't mean that the song is about Rihanna simply because someone who works there says it "appears to be"...But let's just say it's the definitive song about Rihanna written soley by Chris Brown since that's what the desired truth is here. I personally see nothing offensive about the lyric and I make no apologies for that.


By far, one of the truest, articulate, well-stated reviews I've read of, not only the album, but of the woe-is-me pitiful "artist" behind the making of it. Thank you for writing this! I'm putting it out there for all to read, especially this genius line: F.A.M.E. is a vile, despicable album that doesn’t deserve to be supported in any way, shape or form. Its very existence is a frightening indictment of our times, in terms of our attitudes to music, women and the cult of celebrity.

Thank you very much

It seems your choice of line is popular, it's the one that's been picked out by Metacritic too.

Well, who could resist such an exaggerated emotional response?

Otherwise known as hysteria. It's eye catching. Nevertheless, you should have taken a pass on "reviewing" this album.

Isn't branding a bit of journalistic hyperbole

as hysteria a bit of an exaggerated emotional response in itself?
While I can see where you're coming from regarding the review being more about Brown himself than the music, I think Joe's review is fair. It might not be a 0 out of 10 album musically (although it's certainly close) but it is a very very dull album. What's worse is that it's also already a very successful album, and undeservedly so. So considering that, and the easy ride he's been given by the media elsewhere (just look at the whole Good Morning America debacle and his subsequent appearance on Dancing with the Stars, despite it being against the wishes of several performers on the show), I'm glad that somebody's reacted to the album in the way that Joe has.
And besides, how could you not think of Brown's recent actions when listening to the album? The inclusion of the Ike and Tina line is absolutely mind-boggling - surely Brown's management would have wanted to downplay the whole domestic violence thing, and yet there it is.

You too just gave a review of

You too just gave a review of Chris Brown. Not his album. Welcome to the pinata party.

And for the record one (1) dancer on DTWS said she took exception to Chris Brown's appearance while the host said he wouldn't back off personal questions if given the chance to interview Brown. It never helps your point to exaggerate.

Where is all this dug-in, unforgiving hate when it comes to Charlie Sheen or Ozzy Osborne?

What is your slant?

Dear god. Let us please note that within the constraints of this the modern music consuming community - whilst opinion is king, context is well and truly queen. To attempt to remove music from the inextricable world from which it was borne is a foolhardy and ultimately unnatainable goal, and in that same breath it is with bullish hypocracy that people claim to be able to consider such work confined and uncoloured in some vacuum of objectivity. The subtle aggravating notes that surround F.A.M.E - the time spent in jail; his doomed relationship with Rihanna et cetera - such facts are inescapable sources of bias; we as humans make heuristical links that see us connect lines like "you’ll regret the day when I find another girl" with our own understanding of what has happened.

Don't be naive & self-aggrandising, you are not some stalwart of neutrality and neither do you need to be one. This is something Joe qualifies, a character assassination that draws and ties loose strands togethor; the same connections we make despite his prompting.

So be aware of your own slant, and understand that when they say of journalism "what's your angle?" - they refer to the contextual stand-point introduced - in your case that might be "He's done wrong but that doesn't determine the quality of a record". If you can honestly say to me you could have gone about addressing this record in any other way I can confirm with a contented smile that every experience you've ever had refering to Chris Brown is the contributing factor, and, moreover, you are a liar.

NB Just listen to the album - it is a foolish, angry and misconceived record from beginning to end - in both context and 'isolation' there is no way of denying the abject failure of the recording.

Just thought I should stick my oar in

So it doesn't look like I've run to the hills at the first sign of criticism.

That said, I haven't really got an awful lot to add. I stand by what's said in the review about how I think bringing up past events is relevant in light of the songs and lyrical content of the record. To take Deuces as an example, even if people hadn't already made the connection between the song and Rihanna, I don't think it's a huge leap of comprehension to come to the conclusion I did.

To bring up Charlie Sheen or Ozzy Osbourne is odd... as I haven't written anything about them. You can't really accuse me of giving them an easy ride in that instance. For what it's worth, I do think Charlie Sheen's transgressions are being glossed over as part of the "isn't Charlie Sheen a funny guy?!" wave that's going around. Anyway, I'm digressing here, and it's worth mentioning Charlie Sheen is struggling with addiction too (not that it would excuse etc. etc.).

Also, it's a strange thing to claim we're a "white male-centric Indie rock site." There's nothing to say we're a primarily indie rock site (sure, we review a lot of indie rock, but most music sites do) and you've no idea (I assume) of the race of any of the contributors. You mention the fact that "white people aren't getting the same treatment"; it's way off the mark to even suggest Chris Brown's ethnicity has anything to do with this review whatsoever.

Thanks for a great product.

Thanks for a great product. These he actually looks forward to taking. Extremely good price for decent AA batteries. Am giving this to all the dogs and some to the cat now because am so impressed. The only thing I noticed was minimal vasodialation I didn't notice increased strenth or cutting potential. more info

Appearently, idiocracy is a disease

Hateful, one word to describe this review. You can honestly base the quality of the album based on what he has done two years ago. I'm no proffessional, but it seems that you are not reviewing the album but just blantly stating your opinions on Chris's life. Delete this and try again.

F.A.M.E. Review - Response

In half-heartedly concurring with this review, I found a few missteps.

Joe – as you yourself pointed out the exaggeration of the review, there were also a few personal jabs at Chris Brown. And as Mr. Iliff pointed out, we, as listeners, all have a level of subjectivity. What we think about these musicians when we review them will always have some sort of slant. So, the name-calling is understandable, but callused.

I also agree that his album was sub-par. His attempts at rapping were horrendous, the song with Ludacris was more foolery and less convincing (Seriously, I laughed when I heard the song.), and given his past offense, a few tracks erred on taste and sensitivity.

That being said, if you are going to take into account his violent streak, past relationship with Rihanna, gauche lyricism, his continued fame and relationships with top producers and songwriters - with subjectivity - let’s look at his past, as a whole.

Chris Brown grew up in an abusive home. He has seen his mother get mistreated in the worst possible way. It’s even possible that he was abused – we don’t know. So, by example of a destructive man (his stepfather), he learns about control and about women. On the other hand, a positive, he learns about singing, dance, and artistry (not necessarily by his stepfather). He caught fame at a young age – 16 years old.

Since his inception as an artist, his lyrical content has been female-focused. Love, sex, flirtation, dating and break-ups, the whole realm of puppy-love relationships and anything involving sexuality, has been a part of Chris Brown’s musical repertoire. This fits the typical R&B mold. He was spawned from, and possibly labeled as, an Usher and Michael Jackson ectype with small differences, here and there.

If you’re going to label him a misogynist, it should have been noted from the beginning of his career, when he was singing “You'll see/ Girl I can set you off/ Don't believe my age is gonna slow us down/ I can definitely show you things/ To have you saying I can't be 16”in Run It and “You got that look in your eyes/That look like you give your boy here a good ol' time/And I'm on it girl, that's right I'm on it girl” in Poppin.’ It’s possible his boyish charm and age excused the lyricism written on his behalf.

Whether it was cliché, nuanced, or provocatively open, I will argue that Chris Brown has been consistent in playful and potent lyrical content, as well as fitting the current state of R&B. There have also been hip-hop and pop flourishes in a few of his songs, so the jump from singing into rapping and even the nuanced sexual come-ons to more forward, direct calling, was, I believe, inevitable. Although, he should quit, especially rapping.

And note: You could’ve picked another hip hop artist that evenly compares to CB being a “ladies man thug.” At least Tupac could rap.

And correction: F.A.M.E. stands for “Fans Are My Everything” and ‘Forgiving All My Enemies.”

When it comes to “Deuces” off of his mixtape with Tyga, Fan of a Fan, there was a level of thoughtlessness in his lyricism, which would make any listener wince, if assuming he was pointing the finger at Rihanna. And with my subjectivity – I believe it’s probably 99.9% true that he was talking about her.
Defiant or not, I disagree with your statement that the song paints Brown as “the innocent victim of the relationship.”

On the contrary, I think it paints him as a hurt and frustrated-ex-boyfriend dealing with a public breakup.


At the same time, as subjective as we are, we will never know the full spectrum of Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship. We have their music. At times, their music will not disclose information about the incident or their relationship. If it does, it is not a full album. For example and effect, listen to Rihanna’s Rated R – her largest hit from the album was Rude Boy.
We have words that could have been misconstrued and twisted in magazine interviews. We have TV interviews where their words weren’t spun, but they still could’ve lied for the cameras or talked around the answers. Still, we will never get the complete story. All we know was that their relationship started fine, became problematic, and ended in violence.
And most importantly, although we know, somewhat, how Chris Brown acted towards Rihanna, we are conversely, unaware of Rihanna.

So, as “astonishing” as it was to hear, it could have been the truth. The gall of the song, the relatability of being in a rotten relationship and telling that other person “I’m out,” and also the musicality of the record (slowed down, beat-driven track, sampled from Rihanna’s “Te Amo.”), made the song a hit.

As far as asserting that Brown is trying to “coerce” and “convince” us that “his actions can be excused and he’s not sorry for what he did,” - I don’t agree with that either.

Musically, F.A.M.E. moves towards a hip hop sound, a genre that is known for misogyny and other ills. That’s replicated in the album – hollow lyricism that touches on sex, women, money and cars. But, just like hip hop, it’s not deadlocked in stereotypes. There are other facets of hip hop music. On F.AM.E, we get the typecast version and ridiculous slow jams. Then we get the Euro-synth and electro-heavy tracks that seep into the current trend of pop (Yeah 3x, Beautiful People) and a few features (Justin Bieber) and a ballad, that gives the album a decent listen.

I look at the album as a one-trick formula that he, and other artists before him, has done before. Is it inventive, something new? No, but it sells albums, regardless of his past. This does support your statement in the last paragraph - “Its very existence is a frightening indictment of our times, in terms of our attitudes to music, women and the cult of celebrity.”

Culturally and sonically, Brown might not have made any new strides with this album, but his identity as a young man, as an artist and singer, is still being shaped. As a reviewer, there shouldn’t be a sphere of bashing in terms of one’s character. A “cowardly felon?” He’s more like a scared kid in denial. Vile, despicable in his actions – yes. But, there is room for redemption, for forgiveness, a quality album in the future, and for reviewers, if drawing a bridge from an artist’s personal life to their music, to examine (a little more closely) the whole picture.

Thanks for commenting

I'd made up my mind not to respond to any more comments, because I was sure it would feel like banging my head against a brick wall. However, seeing as you've taken the time to write a comment which is longer than the actual article itself(!), I owe you at least some kind of reply.

Much has been made about how I've brought up Chris Brown's past, but if you read the review, it's mainly a critique on the music with a few points on his criminal record where I think it's justified (i.e. it's brought up in song). As for you saying he's scared and in denial, and that Deuces is a frustrated man dealing with a public break-up, maybe you're right, but it's open to interpretation, and I wrote it the way I saw it.

The misogynistic lyrics are hardly unique to him, I know. I have a problem with a LOT of hip-hop/R&B and its treatment of women. For a genre born out of struggle and oppression, it's become one that often celebrates materialism and treats women as objects. I guess we can't expect him to break with type (though it would have been nice), but as you agree, there are a few examples which show a lack of foresight as to how they'd be construed given past events.

The thing is, I make a big deal out of Deuces because when I heard it, I thought, "No way! Is he REALLY saying what I think he is?" and that was the most extreme reaction I had to the record. But, as mentioned, that only gets a couple of paragraphs and the real reason I have this album such a trashing is because I believe it is a terrible, terrible record. I hated listening to it. I hated myself for volunteering to review it, in fact! If an album by a convicted man is given 0/10, it's not necessarily because of his past crimes, it could very well be - as it is in this case - that it's an appalling record that deserves a 0/10, regardless of who made it.

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