Everything considered, it’s quite incredible that Chris Brown is still able to muster the popularity to warrant a review on this website 17 years and 12 major projects into his career – despite the quizzical outbursts he’s posting to social media about it not doing as well as he hoped. Truthfully, he might be doing even better if most of his albums weren’t the length of a feature film. Brown’s latest, Breezy, is 24 tracks in length and loaded with features, but completing the entire project feels like wading through a load of filler to get to hits which pale in comparison to the highlights of both his early and late career. It’s been clear for years that Brown is highly capable and extremely influential when it comes to his voice and delivery, but there’s not much on this project in the way of a memorable hook as the majority of it gets bogged down in overly self-indulgent alt-R&B trends and a checklist of popular sounds to cover with a featured guest.
The opening run of tracks is where you’d expect the most impressive ones to go – not the case on this project. “Till The Wheels Fall Off” is an emotional opener loaded with obnoxious voice pitching, an overload of layers and some too-ambitious vocal runs that eventually turns into a trap cut with more of a hip-hop flow. Brown sings about fighting for respect, as Lil Durk shows up to support with some questionable bars comparing Travis Scott’s recent cancellation to Brown’s ongoing predicament. Sometimes artists that fans would tell you to “separate the art” from make it hard with their lyrics, and another moment in the early goings comes on “Possessive,” where Brown is essentially boasting about showing toxic behaviour in a relationship, as it shows that he cares. Lil Wayne drops a solid verse that feels like it doesn’t belong, while BLEU continues his cold streak with a warbly Auto-Tuned performance that makes him sound like an even less competent Lil Baby. Speaking of which, Baby appears on “Addicted,” which starts to make it feel like Brown has exhausted just about every possible sexual reference he can after these nearly two decades and is resorting to some bizarre ones.
Tracks like “C.A.B.” and “Call Me Every Day” tick off boxes on the checklist, the former linking up with Fivio Foreign for a blend of their styles that does neither of them any favours, throwing Brown’s falsetto over a drill beat and Foreign’s menacing voice over some brighter tones, and the latter an obligatory Afrobeats song with Wizkid that Brown is barely on, and when he is, he adopts an eyebrow-raising African accent. What would have been the best feature is relegated to a muted sample in the back on “Pitch Black.” It has solid foundations, clearly being a demo track done by Anderson .Paak that Brown can’t quite replicate his trademark bounce on.
The problem with most of the tracks here usually boils down to a muddy, messy mix that makes it seem like Brown and his guests threw on so many vocal runs and takes that weren’t edited together properly, making latching onto a melody difficult – “Closure” with H.E.R. is a big offender here. However, things begin to pick up steam in the middle. “Need You Right Here” has cleaner production and a fun trap beat, and despite some more awful voice pitching and a weaker hook Brown and Bryson Tiller certainly have a more engaging flow during the verses. Some more solid features continue to elevate tracks – it’s great to hear Brown superfan Ella Mai making some nerdy references to his songs on “Sex Memories,” and she sounds better vocally than any singer on the project, while Jack Harlow drops a great and ultra-suave verse onto “Psychic,” which might come the closest here to a “Go Crazy”-level catchy hook that makes you curse yourself every time you sing it and remember who it came from. “Show It” has another great hook as Brown and Blxst play off of the rubbery, bouncy synths in the back well – plus, it’s not about cheating like “Psychic,” so it’s an added plus. In between all of the improvement is “Hmhmm” – it’s happened an odd number of times, but whenever an R&B singer names a track after one of their weird vocalizations, you know it’s never going to be good.
Before the slog to the end of the album, there are a couple more highlights – “Sleep at Night” is Brown’s best vocal performance on the project as he tackles a doo-wop tempo and makes use of his trademark falsetto in the chorus, while “Forbidden” makes up for what the preceding, oddly static and straightforward track “WE (Warm Embrace)” couldn’t and takes advantage of Brown wanting to go into a funkier area. For all the lofty Michael Jackson comparisons that are lobbed at him, this is the one that comes close to scratching the surface. Tracks like “Passing Time” and “Survive the Night” revert to some of the most annoying alt-R&B tendencies and easily could have been cut – “Passing” especially has a great, driving beat that is tragically thrown off by some extended, indulgent vocal runs, while two of the music industry’s most detestable characters link up on the Tory Lanez-featuring and hilariously misspelled “Bad Then A Beach.” Most of the ending run just feels like watered-down copies of tracks that came before – “Slide,” “Iffy” and “On Some New S**t” are boring trap-pop cuts that make me miss the run of features, while “Luckiest Man” feels like an unfinished reference track as he badaboom badabings his way through lyrics. The D’Angelo-sampling “Harder” certainly gives him a final opportunity to show off his vocal talent, but the lyrics certainly feel a little predatory – and on “Dream,” he opens the chorus with “I want you to scream, but not in a bad way.” Glad to see you need to clarify.
There are definitely a handful of highlights to be found across Breezy, but they’re not really worth listening to an 80-minute album or giving your streams to Chris Brown. If you’re really feeling a craving, you could just as easily go back to “Go Crazy.” It’s infuriating how much that song slaps.
Favourite Tracks: Forbidden, Show It, Psychic
Least Favourite Track: Hmhmm