Album Review: Chris Brown, Indigo

indigo

Chris Brown

Indigo (released June 28, 2019)

Let’s begin by talking about what makes a great album because I think many of your favorite artists have lost the recipe.

Great albums obviously feature great songs but there’s much more to it than that. Top-notch vocal performances. Expert songwriting. Solid song sequencing and consistency. And most importantly, a great album has something to say.

In simpler terms, a great album is like a great movie – it’s captivating storytelling that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

A great album is not a random collection of songs throwing into a ziplock bag like stale trail mix.

We’ve been here before with my play Cousin Chris Brown – a man who is unquestionably the face of modern R&B, yet has struggled to assemble solid LPs. His dance moves often get him tagged as “this generation’s Michael Jackson,” but none of his works come close to MJ’s heights. I mean, it’s been a decade since he’s delivered anything as good as MJ’s Invincible, let alone the rarified air of a Thriller or Off the Wall.

Breezy’s last album, 2017’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon, was a THREE HOUR grab bag of random tracks and reviewing that thing nearly put me on a stretcher.  The follow-up Indigo, his ninth studio album, shaves that runtime down to TWO HOURS. So instead of sitting through Avengers: Endgame, it’s like sitting through Captain Marvel.

And both are more entertaining than this.

To its credit, Indigo stars out promising. The title track is the usual Breezy formula for radio hits – oversexed lyrics drenched in autotune. But what shines here – and through most of the album – is solid production. “Back to Love” is yet another danceable homage to the King of Pop, and it’s the style where he shines best. Cousin Chris’ airy vocals are tailor made for upbeat pop numbers, when he actually decides to showcase them.

Brown teams with HER for the perfectly serviceable duet “Come Together,” which is far from groundbreaking but gets the job done nicely. And speaking of teamups, the album’s biggest surprise comes from “Don’t Check On Me,” with Justin Bieber delivering arguably the best vocal performance of the album. He and Brown show surprising chemistry. It turns out much better than the insanely hyped collabo with Drake “No Guidance”: Aubrey sounds like laid his vocals while literally laying in the bed while Brown auto-screeches over the track like a robotic harpy. Absolutely zero chemistry there.

But it’s about 15 minutes into Indigo when things start going off the rails, thanks to lethargic slow jams like “Girl of My Dreams” and embarrassing strip-club tracks like “Wobble Up.” Remember what I said earlier about expert songwriting? Well, lines like “if my d*** out you better start suckin’ or something” from “Wobble Up” ain’t it, chief.

Cousin Chris also does his best to ride the nostalgia wave, with several songs leaning on strong samples to make their mark. It produces mixed results. “Temporary Lover,” which flips Alicia Myers’ “I Want to Thank You,” is forgettable yet harmless but turning Aaliyah’s “Back and Forth” into a thirst trap anthem for “Throw It Back” is grounds for the death penalty. “Not just my tongue, gonna use my whole face!”

WHAT.

CB’s hit “Undecided,” which jacks Shanice’s “I Love Your Smile,” likely will get the most buzz but here but even that leans too closely to the original, making it feel like a cheap copy of a classic. Compare it to Mariah Carey’s flip of Lil Kim’s “Crush on You,” which took a recognizable beat to construct an entirely new concept with “A No No.” Brown DID get it right with “Sorry Enough,” which swipes Clipse’s classic percussions from “Grindin” but adds a sax to give it a whole new dimension. It’s a way better approach than just singing over an old beat and calling it “Blindin’” or something.

Honestly, if Brown ended Indigo after “Sorry Enough,” he’d have an uneven but listenable LP. But OH NO, “Sorry Enough” clocks in at just the halfway point, and things really take a nosedive afterward. “You Like That,” “Troubled Waters,” “Take A Risk” – all are ultra bland, forgettable tracks that sound like something Jamal would sing for 30 seconds on Empire before Lucious shoots somebody. And songs like “Trust Issues” and “Sexy” are so saturated in autotune that Breezy’s voice is almost unrecognizable. The only standout on the album’s back end is “Side N****,” another of those disco-inspired dance tracks that Brown does so well and REALLY needed to be showcased more on this LP.

By the time we limp to the finish line, Chris tries to tie things together with introspective tracks like “Dear God,” but the goodwill is LONG gone by then. And when Indigo finally wraps up with “Play Catch Up,” another bland sex song with another above average beat, you’re just happy to have this thing over with than looking forward to another playthrough.

Listening to an album shouldn’t have to feel like work.

As harsh as I was on Heartbreak on a Full Moon – and that album deserved all my slander – I fully admitted that there were very good tracks to be found, you just had to dig through too much bile to find them. Indigo is worse in a different way – the lows aren’t quite as low as the worst stuff on Heartbreak on a Full Moon (there are only four or five REALLY bad songs here) but the highs are nowhere near as high. What we’re left with is a cauldron of mediocrity – two dozen tracks that, despite solid production, were better left on the cutting-room floor.

Now obviously, the Breezy stans (who are probably plotting the deaths of my unborn kids as we speak – those weirdos are a red cap away from MAGA-level insanity) will be unmoved by this review and will be compelled to just pull seven or eight of their favorite songs from this and build their own playlist.

Yeah, and this would have been a MUCH better release if Breezy did that himself.

Let’s be real – this “album” is a transparent play to elevate Brown’s streaming numbers, nothing more. And hey, it worked with Heartbreak on a Full Moon, you can’t fault him for trying it again.

But that ain’t what makes a good album.

Good albums don’t come with a note saying “some assembly required” or give you arthritis from skipping so many songs. Good albums sure aren’t eight OK songs out of 32. Get eight questions right out of 32 on a pop quiz and see what grade you get.

Call this a compilation or a playlist or whatever you like. But you can’t call it a good album.

Best tracks: “Don’t Check on Me,” “Sorry Enough,” “Come Together,” “Back to Love,” “Side N****”

2 stars out of 5

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