It’s tough to feel sorry for Chris Brown — his mix of aggressiveness and playing victim is a particularly off-putting combination.
However, his new album, “Royalty” (RCA), shows how far his fortunes have fallen and makes it seem like he lacks the ability to get up again. Pretty much everything about “Royalty” makes it clear that Brown is now an also-ran.
His strategy is definitely flawed. The music is so bland that Brown feels that he has to swear and say outrageous things to make it interesting, but that just draws further attention to the issue.
The goofy “Zero,” with its faux-’80s soul groove, is so bad it’s almost laughable, especially once Brown starts boasting, “Ask how many nights I’ve been thinking of you? Zerohhhhh. Zerohhhhh.” That segues into a Daft Punk rip-off section of “Zero-Zero-Zero” chants and a kiss-off of “That’s how many [expletives] I give.”
“Liquor” is just as bad, with its wobbly synths and wobbly-for-effect vocals, as Brown sings, “There’s something in this liquor. The air is getting thicker.” His chorus is a chant of “All I wanna do is drink and [expletive],” which would sound stupider if it didn’t feel so sad.
When he wastes the promising ’70s funk guitar groove of “No Filter” on throwaway lines and a chorus of “I swear I got no filter,” it feels like he should step away for a while and regroup. It sounds like he doesn’t even know what to do with a good song anymore.
Now, Brown has certainly had his troubles over the years, especially after he pleaded guilty to felony assault in 2009 for beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
However, “Royalty” shows a steep drop in quality from him. Unlike his last album “X,” there’s no Diplo-produced joint here. There are no cameos from Lil Wayne or Usher or Kendrick Lamar. Brown is trying to go it alone and he just can’t.