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July 2012 Archives

Lollapalooza 2012 picks: FRIDAY

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Lollapalooza -- because of its typical smorgasbord, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink lineup -- has been called "Wal-Mart on the lake." But what about the "Wal-Mart in the desert" or the "Wal-Mart on the farm"?

Coachella (outside of Los Angeles) and Bonnaroo (in rural Tennessee) exist alongside Lollapalooza (in Chicago's downtown Grant Park) as the nation's big three annual summer music festivals. Despite Lollapalooza's origins two decades ago as a curated, cutting-edge alt-rock festival, today all three fests serve up broadly programmed, wide-net lineups featuring every conceivable pop genre.

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(Sun-Times file)


Last year, Lollapalooza celebrated a 20th anniversary and the music festival's founder, Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell, remarked to me, "I mean, it looks like this will go on forever, right?"

Never say forever, but Lollapalooza's long-term future in Chicago -- where the touring concert series was reborn in 2005 as a stationary, destination event in downtown's Grant Park -- certainly firmed up this spring. In a revised agreement consummating the existing relationship between the city and the festival's producers, Texas-based C3 Presents, Chicago now has a solidified tax deal and Lollapalooza has use of the city's front yard through at least 2021.

"We're no longer dating now," C3 partner Charlie Jones told the Sun-Times this week. "We're married."

Music fans inside and outside of Lollapalooza will notice at least two physical changes at this year's music festival in Grant Park.

First, Perry's tent is no longer a tent.

Marketing pro Pitbull now bound for Alaska

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(AFP/Getty)


Pitbull kicks off another world tour this weekend with a show on Chicago's lakefront. Three days after that, though, "Mr. Worldwide" has an engagement up north.

Waaaaay up north.

As the result of a hijacked marketing event, Pitbull -- a k a Armando Christian Perez, the "Give Me Everything" rapper who's from Miami, raps about Miami, practically exudes Miami humidity -- will be making a promotional appearance July 30 in Kodiak, Alaska.

Concertline: Jimmy Webb, Square Roots fest, more

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A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

JIMMY WEBB
Oklahoma-born songwriter Jimmy Webb gets around -- that much is clear by some of his most famous song titles, such as "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," even "Up, Up and Away" and "MacArthur Park" -- and the revered tunesmith is still touring. Webb, 65, alone with a piano is a pretty perfect evening. Bonus: Webb's opening act is hand-picked, a deep well of talent and spirit named John Fullbright. I went on a bit about his SXSW showcase, and Webb himself is quoted declaring that "in a very short time, John Fullbright will be a household name in American music." The talent is definitely there, akin to Richard Buckner, Lucinda Williams, Paul K., Townes Van Zandt, all the dusty greats.
At 8 p.m. at S.P.A.C.E., 1345 Chicago Ave. in Evanston. Tickets: $20-$42. Call (847) 492-8860; evanstonspace.com.

FOLK YOU!
Larry O. Dean's monthly acoustic night, called Folk You!, is in its 10th year of providing something a little richer than your basic open-mike folk fare. Four performers (one of whom is usually Dean) take the stage solo every third Friday, playing only original songs. The song is the thing here, and the price can't be beaten. This week's gathering spotlights Christine Flores-Cozza, John Lucky and Dean Milano.
At 8 p.m. July 20 at the Horseshoe, 4115 N. Lincoln. Admission is free. Call (773) 248-1366; folkyou.org.

Copy cats: Def Leppard, others re-do old hits

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You can go to Thursday's Def Leppard concert to hear the band's old hits, or you could wait for the new album ... of the old hits.

The British pop-metal band recently re-recorded two of its biggest songs, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Rock of Ages," note-for-note from the 25-year-old originals. Why? Guitarist Vivian Campbell isn't afraid to admit the band was "shamelessly exploiting the connection" to this summer's Tom Cruise movie adaptation of Broadway's "Rock of Ages," a jukebox musical based on '80s hard rock.

Now Def Leppard has decided to go all the way. They plan to re-record their entire catalog.

The Who touring 'Quadropehnia' in 2012, here Nov. 29

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The Who? What? When? Where?

The classic British rock band -- now a surviving duo of singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend -- will be touring the entirety of its 1973 narrative album "Quadrophenia," plus a handful of other hits, later in 2012.

The tour will reach the Chicago area Nov. 29 at the Allstate Arena.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: The index

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Ezra Koenig (left) and Chris Baio perform with Vampire Weekend
on Sunday night at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


The 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival concluded Sunday night with three final acts touching on each strength this locally produced marquee has demonstrated over the years: dependable college rock (Vampire Weekend), noodling electronic mood music (Beach House) and a curious, tucked away experimental surprise (The Field).

Three days down, 47 acts on three stages, Pitchfork 2012 was a mixed bag -- more mixed than usual, really -- with a full-capacity sell-out only on Saturday.

Pitchfork Day 3: Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar

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Rapper Kendrick Lamar (left) performs Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival
in Chicago, while visiting Lady Gaga (right) looks on.
(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


Straight outta Compton, rapper Kendrick Lamar earned a huge crowd at Pitchfork's smaller Blue stage on Sunday. Were they all drawn by Lamar's hard-as-nails flow? Not quite.

Lady Gaga was there to see him.

You read that right. Lamar, you see, keeps excellent company.

Pitchfork Day 3: Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, more

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Ty Segall has help from the crowd as he returns to the stage while body surfing near the end of his set at Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


The only thing that made Sunday afternoon's block of garage rock at Pitchfork 2012 more scorching and thrilling was the camaraderie between two of the acts.

"Hey, Ty Segall!" John Dwyer shouted from Pitchfork's smaller Blue stage. "Can you hear us?"

Dwyer leads Thee Oh Sees, the prolific Bay Area pysch-rock band (four albums in three years) with the ever-evolving name (OCS, the O.C.'s, the Ohsees). Sunday his band started a half hour before the like-minded Segall on the larger Red stage, and Dwyer knew a lot of fans were torn by the scheduling -- and planning to bolt. "Don't go," he pleaded limply. "Stay!"

Pitchfork Day 3: The wooden letters

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(Photo by Zachary James Johnston)


Fans who visited the Blue stage this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival took a moment or two to decipher Matthew Hoffman's plywood sculpture (above).

In letters 8-feet tall and spanning 80 feet atop the park's west fence, Hoffman spelled out, "THESE MOMENTS."

Mind you, this is the Pitchfork Music Festival, not another World's Columbian Exposition. Nonetheless, in one corner of Chicago's Union Park during this weekend's annual indie-rock fest, there was a contraption called the Electromusical Energy Visualizer.

Saturday's Pitchfork headliners both seemed like mixed bags -- especially to the hundreds of people who stuck with them for two songs and then bolted (I've never seen such an exodus on a Saturday night at Pitchfork) -- but each earned their keep in drastically different ways.

On the main stage, the mysterious and expansive Godspeed You! Black Emperor confounded the curious and exalted the faithful. Reunited after a seven-year hiatus, the nine-member Montreal collective (last here in March 2011, just after reuniting) demonstrated why they are both revered and ignored, building a typical set that was all dynamics but little depth.

Pitchfork Day 2: Sleigh Bells and a mixed bag

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Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells on Saturday
at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Chandler West/Sun-Times)


Saturday was a day of mixed reviews. The weather: dreadful at first, delightful by nightfall. Mobile service: some hilarious tweets, though several of them were delivered two hours late. The video screen: beautifully clear this year, even though its images always seemed brighter and sunnier than reality.

Music, too. Sleigh Bells, for starters. Their reign of terror on the evening main stage alternated between hard-hitting and plain silly.

Pitchfork Day 2: Flying Lotus, Wild Flag

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Carrie Brownstein in the zone with her band, Wild Flag,
on Saturday at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Photos by Chandler West/Sun-Times)


Pitchfork's blessing and its curse can be the diversity of its programming. Saturday's schedule was proof of these extremes -- a broadly inconsistent day -- but sometimes the swing between extremes really crackle, as it did Saturday afternoon with two divergent but equally exciting sets.

p4kflylo.JPGFirst, California DJ Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison, pictured) quickly dispatched all who doubted that one man and a turntable deck could hold down one of Pitchfork's main stages. An odd booking, perhaps, but in the glare of post-rain sun, his charisma and cheer -- not to mention a wise selection of tracks for his target audience (Kanye West & Jay-Z, Odd Future, Erykah Badu and more were in his fluid mixes) -- were infectious. When he tweaked the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic," the crowd -- already pogoing in the slop -- went berserk. When his time was up, he kept spinning and few argued.

Follow that postmodern party with a purely old-school guitar band. The inimitable Wild Flag continued knitting a '60s psych-rock thread that started on Friday with Outer Minds and Olivia Tremor Control.

Pitchfork Day 2: 'Embrace the mud!'

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The real cutting-edge at Pitchfork 2012. (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)


After Friday's soggy opening, the second day of the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park received another soaking early in the afternoon. But a little rain failed to dampen the spirits of the sold-out crowd.

Festival organizers acted quickly to manage the puddles and mud patches, laying down clay and plastic decking, and pumping where necessary.

As one festivalgoer said, though, leading several around her in a chant: "Embrace the mud!"

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Brian King of Japandroids performs Friday
at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Andrea Bauer/Sun-Times Media)


The two guys who make up Japandroids have a knack for multiplying humanity. First, guitarist Brian King (pictured) and drummer David Prowse generate enough raucous sound for a full quartet and then some. Secondly, they draw a crowd -- one of the biggest I've ever seen at Pitchfork's smaller stage under the trees.

Taking the Blue stage as the rain receded, King took responsibility. "We brought the Vancouver weather with us," he said. Because of the weather delays, their set was trimmed. "So I'm not gonna talk after this. We're just gonna cram in as many songs as we can. ... It's Friday night! Let's have some fun!"

Pitchfork Day 1: A$AP Rocky vs. Big K.R.I.T.

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A$AP Rocky on stage Friday at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


Two rising hip-hop scrappers nearly went head-to-head on the two main stages Friday night.

First, A$AP Rocky hit the Red stage -- or at least his mob did. Rocky showed up during the fourth song and proceeded to throw his ADD rhymes at the crowd just before the second storm hit. Rain didn't stop the Harlem rapper, but with his frenetic flow, urban angst and stage-diving antics, little probably could. Championed by Drake and collaborating with Danny Brown, his 2011 debut "Live Love A$AP" caught enough mainstream attention to earn a major-label reissue this year. That was mainly for the slo-mo flow of hits like "Peso" and "Purple Swag." Friday, Rocky was so hyped-up his follow-up, coming in September, might be called "Live Wire."

Pitchfork Day 1: Outer Minds, Olivia Tremor Control

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Friday's music at Pitchfork opened direct from the wayback machine.

The first band on stage, Chicago's Outer Minds, drenched the soggy park with shimmering '60s psychedelic boogie. Singer-guitarist Zach Medearis, Vox organist Mary McKane and tambourine-confetti queen Gina Lira harmonize like the Mamas & the Papas, but the music is eight-cylinder garage-rock -- much wilder and reckless on stage than on record.

Pitchfork Day 1: Rain, rain, we came to play

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Dan and Joanna, from New York City, share a garbage bag in Friday's rain at the Pitchfork Music Festival (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)


With its afternoon opening delayed slightly by a brief but heavy storm, Pitchfork's first day was deluged by a second downpour just before 6 p.m. The music didn't stop, though. Pitchfork organizers kept things relatively on schedule, and most fans seemed energized by the cooling rain.

More wet weather is forecast into the weekend, with a 40 percent chance of more storms Saturday.

Pitchfork Day 1: Chicago's Willis Earl Beal amazes

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Chicago's Willis Earl Beal delivered the first jaw-dropping set of this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. Preceded by a growing legend that's threatened to overshadow his actual talent -- discovered as a visual artist and busker, Beal has been trumpeted as an eccentric wunderkind in Found magazine and in the Chicago Reader -- he strutted onto the festival's smaller secondary stage as if he were headlining the United Center. He then unleashed a voice that would've filled eight United Centers.

The 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival got off to a delayed start Friday afternoon due to passing storms. Gates opened 30 minutes later and music was delayed 10 minutes while crews pumped some flash-flooded spots.

First up is the organic drone of Lower Dens and the spunkier rock of Outer Minds. Through Sunday night, 47 bands will perform on three stages in Chicago's Union Park, featuring mostly indie subgenres of rock, pop, electronic and hip-hop.

With a daily capacity of 18,000 fans -- Friday is nearly full, Saturday is sold out, Sunday is filling up -- the annual music fest is exactly one-fifth the size of Lollapalooza's daily crowd of 90,000.

That does not mean it wields just 20 percent of the impact.

Jennifer Hudson opens a 'new' Taste of Chicago

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(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


"If you were going to launch a new Taste of Chicago, who would you launch it with?"

That was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's question to the crowd at Grant Park's Petrillo Music Shell Wednesday as he kicked off the Taste concert series by introducing Englewood's own Jennifer Hudson.

New Taste? Chicago is charging for up-front seats at the Taste concerts this year. On Wednesday night, the seats on the apron in front of the stage were set up just as they were in previous years -- they just cost $25 now.

Frank Ocean's love letter a game-changer for hip-hop

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frankoceanout.JPGComing out as a gay celebrity used to be such a big deal. Ellen DeGeneres on the cover of Time: "Yep, I'm Gay." Lance Bass on the cover of People: "I'm Gay." Clay Aiken, same magazine: "Yes, I'm Gay."

Today, such news barely makes headlines. In the last several years, dozens of actors (from Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis to Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Colfer) and singers (Chely Wright to Ricky Martin) have revealed their sexuality without causing palpitations in the press. In recent weeks, TV reporter Anderson Cooper and sitcom star Jim Parsons came out via offhand comments, and reactions ranged from "yawn!" to "duh!"

But Frank Ocean's love letter last week is different. It's definitely a big deal.

Wilco added to Hideout Block Party/A.V. Fest

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Fresh off a show at a suburban ballpark, Wilco announced today they'll headline the Hideout Block Party/A.V. Fest on Sept. 14-15 outside the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia St.

Jane's Addiction added to Lollapalooza after-shows

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Lollapalooza announced today that Jane's Addiction, the classic alt-rock band fronted by Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell, will kick off the second leg of its current tour by playing one of the festival's after-shows.

Jane's Addiction, in Chicago last fall supporting their comeback record "The Great Escape Artist," will perform at 10 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Aragon Ballroom. Also on the bill: Franz Ferdinand and dubstep DJs Skream and Benga.

Advance ticket sales for concerts at this year's Taste of Chicago closed at midnight Monday -- with barely half of the capacity sold.

By midday Monday, just over 7,100 of the $25 concert tickets had been sold online.

That's not quite half of the 15,000 tickets available (3,000 per show) for general-admission seating directly in front of the Petrillo Music Shell at the five scheduled Taste of Chicago concerts: Jennifer Hudson (Wednesday), Death Cab for Cutie (Thursday), Michael Franti (Friday), Chaka Khan (Saturday) and Dierks Bentley (Sunday).

The remaining tickets will be available on site at the annual food and music festival, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Two ticket windows at Jackson and Columbus will be open from noon to 7 p.m. each day of the event.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: A playlist sampler

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About 50 bands take to three stages in three days at this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival.

Two plans of attack present themselves: First, you can simply drift and discover, meandering through Chicago's Union Park and following your ear. Or, you can study the schedule and craft a surgical strike based on what you know you like -- and what you don't.

To facilitate the latter course, I've made my annual must-see picks, plus here's a playlist of nearly all the acts in the P4k12 lineup. Taste the sounds and decide.


Must-see bands at Pitchfork Music Festival 2012

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(Photo by David Elliot)


Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival remains the premier annual showcase of cutting-edge music in town, in the country and -- given its recent expansion overseas with Pitchfork Music Festival Paris -- in the world.

Dominated every year by indie rock, hip-hop and electronic acts whose buzz is just cresting -- some you're just starting to hear about, some you'll be sick of hearing about next week -- the comfy and affable Pitchfork fest is still a great bargain (ticket prices stayed level this year) and, as pop-up cultural supermarkets go, a comparably friendly and easygoing experience. Even when the lineup doesn't knock your hipster hat off, like this year, the tickets come pre-loaded with potential for pleasant surprises.

Taste of Chicago 2012 music schedule

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Taste of Chicago 2012 features the usual wide-reaching smorgasbord of musical acts. The difference this year is they're asking you to pay for them.

Earlier in the year, the City Council approved a plan to charge $25 tickets for the 3,000 seats in front of the Petrillo Music Shell. The lawn beyond, with a capacity of 30,000, remains free, as does the overall chow fest.

So now the question remains: Will you pony up?

Emily's Army is green, just not Green Day Jr.

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Joey Armstrong, 17, is describing all the things he's learning about being on the road with his punk band Emily's Army.

"You know, instead of spending all your money on one sweet place [to stay] we're learning how to save our money and find food that's filling -- maybe not the best for you, but filling and cheap," Armstrong says from a stop in Boston. "The Taco Bell 12-pack. Dunkin' Donuts. We have a deck of cards we won a while ago. There's a hundred cards in it, from Chipotle, and every one of them is for a free burrito!"

Who was it that once sang questioningly about affording the rock and roll lifestyle?

Armstrong's intent on walking it like he talks it. He could probably splurge more than once for some nice eats. He's the son of Billie Joe Armstrong, leader of the mega-popular, punk-to-Broadway band Green Day.

In the beginning, he tried to keep that under wraps. Didn't work.

A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

WILCO
Wilco played half a dozen different Chicago venues last December, including a great show at the opera house, so this summer they're heading to the ballpark. No, not that ballpark. The acclaimed Chicago-based alt-rock band will be in the 'burbs, along with two other revered local acts: Andrew Bird and his folkie whistling coos, and the Congregation with their hard soul grooves. Great show.
At 5:30 p.m. July 8 at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, 34W002 Cherry Lane in Geneva. Tickets: $50. Call (800) 514-ETIX; etix.com.
-- UPDATE: WXRT-FM (93.1) will be broadcasting the whole show live Sunday night, on air and via wxrt.radio.com.

WEST FEST
Chicago's West Town neighborhood boasts one of the summer's coolest and largest (last year the crowd was 50,000 strong) hootenannies, West Fest. This year the lineup includes: the Black Lips on July 7, preceded by Man or Astroman, Pet Lions and more. On July 8, it's the delicious electro-duo Mates of State, the dark folk of Crooked Fingers and more. There's also a DJ stage, a kids music stage and plenty of food, drink and shopping.
Music runs from 1 to 10 p.m. July 7-8 on Chicago Avenue between Damen and Wood. Admission: $5 donation requested. Call (312) 850-9390; westfestchicago.com.

American tunes: Fourth of July playlist

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Given the massive success of the tune -- and the cross-promotional opportunity afforded by Thursday's release of the movie "Katy Perry: Part of Me" -- it's likely that a vast majority of fireworks displays across the country today will, once again, feature Katy Perry's "Firework."

As does the following playlist. Can't help it. It's gotta happen.

But here, too, are 21 other Independence Day tracks to score your summer holiday grillin', swillin' and general chillin'.

Spanning the melting pot that is modern pop music, our Fourth o' July playlist includes cool hip-hop (Drake & Alicia Keys), classic politi-funk (Prince), patriotic soul (the Impressions, Sam Cooke), classic folk protest (Tom Paxton), newly revived folk-rock (Neil Young), hometown alt-rock (the Plain White T's), a hometown national anthem (Jennifer Hudson), even a wicked Woody Guthrie cover (Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings). Bonus: no Lee Greenwood!

Try out this Spotify playlist of star-spangly tunes -- and share your own!


Katy Perry's romantic reality pierces 'Part of Me'

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Exactly one year ago this week we were announcing that Katy Perry's Chicago stop on her marathon California Dreams Tour was being postponed one month because of "an attack of food poisoning leading to severe dehydration," according to the promoter.

But after seeing "Katy Perry: Part of Me" -- the megastar's new concert movie and documentary, opening Thursday in 3-D -- it's clear the real culprit may have been pure and simple exhaustion.

Review: Chris Brown, 'Fortune'

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chrisbrownfortune.jpgChris Brown, "Fortune" (RCA) zero stars -- Finally, a Tom Haverford record!

Actually, no, this is not a hilarious New Jack parody by the "Parks & Recreation" sitcom character. It's Chris Brown's actual album. Nonetheless, it's still hilarious.

Sort of. Still on probation for his 2009 beating of Rihanna, Brown's aggressive tendencies were back in the headlines after an alleged brawl with Drake on June 14 at a New York City club. Last week, a boxing promoter said if the two stars would settle their feud in the ring he'd give $1 million to a charity that supports abused women. But throughout "Fortune," his fifth album, Brown tries to make the case that he's a lover, not a fighter.

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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