Chris 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.
Of course, what's love really got to do with it? Brown "wanna see your legs in the air / baby, don't worry about your hair" ("Strip"). All 14 excruciating songs -- you're not likely to hear more soulless, contrived pop product all year (the contrived dancefloor bleat of top-10 single "Turn Up the Music" is excruciating) -- work hard to thrust Brown's boastful, cartoonish image of his irresistible sexual prowess in your face. It's seriously as funny, and about as effective, as the time Tom Haverford sang "Turn My Swag On."
But given the lingering specter of Brown's troubles, you'd think someone would have advised him against recording, much less including, the song "Don't Judge Me." It opens with Brown singing his (and his publicists') mantra to journalists: "I don't wanna go there / We should never go there / Why you wanna go there? / I guess I gotta go there." But here's where, once again, it stops being funny. In this bland, breathy ballad, Brown puts his moves on a woman who's been "hearing rumors about me ... saw some pictures online / sayin' they got you so angry." Without even proclaiming innocence of this nebulous infraction, Brown skips past live-and-let-live on the way to trembling seduction: "So please don't judge me / and I won't judge you / 'cause it could get ugly / before it gets beautiful." As he gets busy, no doubt tucking his restraining order out of sight behind the nightstand, he adds, "Just let the past just be the past."
All that remains now is convincing Drake to take the offer and lace up.