Heartbreak on a Full Moon (released October 31, 2017)
Sorry, Team Breezy, we’re starting this thing of with some real talk:
My Sort-of-Through-Marriage-Cousin Chris Brown is completely clueless when it comes to making a consistent album.
Now before y’all turn this into Black Friday at Best Buy and camp out in my mentions, allow me to clarify – I didn’t say Chris Brown can’t make hit songs. Check the scoreboard: Ol’ Breezy has notched 43 top 40 entries on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, you could call him R&B’s last consistent hitmaker.
But that’s just singles – those albums are another story. In a little over a decade, Breezy has dropped seven LPs, and to this day it’s only his self-titled debut that stands as a solid, cohesive album. Call it beginner’s luck or a lack of focus later on, I guess, because the subsequent albums – which all feature at least one very good song, mind you – simply serve as window dressing for the Hot Single du Jour.
So what would possess a man who hasn’t made a solid album since the Bush administration to drop a FORTY-FIVE TRACK minute double-disc LP? There are certainly conspiracy theories out there – including the fact that Breezy told fans to download Spotify or Apple Music and “leave the album on repeat” to artificially boost his streaming numbers, which will convert to “sales.”
2017, where we resort to cheat codes to climb the charts. Playa please.
Regardless of the method behind the madness, Heartbreak on a Full Moon, Cousin Chris’ eighth release, is by far the most ambitious project of the year. And, just like most Brown projects, there are definitely good songs here.
He just makes you put in a LOT of work to find them.
Go ‘head and get comfortable. This review is gonna take awhile.
The first portion of Heartbreak on a Full Moon is pretty standard stuff form Cousin Chris. “Lost & Found” is a decent start, with sparse, creeping production offset by autotuned lyrics. “Privacy” and “Sip” are the typical oversexed tracks that swing from romantic to revolting within seconds.
Hope you don’t mind Breezy singing about “licking your private parts.” He does that a LOT on this album.
But for Breezy, familiarity breeds success. The lyrics on “Juicy Booty” are downright laughable – I mean the song is called JUICY BOOTY, this ain’t Songs In the Key of Life-level songwriting – but it’s the sample of One Way’s “Cutie Pie” that keeps the party moving. Again, the songwriting on “Hope You Do” leaves much to be desired, but the sample of Donell Jones’ classic “Where I Wanna Be” makes it a bit more endearing. “Questions” also not-so-subtly jacks Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On” to ride mainstream’s current wave of island-themed production (which continues again on “Confidence.”)
Breezy makes time to indulge in his rapper fantasies on “Handle It,” one of those radio-friendly cuts that he can crank out in his sleep. Dej Loaf and Lil Yachty join him, with Yachty sounding like Siri’s drunk robo-ex.
That guy is unlistenable.
But two cuts truly shine on this portion of the album – the title track, with a gentle midtempo groove and synths that sound like a descendent of a late-90s R&B banger; and “Tempo,” an R. Kelly-styled cut that features the braggadocious lyrics and bouncy production that fueled his classics. (Arruh Kelly is also featured on the aforementioned “Juicy Booty” but talking about a 50-year-old man singing about juicy booties gives me gas, so I skipped it.)
Clearly, this is enough material for one full album but we’re just one hour into this thing.
Keep me near the cross.
While the first half the album had its share of successes, the second third is WAY more misses than hits.
Now as I said before, my Cousin Chris knows how to make radio hits. “Party” follows the blueprint: Grab an insanely catchy hip-hop beat, throw a couple of high-profile guests on the track and make room for your platinum plaques.
See “New Flame.” And “Deuces.” And “Look At Me Now.”
Certainly “Party” is nowhere near as good as those tracks but Gucci Mane and Usher easily outshine the other guests on this album. “Pills & Automobiles” tries to mimic that success but the Suck-icide Squad of Yo Gotti, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie and Kodak Black make it an unfocused mess.
Once again, the most notable tracks here borrow from bigger hits – the only reason “Even” sticks in your brain is because of the overt “Remember the Time” references. And “Sensei” is the most blatant knockoff of Future’s “Mask Off” I’ve heard yet but it’s hard to hate on such a winning formula. Plus the use of the saxophone on the beat was brilliant.
“Hurt the Same,” though, is the type of track should be defining Brown at this point in his career. He angrily spits venom, pissed that his girl left him out to dry while he was locked up. He tries to disguise his sorrow with vitriol but he can’t mask his vulnerability, thanks to solid production from DA Doman. It’s about as introspective as Cousin Chris gets.
We could have used way more tracks like “Hurt the Same” and WAY LESS blandness – like “I Love Her,” “Nowhere” and “Tough Love” – or outright ridiculousness like “Other N****s.” On the latter, Breezy sucks up to some girl by dissing her current boyfriends while slandering HER along the way (“you stuck up, you mean as f***”).
Eh, Drake made a career of simultaneously pandering and dissing women so I guess that’s what y’all consider dating in 2017.
I’m TWO HOURS into this thing and we STILL ain’t done. The wifey just came in the room to check on me.
I said I’m doing OK.
I M N O T D O I N G O K
The final third of this monstrosity finally brings some energy after a cavalcade of straight-up boredom. Don’t be surprised if you hear “Frustrated” and “Bite My Tongue” on Top 40 radio in the coming weeks – they’re tailor-made for Breezy’s pop fans.
“This Way” is a deceivingly upbeat breakup track, with an addictive finger-snap and a much-needed upbeat tempo. “Enemy” is another surprise – Breezy seems authentically apologetic as he pleads emotion over driving guitar licks. It’s a huge change of pace for him and it really works. It’s one of the better songs I’ve heard from him in years.
That makes it all the more disappointing to hear so many retreads to close out the album. “High End” drags Future and Young Thug to this never-ending party, with their mumble-rap tag team act being more tiresome that usual. “Reddi Wip,” “Only 4 Me” and “Hangover” are so generic that you’ll get a cramp in your finger from sending them to your recycle bin. “Yellow Tape” tries to present a strong message about the fakeness of Hollywood, but ol’ Cousin Chris undermines his message by upholding the “all men cheat” narrative.
Playa I’ve been married for a long, long time. I’ve never cheated. Don’t throw your alternative facts at my doorstep.
Amazingly the album closer “Grass Ain’t Greener” – a track that’s nearly two years old at this point – manages to outshine 80% of what been crammed in this clown car of an album.
And we’re finally done. Won’t he do it?!
Jokes aside, here’s the bottom line: Heartbreak on a Full Moon proves that Chris Brown is the most versatile artist in R&B today. From traditional R&B to pop to hip-hop, he’s a one man band. But that doesn’t stop Heartbreak on a Full Moon being exactly like every other Chris Brown album – a smattering of solid songs amist a sea of filler. Except with WAAAAAAY more sea this time.
After spending nearly THREE HOURS listening to this album front to back, I feel like a raccoon foraging through a landfill: Yeah, there’s a few tasty morsels here and there but you have to dig through way too much garbage to find them.
If it sounds like I’m being overly harsh, it’s because I am. There’s plenty of material here to make a respectable, strong LP. Give us 15 tracks and we’d be working with something special. But that leaves THIRTY filler songs – that’s more than TWO WHOLE ALBUMS of filler. Most Chris Brown albums are typically bloated anyway; this one is Carl Winslow.
Now, I know most Breezy stans will simply make a playlist of their 11 or so favorite tracks and label Heartbreak on a Full Moon a classic album.
Sorry, playa, that’s a customized playlist. That’s not an album.
But then again, this is the guy who told his fans to just let his album stream on repeat and not even bother listening to it.
2017 is weird and I’m tired.
Best tracks: “Tempo,” “Heartbreak on a Full Moon,” “Enemy,” “This Way,” “Hurt the Same,” “Grass Ain’t Greener,” “Sensei”
2.5 stars out of 5