With Justin Bieber and Usher’s highly anticipated albums now out of the chute, another potential summer heater is warming up. As is the question, Can Chris Brown parlay comeback “F.A.M.E.” into continuing “Fortune?”
Since the 2011 release of fourth album “F.A.M.E.” – Brown’s first to claim the top rung on the Billboard 200 – the 23-year-old’s comeback journey has been riddled with seemingly as many successes as potholes.
Take the first six months of 2012. Both praise and criticism greeted Brown’s return to the 54th Grammy Awards stage in February, three years removed from his felony assault conviction for beating ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Just days after collecting his first Grammy statuette – for best R&B album (“F.A.M.E.”) – controversy overshadowed his triumph when he guested on a remix of Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” and she appeared on Brown’s song “Turn Up the Music.”
Add to the success column hot performances on “Dancing With the Stars,” the Billboard Music Awards and a return to the “Today” summer concert series plus Brown’s launch of the Dum English limited-edition art sculpture and toy line with artist Ron English. Then, on the eve of “Fortune’s” release, more headlines surface: this time centering on a bottle-throwing fracas at a New York nightclub where Brown and Drake were patrons.
Headlines aside, it all boils down to the music. And Brown has a head start in that arena with fifth album “Fortune,” due July 3 through RCA. The project already counts four charting singles and two substantial hits. “Strip,” featuring Kevin McCall, rose to No. 3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while “Turn Up the Music” peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the wings is the just-released “Don’t Wake Me Up.”
The 14-track “Fortune,” in fact, tunefully picks up where “F.A.M.E.” left off. Brown, who once again co-wrote songs and also logs several production credits, skillfully stitches together another colorful quilt of R&B, hip-hop, pop and dance elements. Production collaborators in the singer/songwriter’s creative huddle include such “F.A.M.E.” A-list returnees as McCall, the Underdogs, Harmony, Free School, Benny & Alle Benassi and Brian Kennedy as well as fellow hitmakers Polow Da Don, Danja, Boi-1da and @PopWansel.
Beyond the “Fortune” tracks currently circulating on the radio and the Web, additional standouts range from throbbing club jam “Bassline” and the Adonis-produced R&B love ballad “2012” to the introspective “Don’t Judge Me” and uptempo charmer “Stuck On Stupid.” The guest lineup features Sevyn, Sabrina Antoinette, Nas, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa. Sevyn and Antoinette, as well as Kevin McCall, are signed to Brown’s label, CB Music.
As the countdown to Fortune begins, here’s a look at Brown’s career by the numbers.