Chris Brown, "Royalty" (RCA)
Chris Brown knows his strengths, and on his seventh studio album, "Royalty," the singer plays to them with solid success. It's a feat worth applauding, considering how disparate the multi-dimensional singer's specialties seem to be.
There's the electro-dance stuff: the contagiously upbeat "Fine By Me"; the mid-tempo and cool "Zero"; and the Tayla Parx-assisted "Anyway," with its arena-filling waves of synth sounds.
There's also the electronic-influenced "A Little More (Wake Me Up)." ''You inspire me, gimme a reason to keep on," Brown sings to his daughter, Royalty, who appears on the album cover, and inspired the release's title as well.
It's good, radio friendly pop music that seems as natural to Brown as traditional R&B fare, which he delivers with expertise on the old school-leaning "Make Love"; the sweet but slightly explicit "Back to Sleep"; and the steamy, Keith Sweat-inspired "Who's Gonna (Nobody)."
Brown pushes the R&B envelope, too, linking with Dutch DJ-producer Afrojack — who worked on Brown's "Look at Me Now" — for the very sexy "Discover," with its trap-inspired production and slinky lyrics. And Brown gives typical R&B groveling a fresh spin on "Proof," thanks, in large part, to help from "Trap Soul" singer Bryson Tiller, who co-wrote the track.
Last, but not least, there is "Brown, the singer-with-rapper-sensibilities," who shows up on "Little Bit," singing, "Baby, you been on that pole too long." The singer's edgier side appears again on the very likable "Wrist," featuring Solo Lucci.
All-in-all, "Royalty" is a worthwhile collection, proving that in a world where "stay in your lane" is common wisdom, it doesn't exactly apply to people like Brown, who have a few lanes to choose from.
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