Graffiti, Chris Brown | TOO SOON? Chris Brown attempts a comeback
Credit: Benedict Campbell


If there are indeed no second acts in American lives, someone neglected to tell Chris Brown. Less than a year after his assault on then girlfriend Rihanna, the PG-rated R&B dreamboat (two platinum albums, high-profile endorsement deals)?turned?pop culture pariah has returned with a new record. Frankly, a longer hiatus seemed in order, but the public has already spoken: Graffiti‘s swaggering lead single, ”I Can Transform Ya,” is a top 20 hit. Less forgiving listeners looking for signs of contrition may find them on the genuinely affecting second single, ”Crawl,” and the yearning, piano-laced ”So Cold,” though it’s too soon (perhaps ”10 past never” is a better time) for the hard-to-swallow pity party ”Lucky Me.”

A clutch of throwaway midtempo tracks don’t seem to justify Brown’s hasty return, and Graffiti hits a few genuinely cringe-y notes — among them, the icky female-orgasm outro on ”Take My Time,” a lecherous slow jam better suited to low-rent lotharios like Pretty Ricky. The rapturous hook of ”What I Do,” however, easily transcends its standard-issue ”I’m rich and fancy” boasts, and the fizzy Casio trip ”I.Y.A.” and Steve Winwood-sampling ”Pass Out” step to the level of his dance-floor-directed best. With his actions this year, Chris Brown strapped cement boots on the zero-gravity pleasures pop music is meant to provide. Graffiti won’t magically fix that, but at its best moments, it still floats. B-

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