Chris Brown's career was trending sharply downward. The singer’s self-titled debut went double platinum. Exclusive went single platinum. 2009’s Graffiti fell well short of gold-sales status, though it was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary R&B Album: far and away the worst disc to receive the honor. Rather than vanish and position himself for a spectacle-like comeback, Brown wisely continued to release new music through 2010. The offhandedly belligerent “Deuces” hit that summer and topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, while Brown also appeared on numerous singles headlined by others, including Twista’s Top Ten “Make a Movie.” By the time F.A.M.E. was released in March 2011, the album’s variety of styles was already known. A total of five songs, including the slinking pop-R&B of “Deuces,” had hit various singles charts. The bleepy rap track “Look at Me Now,” where Brown displays some competence as an MC but is devoured by Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes' rapid-fire verses, was one of them. The celebratory “Yeah 3x” and the anthemic “Beautiful People,” a pair of club singles, nodded to Eurodance. And then there was the smoothly percussive “No BS,” a slow jam with chivalrous sweet nothings like “I’m-a leave it in when we do it” and “Don’t you be on that bullshit.” Despite the success of some of these pre-album singles, they don’t represent the best of F.A.M.E. On the earnest ballad “Up to You,” the Michael Jackson/SWV-sampling “She Ain’t You,” and the remorseful “All Back” (written and produced by Timothy Bloom, one to watch), Brown plays to his strength as a boyish, romantic pop-R&B singer, while “Say It with Me” shows that he can handle harder grooves that are more R&B than pop. This all makes F.A.M.E. the equal of Forever, if not slightly better, and it hints that Brown’s best is yet to come.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman