By Joseph Coffey-Slattery
In an industry that relies heavily on individual song streams to constitute album sales, a common trend has emerged in which artists put forth a massive amount of songs and hope that some land. A typical album has, for the longest time, been anywhere from 10 to 15 tracks, with double albums reaching up to 20 songs. It would be rare to see a project (other than a greatest hits collection) clocking in something over this figure. Yet with the release of “Heartbreak on a Full Moon,” Chris Brown’s latest effort after his 2015 LP “Royalty,” this trend is whole-heartedly challenged.
The new album clocks in at an astounding 45 songs, constituting two hours and 39 minutes of new content from the R&B star who found his introduction to the industry with tracks such as “Run It” and “Gimme That” in 2005, when he was just 16 years old. Since his early days in the game, Brown has been someone to watch, a quintessential example of an R&B star equally capable of making party hits and slow jams. However, his career has never been a smooth one, with the infamous domestic assault of fellow singer Rihanna and a barrage of various legal troubles. The question then becomes, in the midst of Brown’s always tumultuous personal life, has his craft suffered?
The short answer is no. Every now and again Brown delivers a certified bop whose lyrics we all memorize, including 2011’s “Look at Me Now” featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, and 2013’s “Loyal” also featuring Lil Wayne, with assistance from Tyga. It remains to be seen if any one track off of “Heartbreak on a Full Moon” (“HOAFM” for short) will develop the same notoriety as the aforementioned tracks, and it would appear that Brown has created an uphill battle for himself. By putting forth such a large project, audience fatigue has become a very real concern, as even in my own personal listening it took me three days to sift through the project in its entirety. In frustration I kept going back to the previously released singles, desperate for something familiar.
What becomes arduous about the album is how similar every track is. The subject matter never wavers from sex, drugs and generally being a “baller.” These themes are simply beaten over one’s head with seemingly no over-arching artistic goal in mind. Additionally, the production comes off as rather unremarkable. There are really no standout beats, perhaps with the exceptions of “Questions”, “Pills and Automobiles” and the somewhat bizarrely titled “Juicy Booty”, the latter of which will prove a hard song to recommend to friends and family, lest you want to sound silly.
That is to say the album needn’t be completely hated; in fact, there is enjoyment to be had, albeit in a somewhat borderline masochistic way. While Brown is repetitive, he does make up for this in way of consistent quality. Anyone who listens to one of his tracks has a fair idea of what they are getting into, and the same remains true here. Each song is more or less what we have come to expect from the singer, so if one likes that then they will undoubtedly be enormously satisfied with this project. Yet if one was hoping for growth from this artist, they will have to look elsewhere. And that presents perhaps the most tragic part of Brown as an artist: he is a stagnant figure, resisting any meaningful development or change. One can only hope that Brown takes some time after “HOAFM” and objectively looks at his talents and how they can be better used.