Chris Brown’s ‘Heartbreak on a Full Moon’ Is Ambitious and Audacious
Even after more than a decade of consistently delivering hits and building the case for him being the preeminent R&B star of his generation, Chris Brown continues to keep the music world at his beck and call. However, with the endless stream of guest appearances and random singles making him somewhat of an omnipresence, finding ways to cut through the monotony of familiarity, regardless of it leads to success, is a task in itself. While many artists have reverted to leaning on gimmicks to create fanfare and public interest, that course of action can backfire, as it has time and time again in the past. So when Chris Brown announced that Heartbreak on a Full Moon, his eighth studio album, would consist of 40 full-length songs, the news left the music world appalled, with many unable to fathom the idea of such an excess of creative expression.
Brown's first album since unleashing Royalty in 2015, Heartbreak on a Full Moon is an ambitious effort that finds the crooner conveying feelings of heartache and betrayal amid collaborations with some of hip-hop's finest. Guitar licks greet listeners on "Lost & Found," Heartbreak on a Full Moon's opening salvo, on which Breezy admonishes a fair-weather lover for her flighty ways over production by EarDrummers Entertainment, J-Bo and Xeryus L. Gittens. "This is not the lost and found/Whose time are you wasting now?" he ponders, a question many listeners will likely assume is directed towards Karrueche Tran, Brown's ex-girlfriend with whom he enjoyed a high-profile, albeit tumultuous, on-and-off relationship with from 2011 until 2015. Tran, who called it quits with Brown after discovering that he was the father of a newborn child, is never named for the duration of the album, but ultimately serves as its muse.
A prodigious talent with a penchant for delivering syrupy ditties, Breezy wastes no time showcasing that prowess on offerings like the D.A. Doman produced "Privacy," the singer's most recent composition to dominate radio. While the stigma from the 2009 domestic violence incident between him and Rihanna may continue to haunt him, Brown has managed to evade a substantial amount of long-term backlash, much like R&B star R. Kelly, who has enjoyed own his fair share of controversy. Kelly - and sultry singer Jhené Aiko - appears alongside Brown on "Juicy Booty," which interpolates "Juicy" by The Notorious B.I.G., and includes a sample of "California Love," by 2Pac, is an addictive offering that finds two of the most prolific male R&B artists of the past two decades joining forces for one of Heartbreak on a Full Moon's early highlights.
The album's title track is a departure from the previous sample-based offerings and features one of Chris Brown's more measured performances, as he cascades over the Derrick D. Beck & Don City produced backdrop. Notorious for his bedroom romps, the R&B's resident bad boy gets naughty on "Sip," with racy lyrics like "Promise I'm not cocky, I just know I can fuck you right/Give me the time of day, babe, and I'm gon' make it last all night," before picking up the tempo on "Everybody Knows," a sleek composition on which Breezy comes off as lovelorn while reveling in his melancholy. Additional standouts from the first portion of Heartbreak on a Full Moon include the Gucci Mane and Usher-assisted "Party," as well as ""Pills & Automobiles," which finds Chris Brown calling in added reinforcement in the form of costars Yo Gotti, A Boogie wit da Hoodie and Kodak Black, but reaches its peak with a pair of subdued inclusions in "No Exit" and "Hurt the Same." The latter serves as an open letter to a woman that was absent during his time of need, particularly his stints in rehab and prison throughout 2013 and 2014. "Going crazy, did my time, you ain't send me mail/Takin' L's when I was tryna make you win, ain't had no bail, Brown belts, closing out the proceedings with a moment of transparency that speaks to his wounded ego and broken heart.
After exorcising the demons of love lost throughout the first half of Heartbreak on a Full Moon, Breezy appears to turn over a knew leaf on the latter half, beginning with the island-tinged number, "I Love Her." "Baby, I know you gon' blame me for every problem/When everybody got some skeletons in their closet," he reasons, professing his love in spite of his intuition and advice from friends before switching to ballad mode on "Nowhere," an offering that captures him in a love-struck state. Full of subtle nods to R&B jams of yesteryear, Heartbreak on a Full Moon delivers frequent moments of nostalgia, as Chris Brown pays homage to Michael Jackson's "Remember The Time on "Even" and "Brazilian Rhyme (Beijo Interlude)" on "Frustrated," but is dominated by live instrumentation. "Tell Me What to Do" and "Enemy," both balance musicality with digitized percussion, resulting in two of the more refined songs on the album, the former powered by classical piano keys, while the latter is anchored by rollicking guitar riffs. "Yellow Tape," Heartbreak on a Full Moon's closing selection, finds Chris Brown eschewing emotion while finding comfort in bravado, making for a triumphant moment that captures the vocalist at his most cocksure. "Bitches piled up in my crib like a Colosseum/After 3 A.M., you know we getting freaky/Hella one night stands, we just catching feelings," he croons, reminiscing on his more decadent days prior to his rehabilitation and subsequent incarceration while sending shots at former friends over production by Velocity Music & Antwan "Amadeus" Thompson.
In an age where attention spans are shorter, simply having the gall to entertain creating an album with 40 songs on it takes a certain amount of gall, but Chris Brown defies the odds with Heartbreak on a Full Moon, an album that manages to maintain its overall quality despite the sheer quantity of music. Clocking in at over three hours in length, Heartbreak on a Full Moon may be a bit to chew on in one sitting, however every portion is a enticing one and sure to have you returning for more. While most artists refer to their music as food for thought, and their body of work as an entree, Chris Brown puts forth a buffet of uptempo jams, mid-tempo grooves, and impassioned ballads that hit more than they miss. Over the course of 40 songs (and 5 bonus cuts), Chris Brown proves himself to be an indefatigable vessel for artistry, making Heartbreak on a Full Moon a statement project that will go down among the most ambitious albums of its time.
Watch Chris Brown's Video for "Party" with Gucci Mane and Usher:
Watch Chris Brown's Video for "Pills & Automobiles":