The saddest pop-music incident of 2009 finally gets its stomach-turning denouement with the release of Chris Brown’s new album. Musically, Graffiti is a fairly ingratiating affair: The production is clean and often lively, and Brown sings well enough. The problem is what he’s singing. “Famous Girl” has immediate ear appeal—a frisky, light track with new-wave inflections and a bouncy melodic line. Tune into the lyrics, though, and everything changes: “Keri would’ve said my love knocks her down / Keyshia would’ve told me I was sent from heaven / Sorry, B, I don’t wear no halo / You were first to play the game though / Sorry I bust the windows of your car.” What’s worse, the verse’s grudging, self-righteous, half-assed apology, or backing up his so-called plight with lines from four female singers—Keri Hilson, Keyshia Cole, Beyoncé, and Jazmine Sullivan—who’d be right to sue him for defamation?
Things get even more unbelievable with “Lucky Me,” a lament about having global fame and acres of money: “Even though I’m so damaged / I pick myself up and perform for the crowds.” Hear that, downsized America? Chris Brown doesn’t want to hear you whine, because he’s the one with problems. The album reaches its nadir with the even more simpering “Fallin Down”: “Can you imagine the weight of the world placed on your shoulders? / Trapped in this world / No one can reach you, ooh / So no one can help you.” That’s right: Chris Brown appears to be begging for public sympathy for having beaten up his girlfriend.