Producer Leon "RoccStar" Youngblood Jr. (Rita Ora, Timbaland, Usher) helped produce or write a number of tracks on the album. He likens "X" to "Confessions," Usher's critically heralded 2004 disc of provocative, self-referential tunes. He says it will give Brown's harshest critics an unexpectedly revealing scope of the singer.

"They don't see the person behind the image," Youngblood said. "He's done great records … but they are great pop records. It doesn't tell the world who he is. [This album] is going to put a heartbeat inside the persona. I think this is going to bring him to life. You're going to finally understand what he feels."

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John Kennedy, music editor of Vibe magazine, said Brown's negative image is largely self-generated. Time, not just music, can change that.

"He's been looked at as 'the bad boy of R&B,' the new Bobby Brown," Kennedy said. "Obviously, after a lot of incidents and episodes that he's had, it's something that's been cast on him. But he's also embraced it in a way. It's like OK, you want to call me this bad guy, I'm going to run with that and get all the tattoos and act wild. He's kind of taken it on."

Can an album change that?

"I'm not sure there is anything deliberate that he can do that might change our minds," Kennedy said. "If he were able to put together a good stretch of time where he wasn't getting into altercations, or getting into trouble with the law, and just kind of shying away ... it would be possible."

Brown knows people are watching, listening and waiting to judge.

"For this album you get a chance to take a journey with me and listen to every dynamic of who I am, whether it be the subject matter or the substance in the records," Brown says. "I've been doing this for eight years, but now it's me trying to prove another point. It's not as much as me wanting to prove to naysayers, it's more of me proving to my fans."

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com