**1/2 (out of four)
As far as most of the music industry is concerned, it seems we're already living in a world where Chris Brown has earned considerable forgiveness . By being granted coveted awards show performance slots and guest features with Rihanna (of all people!), Brown has been implicitly excused for his past mistakes and violent behavior. Sure, enduring an entire society's public hatred – especially when you've done that society the inestimable service of making the song “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” – remains its own nagging form of punishment. Yet Brown's apparent determination to remain a completely insufferable personality means that, the attitudes of his 10 million #teambreezy Twitter followers notwithstanding, it is hard to root for his career.
Unfortunately, to answer the pressing question, unlikeable people are absolutely capable of making good music. Chris Brown's enormous capacity for sucking personally does not change the fact that he's made a half-dozen of the last decade's best pop songs, although it does make newer attempts at injecting personality or romance into a song feel icky. At this point, few things are more depressing than imagining Chris Brown having sex, except maybe imagining Chris Brown having sex while repeating the disturbing mantra, “You better not change your mind.” This happens on his latest album, “Fortune,” which, like pretty much anything Chris Brown does, is an invitation to dislike him.
The problem is that Brown, like his similarly slimy peers on Wall Street, is apparently too big to fail. So “Fortune” is laced with the work of blockbuster producers aiming for blockbuster pop songs, and, although there are elements like dubstep drops and a Big Sean verse to encourage more potential irritation, it actually works pretty well. Nothing approaches a hit like “Look at Me Now,” but everything could conceivably be a mid-tier radio success. On "Mirage," Nas delivers a guest verse that mentions “good sushi in Aspen,” a fitting reminder that no matter the context, just about anything, even a Chris Brown album, can be good with the right amount of money.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusicCopyright © 2015, RedEye