F.A.M.E.

In 2009, on the heels of his felony conviction in the beating of his then-girlfriend Rihanna, Chris Brown released Grafitti, a plodding album that included shrilly defensive responses to his infamy. This time, Brown takes a smarter approach: He's concentrated on making great songs. F.A.M.E. boasts blockbuster hits ("Deuces," "No Bullshit," "Yeah 3X," "Look at Me Now") and shows Brown has a good nose for production: On "Look at Me Now," he rocks with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne over a sci-fi Orientalist beat from Diplo and Afrojack. F.A.M.E. is a pop 'n' b album with something for everyone: bedroom ballads, dance-floor thumpers and even "Next 2 You," a puppy-love declaration with guest vocals by Justin Bieber.

Listen to "Look At Me Now":

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From The Archives Issue 1127: March 31, 2011