Chris Brown, 'Graffiti' (Jive/Zomba)

Critical Mass
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by Thomas Golianopoulos

On his first album since his infamous altercation with then-girlfriend Rihanna, Chris Brown sounds genuinely remorseful. He pleads for forgiveness, understanding, and some time off. (Too bad. Holiday album sales have never been more important.) But Brown doesn't let any of this obstruct a good party. He makes monster club songs. He's comfortable over the bouncy sirens of "Wait" or on "I Can Transform Ya," a typically bombastic Swizz Beats production featuring an energetic yet nonsensical rap from Lil Wayne and brisk, joyful vocals from Brown.

The album's most striking moment is "Fallin' Down." Over a ominous guitar riff, the 20-year-old sings, "It's getting heavy / I think I'm getting ready to break down." It's the most honest moment of his short career. The kid sure needs a vacation.

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