In the fall of 1997, after a tumultuous reunion tour with his group New Edition, Bobby Brown returned from a five year solo career hiatus to release his fourth solo album, Forever. Brown had previously sold three million copies of his 1992 effort, Bobby, not to mention the success of the New Edition reunion album Home Again, had also sold three million. Sadly. Brown had become more known for his off stage antics than his recording career and around the same time a singer by the name of Usher was dominating the charts that Brown once did with his sophomore album, My Way.
Just a year prior on the Home Again project, Brown sang lead on the Sean Combs produced “You Don’t Have To Worry” with its killer remix feat. Missy Elliott. Ironically before Brown took over creative control of Forever the project was supposed to feature production from Teddy Riley, Sean Combs, R. Kelly and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.
Brown released Forever on November 4, 1997 to little fanfare. The lead single “Feelin Inside” had failed to catch on with audiences which may be due to the sounds at the time. If you remember this was during the Jiggy era in music and Brown should’ve given radio the Marley Marl remix version for the song which featured cameos from Tragedy Khadafi & Mic Geronimo. Brown opens up the album with assistance from his then wife Whitney Houston on a cover version of “Nobody Does It Better”.
Now given that Brown was still popular at the time, I can understand why he chose to open the album with this song. However it does come off an arrogant vanity piece and given news of Brown’s behavior on the Home Again tour, I can understand why some audiences were turned off. “It’s Still My Thang” follows and Brown continues the vibe from the intro of it’s all about Bobby. Brown co-produced the song with Derek “D.O.A” Allen, but the track lacks that Bobby Brown magic.
Things pick up on the next three tracks which are more on the ballad side. For “She’s All I Need”, Brown once again collaborates with producer Derek “D.O.A” Allen for a simple song where he pays tribute to his wife. Tim & Bob oversee production on the next two tracks “My Place” and “Been Around the World”. “My Place” is a sultry slow jam, which I personally would have pushed as the first single, while “Been Around the World” is a song about a player settling down.
Surpinsgly the up-tempo material is the weaker element of Brown’s fourth album as track #7 “Give it Up” comes across as filler. Brown’s strength on the album is on the ballads and slower material that close out the album. “Happy Days” and “Sunday Afternoon” are great summer time jams for the steppers, while “Forever” is another Tim & Kelly ditty paying homage to Whitney. Brown closes out the album with another up-tempo song “Heart and Soul”.
I can remember going to the music store in my local and seeing numerous copies of Forever in both the CD and cassette section, and the album failed to even go gold. Looking back on the project, perhaps Brown should’ve handed the reigns over to more established producers and the end result in terms of sales would’ve been stronger.
For the longest time, I had no desire to listen Forever during my teen years, primarily due to Brown’s antics and feelings towards New Edition at the time. However as I’ve gotten older and revisited the album, Forever isn’t the misfire that most think. While there are a few misses on the project, Brown does have a few gems on here that are worth the stream.
Final Re-Listen Grade: C +
Best Songs “My Place”, “Been Around the World”, “Forever”
Forever is available on all streaming platforms