Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Bobby Brown, The Masterpiece

While he is enjoying a second career wind with a booming food condiment and seasoning line tours with New Edition and a successful Vegas residency, Bobby Brown hasn’t released an album since 2012’s “The Masterpiece” this week’s pick for Second Listen Sunday. Fans were already aware of the album’s arrival as Brown constantly spoke about it on tour. The first single was “Get out the Way,” in which Brown dabbles in familiar territory by addressing the haters in his life.

Since the album was an indie release, Brown didn’t have a second single, but fans who watched him on the show “Gone Country” will remember the song “The Man I Want To Be,” which closes the album. The ballad finds Bobby crooning about wanting to improve his life. Reflective of his 1997 “Forever” album, Brown’s attempt to write most songs yields middling results. As a passionate advocate for creative autonomy, I strongly support the endeavor when an artist possesses the requisite aptitude to craft their work masterfully. It seems that, Bobby wasn’t striving towards a mainstream appeal per se but instead aimed for something more therapeutic.

Given his previous collaborations with industry heavyweights such as Teddy Riley and LA & Babyface and considering his resurgence into the public limelight at around the same time, there’s no doubt Brown could have attained more significant momentum if he adopted a more contemporary approach. Nonetheless, the body of work is only partially devoid of merit. “Don’t Let Me Die” serves as an introspective opener, whereas Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill lend their voices on “Doesn’t Anybody Know” and “All is Fair.”

The former blends rock elements with R&B – a fusion Brown particularly excels at while balancing Tresvant’s smooth tenor voice and huskier tone. The latter track presents a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s same titled classic song where Johnny naturally overshadows Bobby; however, he still delivers an adequate performance. Alas, from the perspective of a devoted fan, the rest of the album falls short mainly because Brown struggles to reconcile personal catharsis with adapting trends within modern-day R&B.

Since it’s no secret that Bobby’s voice isn’t as strong as it once was, It would have been advantageous had he emulated Johnny Gill’s strategy from “Still Winning “by collaborating with current producers capable of striking an equilibrium between fulfilling personal aspirations and staying relevant within contemporary sounds. While Brown has recorded songs here and there that remain in his vaults, he hasn’t released any new material since the 2018 single “Like Bobby.”  Hopefully, Brown delivers one more solo album with A1 producers that shows his talent, as “The Masterpiece” shouldn’t be his swan song.

Final Grade: C

“The Masterpiece” is available on all streaming platforms.

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Second Listen Sunday: Bobby Brown, The Masterpiece