As pop idols left their innocence and rap permanently relocated to the top of the charts, Chris Brown made a home at the intersection, blending a lithely expressive tenor with earnest themes of young romance and vaguely streetwise aesthetics. Coated in splashes of crunk, his eponymous 2005 debut introduced a krumping crooner with the youthful charm to guest on a G-rated sitcom. His 2007 follow-up, Exclusive, reinforced that first impression, with the expanded edition including features that gave a hardened edge to teenie-bop sentimentality.
The LP is Chris Brown in all his earliest multitudes, oscillating between stylish club excursions and ephemeral teenage thrills. With its gleaming, pixelated synths and anthemic chorus, "Wall To Wall" plays out like a sequel to "Run It!" Laced with a twangy instrumental and an energetic multilayered hook, the T-Pain–assisted "Kiss Kiss" captures the ecstasy of a new crush. With his malleable vocals, C. Breezy is able to slide between styles and collaborators with ease, sounding as comfortable alongside Big Boi ("Hold Up") as he does with will.i.am. ("Picture Perfect"). Everything stylish is threaded by a young man's sincerity. There are new dimensions, too. "Take You Down," a classic lovemaking anthem, adds a newer layer of outright sensuality to the mix—think Jodeci but more helium-toned. It's a forecast of the future.
There are traces of emerging emotional complexity, but the lasting impression is that of a teen who relishes Myspace and embraces new love like a letter from his crush. At its best, Exclusive flashes the type of earnest romance that might only be possible from someone too young to be jaded. Coasting over the sinewy acoustic guitar strings of "With You," Brown dives into all-consuming love with childlike enthusiasm. "You're like Jordans on Saturday/I gotta have you and I cannot wait now,” he sings, erasing the gap between puppy love and unblemished Black Boy Joy.