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Brown multi-dimensional on ‘Royalty’ – Kygo breaks Spotify record for quick rise

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Chris Brown, “Royalty” (RCA) Chris Brown knows his strengths, and on his seventh studio album, “Royalty,” the singer plays to them with solid success. It’s a feat worth applauding, considering how disparate the multi-dimensional singer’s specialties seem to be. There’s the electro-dance stuff: the contagiously upbeat “Fine By Me”; the mid-tempo and cool “Zero”; and the Tayla Parx-assisted “Anyway,” with its arena-fi lling waves of synth sounds. There’s also the electronic-infl uenced “A Little More (Wake Me Up).”

‘’You inspire me, gimme a reason to keep on,” Brown sings to his daughter, Royalty, who appears on the album cover, and inspired the release’s title as well. It’s good, radio friendly pop music that seems as natural to Brown as traditional R&B fare, which he delivers with expertise on the old school-leaning “Make Love”; the sweet but slightly explicit “Back to Sleep”; and the steamy, Keith Sweat-inspired “Who’s Gonna (Nobody).” Brown pushes the R&B envelope, too, linking with Dutch DJ-producer Afrojack who worked on Brown’s “Look at Me Now” for the very sexy “Discover,” with its trap-inspired production and slinky lyrics.

And Brown gives typical R&B groveling a fresh spin on “Proof,” thanks, in large part, to help from “Trap Soul” singer Bryson Tiller, who co-wrote the track. Last, but not least, there is “Brown, the singer-with-rapper-sensibilities,” who shows up on “Little Bit,” singing, “Baby, you been on that pole too long.” The singer’s edgier side appears again on the very likable “Wrist,” featuring Solo Lucci. All-in-all, “Royalty” is a worthwhile collection, proving that in a world where “stay in your lane” is common wisdom, it doesn’t exactly apply to people like Brown, who have a few lanes to choose from.

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Puff Daddy is close to the fi nish line as a recording artist. But fi rst, the performer wants to go out with a bang by rereleasing his well-received mixtape, “MMM (Money Making Mitch),” on iTunes on Friday. The mixtape serves as the prequel to “No Way Out 2,” Puff Daddy’s fi nal album to be released next year. “I’m just following in the footsteps of (Frank) Sinatra,” said the rapper, born Sean Combs, in an interview Wednesday. “It feels good to end something on your terms that you worked so hard to build.” “MMM” was initially released for free on Nov. 4 the Grammy winner’s 46th birthday.

The mixtape garnered positive reviews and featured artists like Future, Lil Kim, Jadakiss, French Montana and others. Combs said he felt compelled to rerelease the mixtape after hearing the “overwhelming demand” from fans and colleagues to sale it. The rerelease will include a new interlude and two additional tracks. “I was surprised that after people had a chance to have it for free, they still want to buy it,” he said. “I heard about the effect that Kendrick (Lamar) had when he let everybody hear his album for a week for free before they could buy it. It just shows that if it’s quality, people have a demand for it.”

After his recording career is done, Combs said he plans to travel and spend more time with his six children while plotting his next steps in life. But he said he won’t disappear completely from the music scene. “I will always be around music,” said Combs, who owns the television network Revolt. He will hit the stage for Fox’s “Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution,” airing live on Dec. 31 from Miami. It will also include “Empire” actorsinger Jussie Smollett, Earth, Wind & Fire and Austin Mahone. After the show, Combs will host a private after-hour event to bring in the new year. “We’re doing a countdown to 3 am,” said Combs. “A lot of my friends out there have shows. We’ll all get together, say our prayers, give thanks and bring in the new year the right way.” Online: Puff Daddy’s “MMM” album: bit.ly/MMMoffi cial

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Electronic artist Kygo has become the fastest artist to hit one billion streams on Spotify, capping a phenomenal year for him, the music site said Thursday. The Norwegian DJ, a key fi gure in the tropical house genre that has won a growing following, reached the billion-mark in a little more than a year. Kygo’s fi rst major solo release came in December 2014 — “Firestone,” a mellow dance track that gradually builds to the vocals of Australian singer Conrad Sewell. He later followed up the success with the track “Stole the Show.” While hailing Kygo on his own merits, Spotify cited his success as an example of the possibilities of streaming, which offers unlimited, on-demand music online.

Spotify, the leading streaming site, has faced accusations from a number of artists that it pays back too little for musicians to earn a living. The Swedish company said that it quickly identifi ed Kygo and cooperated closely with his label, Sony’s electronic-oriented Ultra Music. Spotify said it fi rst worked to promote “Firestone” in Europe before launching a global push to acquaint its users with Kygo. “We knew when we signed him that he had a fanatical following, and we were really able to harness that with the support of Spotify as a global partner on the project,” Toby Andrews, head of electronic music marketing for Sony Music International, said in a statement. The 24-year-old DJ is set to release a debut album in 2016.

Spotify said that other recent stars — such as British soul singer Sam Smith, the big winner at the last Grammy Awards — usually needed two years to reach the billion-stream mark. But Spotify and its competitors — such as Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music and Tidal — have seen rapid growth in the past few years. For the year as a whole, Canadian rapper Drake was the most streamed artist on Spotify, despite his close relationship with Apple Music. “Lean On,” the downtempo dance track by Major Lazer featuring DJ Snake and Danish singer Mo, was the most heard single song, with more than 578 million streams as of Thursday. (Agencies)

By Melanie J. Sims

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