Track Fix: Chris Brown: Don’t Think They Know

Chris Brown’s taking his rivalry with rapper Drake seriously, and he’s using some serious ammunition.

Brown, who allegedly had an altercation with the Canadian rapper earlier this year, has released a new single, which features Drake’s idol, the late songstress Aaliyah. The song, “Don’t Think They Know,” features a sample from a track recorded prior to the singer/actress’s tragic death in a plane crash in 2001. Now revamped, the song marks Aaliyah’s second posthumous duet, following Drake’s “Enough Said,” which was released last summer, and second posthumous single of 2013, after a single with previously unreleased vocals, “Quit Hatin,” was dropped earlier this year.

This song, outlining the trials a couple face from observing spectators and heresay, is a cleverly mastered track with R&B and hip-hop blended into a smooth tempo. The track opens up with Aaliyah’s vocals amidst the quirk of the tempo, dark with a subtle anima, keeping the roots of a “male-dominated” genre which would keep the fellas listening. Brown opens up with a simple croon and delivering a hook, assuring his lover that people will talk, but no one understands the love they share.

He retreats into the background as Aaliyah picks up the chorus with her mysterious, intoxicating, low vocals which has by now lured the listener into the groove of the song, chanting “don’t think they know,” hanging onto the words, leaving fans expectant. As the song progresses, Brown begins to pour more emotion, obviously trying to fill in the connecting void Aaliyah once laced the track with, beginning to up his pitch and range.

After the chorus, Aaliyah picks up the third verse with her own bars, boasting her successes, with lines such as “I do more than sing” (she was an actress as well, starring in ‘Romeo Must Die’ and ‘Queen of the Damned’), and thanks her lover for loyalty and support for the achievements. As if written yesterday, her decade-plus lyrics weave in with the song. Brown then attempts Aaliyah’s signature falsetto as the outro nears, a major misstep on an otherwise good track.

The singers’ voices complement each other well, crossing highs and lows, taking turns on background vocals and creating the illusion of a songstress that should’ve still been here and an idea of her sound should she still be alive. Brown does well to preserve Aaliyah’s style and paint it onto a present-day track, proof of his creativity as an artist. He even pays homage to the singer, using references from a few of her songs, “Back and Forth” (in which he spells out her name) and “At Your Best (You Are Love).”

The video for the single was shot in Los Angeles, the theme directed at ending gun violence. In the video, Brown opens up with two messages, “Every two hours in America today a child dies from a gunshot wound” and “unity is what we are afraid of so fear is insanity, let’s love each other.” Several times throughout the video, you can see holographic images of Aaliyah dancing, clips from her songs “Try Again” and “If Your Girl Only Knew.”

At the end , Brown leaves a personal message to Aaliyah, saying, “Dear Aaliyah, we love and miss you, thank you for inspiring us all.

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