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‘X’ marks the spot when Chris Brown grows up

GARDENA CA - MARCH 15:  Grammy award winning artist Chris Brown joined creative forces with acclaimed graffiti artist Slick

GARDENA, CA - MARCH 15: Grammy award winning artist Chris Brown joined creative forces with acclaimed graffiti artist Slick to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Best Buddies International March 15, 2013 in Gardena, California. Their collaborative artwork will be auctioned online to benefit the charities. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Symphonic Love) ORG XMIT: 163844510

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Updated: May 1, 2013 2:07PM

BURBANK, Calif. — Chris Brown, often making headlines for making mischief, hopes to recalibrate his image. He’s counting on the X factor.

For months, the R&B singer has been immersed in crafting “X,” his sixth album since 2005’s self-titled debut and its chart-topping hit “Run It!” established him as an instant star. That wattage dimmed when a 2009 felony assault charge for battering girlfriend Rihanna established his reputation for a hot temper.

“X” unveils the emotional and creative growth Brown’s underwent in recent years, he says.

“ ‘X’ is about life, it’s about me,” he says. “X is the 24th letter of the alphabet, and I’ll be 24 when it comes out. When you see X on a vial, it’s like forbidden fruit. For me, it means being able to express myself without a filter, without boundaries.”

During a studio visit, the typically press-shy Brown is all smiles as he plays five new “X” tracks, including potent first single “Fine China” and its video, a lavish cinematic treatment with a dazzling mashup of martial arts choreography and dance moves. Both are out Monday, and the album is expected by late summer. The rollout will entail not only a tour and promotional appearances, but also interviews.

A recluse no longer

“I’m going back to groundwork,” he says. “I’ll show people who I am and not be a recluse. I wasn’t ready to talk before. It was timing. I’m more comfortable in my own body.”

Widely reported eruptions — a fracas with Drake at a New York club last year and a fight with Frank Ocean over a parking space in West Hollywood in January — were setbacks on Brown’s path to redemption.

The public hasn’t seen his progress, because “people see the circus on the blogs,” he says. “I’m cool. I’m happy. I’m focused. I’m a lot calmer. Everyone has anger issues and days they don’t feel like being bothered.

“I’m passionate about everything I do, whether I’m driving my car or hanging out. I wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes it comes off the wrong way. I’m learning how to deal with it and how to channel that into my music.”

Cobbled from a pool of 50 songs, “X” evolved from a process looser than the rigid strategy taken on 2011’s Grammy-winning “F.A.M.E.” and last year’s “Fortune.”

“I wanted a Quincy Jones approach, where you bring in various writers and producers and they vibe off each other,” he says. “I wanted to keep it comfortable and natural and draw creativity off the energy in the room. I wasn’t focusing on what could make a No. 1 single. I was honing in on the craft and different emotions from my life. I was more open to defining who I am: Chris Brown, a young man, not a full-grown man.”

One lyric in the title song, in which the singer declines taunts to fight so he can rejoin a party, contradicts the rap on Brown.

“That’s my mentality,” he says. “I’m focused on my path, on being more positive and on the up and up.”

All ‘good’ with Rihanna

That means shrugging off Internet gossip, including persistent reports that he’ll wed a bikini-clad Rihanna in July in Barbados. “That would be a rumor,” he says.

Likewise regarding speculation about infidelity. “We’re good,” he says. “We’re taking it one day at a time. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s beautiful. She’s on tour and our schedules don’t allow us to be as close as we want to be. But everything is good. She will be on my album.”

Outside of music, Brown has been busy, starring in “Battle of the Year: The Dream Team,” a break-dancing film due in September, and showing his graffiti-inspired paintings in galleries.

“There’s still a lot for me to prove,” he says. “I have a lot of goals and ambition. I’m going to be better in the future.”

Gannett News Service

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