Review: “Don’t Be Cruel” by Bobby Brown (CD, 1988)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future is the 1988 hit second album by Bobby Brown, called Don’t Be Cruel. Would you want to Rock Wit’ this album, or will it be Cruel on the ears? Read on…

Bobby Brown - Don't Be Cruel (1988) album
Bobby Brown’s 1988 album ‘Don’t Be Cruel’

This 9 track album opens with title track Don’t Be Cruel, but not until the somewhat odd Stairway To Heaven/Lay All Your Love On Me pastiche on a synth titled (Cruel Prelude) plays for a few seconds.

Don’t Be Cruel uses lots of synth stabs, mixes rap with his soft gentle vocals in the verses. The track has a great beat and bass line,  and funky vocal samples and synth stabs. It’s unsurprising that this song became the lead single, but it was edited down from the full near-7 minute version, which undoubtedly helped.

Second track, and second single, My Prerogative, remains as one of Bobby’s biggest hits, aided more recently by a cover in 2004 by Britney Spears. The bass line here on Bobby’s version is, like his lyrics, defiantly strong, and makes for a strong second single.

The third song is single Roni, which is a much slower track. Again, we’re looking at a long version (almost 6 minutes), which was cut down for release as the third single. This track does feel like it’s too slow and too long. I could easily imagine Michael Jackson singing this, and keeping it shorter.

The slower pace continues with fifth and final single Rock Wit’cha – a schmoozy love ballad, as the title suggests. ‘I wanna rock wit’cha baby, I wanna roll wit’cha lady’ he sings. Such a smoothie.

This is followed by fourth single, and my favourite on this album – Every Little Step. I think I remember it being released – it’s up-beat, has some great drums and synths, catchy lyrics, and a pretty cool video too. This track is flawless. An absolutely brilliant song.

Next up is I’ll Be Good To You, which is a-wash with big 80s beats and synth stabs (I have that synth). It’s musically loud, although Bobby’s vocals feel a bit swamped and lost amongst these funky ’88 sounds.

In an unexpected appearance, 80s Obligatory Saxophone arrives as Bobby wants to Take It Slow again. This track gives him the excuse to show off his vocal range (which he does very well), and it feels a bit like a hang-over from his days as a member of boy band New Edition.

Remaining in the slow tempo, All Day All Night opens with a telephone conversation between Bobby and one of his ladies, before the track opens up to a catchy chorus. This track works quite nicely, and of these slower songs, it feels the most pop. This track should have replaced Roni as a single in my opinion.

Ninth track I Really Love You Girl opens with a burst, and sees Bobby seemingly singing in a different, but stronger, voice. This track is much more upbeat that a number of the latter tracks on this album, and would probably have made a great single. I think this should have been released instead of Rock Wit’Cha…

Tucked away at the end is the 18 second (Cruel Reprise), which is as odd as the prelude.

Bobby’s lead single ‘Don’t Be Cruel’.


Over all, I’d forgotten just how slow Bobby Brown albums were. I have memories of him releasing up-beat rap-fuelled songs, including the brilliant Two Can Play That Game from 1994/1995, and so I’m left wondering where these are?

Every Little Step is the highlight here, as it’s loaded with energy, it’s catchy, and the video is perfect. There are low lights, and sadly those were singles Roni and Rock Wit’cha, which would have been better to have replaced at least one of them with one of the other more up-beat singles… but then, this album was a hit, so maybe i’m just being too Cruel.

Back in 1988, this was cutting edge sound. You only have to listen to Bros’ Push album to hear where music was up to at this point.

This album was fortunate to have the input of music production and songwriter team L.A. Reid and Babyface – both of whom already had an impressive career behind them, and would go on to even greater success.  Vocalist Karyn White is also tucked away on the credits as having provided backing vocals throughout. Bobby embarked on a 120-date tour on the back of this album.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1988 UK CHART POSITION: #3, certified 2x Platinum.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.50 from eBay.

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