Sunday, 14 October 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Brandy

Remember when 'No Scrubs' ruled the charts and Busta Rhymes was actually an interesting artist? In this weekly feature, I’m going to take a look back at some of the best RnB artists of yesteryear, sharing their signature videos and underrated hits, as well as looking at what they’re up to nowadays.

Previous posts have focussed on Cassie, Ciara and Missy Elliott. Today, it’s Brandy’s turn!

Hey B Rocka!

Brandy first appeared on the scene in the early 90s and quickly became one of the most successful RnB artists of the decade. Her distinctive look and that husky voice of hers helped Brandy to sell millions of records worldwide and secured her over a hundred awards, including a Grammy win for ‘The Boy Is Mine’. Combine that with a starring role on the hit TV show Moesha and she was unstoppable! Here she is singing over the opening credits.

How cool was Moesha?!

So 90s! Anyway, back to the music. Brandy’s self titled debut was released in 1994 while she was still just a teenager.

Loving the hat. 

While sales were initially slow, the album eventually gained a grammy nomination and became a big success for the star. Lead single ‘I Wanna Be Down’ was my personal favourite, showcasing Brandy’s blend of smooth RnB vocals with a classic pop hook and ridiculous 90s clothes. Check it out here.
Before the release of her sophomore album, Brandy recorded a couple of songs for successful film soundtracks. First up is the little known song ‘Where Are You Now?‘ for the Batman Forever movie. I only heard this song because I won a Batman competition as a kid and the CD was one of the prizes. Random I know but while the rest of the soundtrack was average (aside from ‘Kiss From A Rose’ of course), Brandy’s effort was a standout track, which moved the singer into surprisingly dark territory for so early on in her career.

Brandy’s other soundtrack release from the time, ‘Sitting Up In My Room’, was included in the film ‘Waiting To Exhale’ and was a far bigger hit for the star. I fell in love with this song as soon as it came out and I think it’s definitely one of her early classics. The video sees Brandy singing in her bedroom, coming across as both laid back cool and earnestly sweet all at the same time.

Um.... colour clashing anyone?

In 1998, Brandy returned with her sophomore effort ‘Never Say Never’, which eventually became her most successful album to date.
And it’s not hard to see why. Spawning a whopping five singles, ‘Never Say Never’ saw Brandy co-write six of the tracks and establish her successful partnership with hit producer Darkchild, who would subsequently produce the majority of her work. Together, they would come to define Brandy’s signature sound.

It is so hard to choose which songs to share from the album because they are all so good. ‘Never Say Never’ is one of those classic albums where you don’t have to skip a single track, apart from maybe her cover of Bryan Adams, ‘Everything I Do, I Do It For You.’ First up then, is the RnB CLASSIC ‘The Boy Is Mine’. What can I say about this duet with Monica, except that it stayed on top of the billboard charts for a crazy 13 weeks in the summer of 1998 and is arguably the most successful female duet of all time?! Here's the video, starring Mekhi Phifer as the boy... you know, he was in ER?

‘Excuse me? Can I please talk to you for a minute?’ Ha love it!

Now, I'm tempted to just share every video from the ‘Never Say Never’ album here but that would be ridiculous so I’ve chosen the underrated ‘You Don’t Know Me (Like You Used To)’ because it features a great Darkchild beat and some freaky stop-start editing while Brandy does her thing.


Brandy returned in 2002 with her third album ‘Full Moon’, which saw the singer reunite with producer Darkchild to create a more adult, edgy sound.

While it was slightly over-long and received mixed reviews from critics, this is personally one of my favourite Brandy albums. Lead single ‘What About Us?’ is easily one of her best songs with a mental video that sees the star smacking ex-boyfriends down a wind tunnel with a baseball bat and singing while standing on top of a human pyramid. Just an average day for the RnB star.

Unfortunately, Brandy only released one more single from this album, the chilled out title track, which I love by the way! Had the label decided to release a third single, I think Brandy should have gone with ‘I Thought’, another up-tempo track that had a commercial hook but was more experimental than ‘What About Us’ in its sound.

After becoming a mother, Brandy recorded her fourth album ‘Afrodisiac’, which was well received by critics but failed to perform as well as her previous releases.

This surprised me a lot at the time, as I thought by enlisting Timbaland and Kanye West to produce the majority of the album, Brandy would have had a huge smash on her hands. Lead single ‘Let’s Talk About Our Love’ even featured Kanye rapping but the song was only a minor success. So underrated. See it here.

‘Afrodisiac’ saw Brandy continue to experiment with her sound and one of my favourite songs on the album is closing track ‘Should I Go’, where Timbaland samples the Coldplay hit ‘Clocks’ while Brandy laments her position in the industry and the declining popularity of RnB stars.

Shout out to Aaliyah!

As the track suggests, Brandy subsequently took some time out from music and in 2006, she became a judge for the first season of ‘America’s Got Talent’. However, Brandy decided not to return for a second season and after a while, she began to refocus on music, resulting in the release of her fifth album ‘Human’, at the end of 2008.

The album marked the reunion of Brandy with long-time collaborator Darkchild but ultimately became her lowest selling album to date, despite positive reviews. I think that ‘Human’ was severely underrated as it saw yet another evolution in her sound and produced two fantastic singles, the uplifting ‘Right Here (Departed)’ and the ballad ‘Long Distance’, which was co-written by Bruno Mars. Here's 'Right Now'.

B Rocka!

After Brandy has seen a steady decline in popularity since her debut almost TWENTY YEARS AGO (!!), she came back this year with the song ‘It All Belongs To Me’, another duet featuring Monica. While of course the song doesn’t match the dizzying heights reached by ‘The Boy Is Mine’, ‘It All Belongs To Me’ is another great showcase of their talent and both voices compliment each other brilliantly once again.

‘Log off your faceboooook!’

After the success of that duet, Brandy is back sounding fresher than ever with her new album ‘Two Eleven’.
Lead single ‘Put It Down’ doesn’t sound like anything else out there and with Chris Brown also appearing in the Hype Williams directed video, I thought it would be a big comeback for the star. Here’s the promo. I love it so much.

And how young does she look!? Seriously!?

I think ‘Put It Down’ wasn’t quite the huge hit that Brandy was hoping for but the album could still be a success, with songwriting credits from diverse artists such as Mario Winans and Frank Ocean supported by production from the likes of Sean Garrett and Bangladesh. Here’s the second single ‘Wildest Dreams’ from 'Two Eleven', which sees Brandy return to a more traditional RnB sound.

While other RnB stars have ignored their roots in favour of more poppy or dancey music, ‘Two Eleven’ sees Brandy continue evolving her sound without selling out to become more successful. And god knows we need some proper RnB back in the charts! Love ya Brandy! For a track by track review of 'Two Eleven', click here. And come back next Sunday to look back at the career of one of Brandy’s closest contemporaries and past rivals, Monica. And remember to share and comment if you like what you've read so far! 


  1. Glad someone appreciates the amazingness of Brandy. Also never heard that track on the batman album til now, I love it!! To me, her albums get better her better. My favourite so far is Human but I'm hoping Two Eleven will be even better :) I also have a lot of appreciation for "I wanna be down" too. Oh, and BRING BACK MOESHA! I miss that show! :(

    1. MOESHA!!! glad u like the batman track! I loved Human but my favourite has to be either never say never or afrodisiac. Bought the album today and loving it so far!!!