Who in the world is Brandy? Well, she's been in the game for 10 years. She's made movies and starred in a TV series. She's made some so-so songs, she's made big records, she's made huge records.
Plenty of people will argue that her second LP, Never Say Never, is a classic, a sonic tour de force masterminded by a then-up-and-coming, hungry, innovative producer named Rodney Jerkins and a multitasking star who wanted to separate herself from the holy trinity of young R&B starlets (Aaliyah and Monica were the other two) to prove that her multiplatinum self-titled debut was no fluke.
All that is in the history books, though. Fans watched her reality show a couple of years ago, in which she professed her love for her husband, Bert, and gave birth. But even after all that — who in the world is Brandy? After 10 years, fans still aren't identifying with her the way they do with other singers they're on a first-name basis with, like Mary or even Beyoncé. She's still an enigma.
Maybe Brandy's not to blame for not being more forthcoming or adding dashes of drama in her music. She's been making TV, movie and music money since she was a young buck — besides boyfriend problems, what does a child prodigy have to huff about?
Which brings us to Bran's latest LP, Afrodisiac. She's 25 now and experiencing turmoil that people with regular nine-to-fives go through. Brandy's no longer married, she's a divorced baby's mama. She's cut her ties with Rodney, and the new album's title leaves the door open for Brandy to get a little more sensual (see "Brandy Gets Love From Kanye, Timbaland On New Album"). She is, after all, dangerously in love with Quentin Richardson of the Los Angeles Clippers.
So will we get to know Brandy a little more intimately on Afrodisiac? The album starts off with the singer letting loose about her ex.
"Just for the sake of my daughter/ I tried to stick to the plan," she sings on "Who I Am." "Had to get rid of the weight on my finger, left hand."
Brandy then goes on to say she had suspicions about her ex cheating on her, and that during at least part of their relationship, she would front while in public.
"Do you know how it feels to hurt behind closed doors?/ When you go outside, you wonder what you're smiling for," she continues. "Thank you for all the stress, you're the best/ I'm a better woman now."
The new and improved Brandy is stronger than a young Lindsay Wagner (that's the Bionic Woman for all you non-TV buffs). The former star of "Moesha" wants everyone to know that she's mentally sharp and ready for whatever turns her career and life take.
"Should I Go," which samples Coldplay's "Clocks," is almost Brandy's equivalent to Jay-Z's "My 1st Song." She openly talks about contemplating stepping away from the music game like the Jiggaman, but she also reflects. "Money ain't a issue," she insists. Rather, the game just isn't what she's used to.
"Used to be a few artists at a time/ Now even the veterans wait in line," she laments before admitting that she's trying to figure out where she fits in today.
Obviously she aims to take her place, because she sings, "B-Rock is back on the grind/ Gave it some time, made up my mind." But even if she did choose to give it all up, Brandy feels that she would have been "in control, either way."
That master-of-one's-own-destiny theme carries over to "Where You Wanna Be," which features T.I. Her man cannot get his priorities in order. He wants to be a player and hang out all the time with his boys; she wants him to put more effort in their relationship. Finally she can't stand it anymore and gives him a choice. "Tell me where you wanna be/ Be with me or be with her? ... Play with them or play with me?"
T.I. comes in and promises to honor her if she honors him and admits that he "made mistakes, but can make 'em up/ You got all my love."
On "Saddidy," Brandy promises that anyone trying to violate will get all five of her fingers across their face (slap!), or possibly worse. "No, I ain't saddidy [stuck-up]" she professes. "If you cross me it won't be pretty/ No, I ain't sadiddy/ If you want it I'll give it to you."
Guess that time she spent with the G-Unit while filming the "Stunt 101" video rubbed off on her.
Afrodisiac isn't an intimate, gloves-off, soul-baring opus, but at least Brandy gives us enough insight to see that she's not frail, and that you can't act high-post around her. And if you have wandering eyes, she might blacken one of them.
Afrodisiac hits stores June 29.
Track list for Afrodisiac, according to Atlantic Records:
- "Who I Am"
- "Who Is She 2 U"
- "Talk About Our Love" (featuring Kanye West)
- "I Tried"
- "Where You Wanna Be" (featuring T.I.)
- "Turn It Up"
- "Say You Will"
- "Come As You Are"
- "How I Feel"
- "Should I Go"