Long before Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, there was Brandy. The actress/singer grew up in the public eye, hitting the music scene as a teenager and scoring hit singles, Grammy nominations, a sitcom and a slew of movie roles.
Now 29, Brandy has the same motivation she did at 15 when she enters a recording studio: She just wants to make good music that people enjoy. She says her new album, Human, dropping in December, tells stories that people can relate to. "I've always taken my albums very, very seriously," she told MTV News.
"I like to put together a collection of songs that will last 20 years down the line," she said. "With this album, I've just evolved. I'm older, I'm wiser. I wanted to reflect that."
In the past, Brandy usually relied on others to write her songs, but she decided that this time around, she wanted to make it a more collaborative effort.
"I worked with Brian Kennedy, who had two #1 singles," she said. "I also wrote a song with Natasha Bedingfield and Toby Gad, who wrote 'If I Were a Boy.' I don't write that much, and these people brought out a great writer in me. Of course, you have songs that other people write that you can relate to, but when you write it yourself, it just feels like it truly came from you."
She was especially eager to talk about one partnership in particular. "I'm really excited about the Rodney Jerkins collaboration, 'Right Here (Departed), ' " she said of the album's first single. "We've been working together for years, and we didn't work together on my last project, so this feels like a reunion. I can't go wrong with Rodney. I love the vibes."
The album's second single is "Long Distance," about the difficulties of long-distance relationships. "Whether it's a significant other or your daughter, a lot of people are away from the people they love," she said. "I met some lady, and she was telling me her husband is away in Iraq right now. I was like, 'I have the perfect song for you.' Just being in a long-distance relationship, that experience is weird. You're not able to have that time, and you need that time.
"I do have that with my daughter right now because I'm not dating anyone," Brandy added. "I try to keep my mind focused and know I'm doing everything for her. I have to talk to her, like, 20 times a day."
Brandy is not only looking to get back into the music scene after a noticeable absence (her last LP, Afrodisiac, was released in 2004), the former "Moesha" star is also looking to reclaim a spot on prime-time TV. "That's my thing. I love playing one character every week and having the audience grow with my character," she said. "That was so fun, even though reality [TV] is taking over the world. With a good solid show it can work again. I think it's what I'm here to do as well.
"Reality is not for me," she continued. "I don't think I'm that interesting. I need to play someone else."
And although she's accomplished a lot already, Brandy still has one dream left: to win an Oscar. She even has the project in mind to get her that statue, a remake of "Lady Sings the Blues."
"I would have to play so many different roles in that one role — I would have to bring it," she said. "And you have to live up to Diana Ross, but Diana played my mom once in a movie. I would go to her to study her."
But by now, Brandy has learned that the best things in life come when you least expect them. "I've been off for four years," she said. "I have no reason to be complaining. I just can't wait. It feels like the beginning of my career. I just let things happen in my life. Some guy said in the elevator today, 'Expect nothing, and you will have no disappointment.' "