It's been a whole George W. Bush presidential term since Brandy's last album, Afrodisiac. Back then, her daughter was just a baby — heck, her brother Ray J was just a baby in some people's eyes — and the music business was a whole different animal.
"It feels so great to be back on the scene," she said last week on the set of her video for "Right Here (Departed)." She was getting her feet wet again in front of the camera.
"I went through a struggle, and I really needed to get myself together and connect with my purpose, which is music," she explained of the hiatus, the longest of her 14-year career. "Music is all I know. ... To be on this set today, I feel very blessed for the second chance and for the opportunity, my record company believing in me and everybody here just showing me so much love and support. My fans. It just feels good to be back, and I never wanna leave for that long again."
A decade ago, the singer released her most commercially successful LP, Never Say Never. It was a triumph that undisputedly broke her out of the pack that included a talented consortium of one-named women such as Mya and Monica. Over the years, Brandy has worked less and less with the driving force behind that album's production, Rodney Jerkins. Their differences became evident on the last album, Afrodisiac, when Timbaland replaced Darkchild as her go-to guy. But Jerkins is back for the new album, Human.
"Well, the chemistry brought Rodney and I back together," she explained. "I mean, it's a chemistry that's undeniable, it's magical. I think it's our responsibility to make music together. I think it's our contribution to the world. I mean, I think that we have a place, a lane, and we have people out there that love seeing us working together, and again, I'm just blessed to be back working with him. 'Right Here (Departed)' was the first song that I heard that Rodney wanted to do for with me, and that was the first song I did with him. Our reconnect — and it's our first single. So our experience this time has been very magical. Our sound is a little bit different from our old sound, but we are back, and I'm never leaving Rodney again, and I hope he never leaves me."
"The music brought it back together," Jerkins agreed. "I mean, at the end of the day, we wanted to do something for the fans and show the world that we got this chemistry that can't be denied and can't be stopped. The world is gonna get it when they hear the album. The album just reflects on everything she's been through in the last eight to 10 years and how she came out of it and how she's strong and she's a woman. I'm just here to do my thing and to support it.
"It's definitely a big pop-sounding album, international sounding. But she hits a little bit on the country side," he added about the rest of his work on the album. "Vocally, she does a lot of little country twangs with her voice. We kid around, we joke around that the next album is gonna be country. We're both gonna step out and do some country music. But we're kinda tapping into it, to show that you can mix that sound with urban and R&B and hip-hop. It's just music, and good music lives."
Brandy — who, believe it or not, will turn 30 next year — described the album as more mature but more pop than she's ever gone.
"I wanted to make it for everybody, not just urban but every race, every color, every creed, whatever," she said. "I just wanted to make a universal album, and that's what we did, and we accomplished that. And I'm really excited about it, it's out November 11, and we launch it November 10 with Oprah, so I'm really excited.
"The album title is called Human," she continued. "I wrote the title track to the album, and basically what that song is about is forgiveness. Mistakes are gonna be made; we're all gonna make them. One of the lines in the song is 'I'm only human, I might just tell a lie/ I'm only human, I'm an angel in disguise.' There's another song on the album called 'Warm It Up With Love.' I'm talking about how the whole world is freezing, [but] we just need to warm the world up with love. [Then there's] 'Piano Man,' where I go to this piano man and ask him to play a song of love, play a song about heartache, so we can have the whole world singing tonight. It's really some cool concepts on the album."
The single and its video are about being there for a loved one.
"You can take it like you're talking about a mother and a daughter, a sister, brother, girlfriend, whatever — it's universal in that way," she said. "And the video concept is me crossing over to the other side and coming back into my family's life. Just popping up everywhere, just singing to them, and it's [got] an I Am Legend feel. Sometimes you see me on the street by myself completely, and it's pretty cool. Little X is directing it. I'm really excited about it. I just hope it turns out great and everybody loves it."
Jerkins appears in the video, as does Ray J.
"I always try to get in it when I can," said Ray, who described his older sibling's return as "a long time coming." "If it don't make sense, then I don't [do it]. But she called me down. I canceled all my plans — I had a show to do somewhere else, but I'm gonna be here for this video 'cause I know how important it is for her, and I know just how important it is to be around and just support her and whatever she needs, so I'm here for her."