Super ‘Human': Brandy is Back Older, Wiser and Stronger
These days the making of a music superstar is far more calculated than ever before. Quality vocal range is replaced by pop appeal and voice distortion. Viral videos are more popular than CDs (remember those? they're round things that play music) and having a sex tape is a sure fire way to get famous. Yet somehow R&B singer Brandy has managed to steer clear of the drama.
The road hasn't been completely smooth, but she always comes out on top. In 2004, Robert Smith, the father of her 6-year-old daughter Sy'Rai, announced that he and the star were never married as it was touted in the press. As for a sex tape? Her younger brother Ray J had that "scandal" on lock. Then there was the fatal car accident that Brandy was in where a driver in another car died. Despite the severity of the situation and pending lawsuits, the public's view of Brandy has yet to falter. Her sincerity is refreshing and real. Yes folks, she's just that nice.
Within the first few seconds of our interview she asks me, "You sound a little down. Are you okay?" Her mothering tone marks a new and arguably more exciting chapter in her life. Being a mother to her daughter is her greatest work and she wastes no time beaming about her. "It's beautiful to have her around and in my life," she says. " I don't know what I'd do without her. I don't even remember what life felt like without her so she's definitely an angel."
In 1994, when the then fresh-faced teen released her debut single 'I Wanna Be Down' she set the tone for young R&B stars whose innocence served as their appeal. Flash forward 14 years and the 29-year-old has an impressive resume. She has sold 25 million records worldwide and is readying the release of her fifth studio album, 'Human,' on Epic Records after severing ties with Atlantic Records, her label for most of her career.
The album's pop sound is powered by the lead single, 'Right Here Departed,' which was written by super-producer Rodney Jerkins, who penned some of Brandy's biggest hits. The man who Brandy describes as "genius" has produced top singles for Aaliyah, Destiny's Child, and Jennifer Lopez to name a few. "When I first heard the song I totally connected to it. I was like 'Oh my God! This is my life.' This is everybody's life because everybody needs somebody and it's great to have someone you can depend on."
Keeping with the record's theme in the video, directed by Little X, Brandy plays an angel protecting her family. In real life, Brandy's family and friends are her backbone. Her mother, Sonya, has managed the careers of both Brandy and Ray J as they weathered the storms that living in the public eye can bring. Second only to her daughter, her family's love and encouragement means everything to her.
The theme of the new album reflects Brandy's growth into womanhood while still holding on to her vulnerability. "The music is different than any of the music that I've done in the past. That's a little bit risky because of course the fans expect everything that they've heard or another version of [it]."
On 'Human' she steps out of her comfort zone not only with the music's sound but by writing her own songs. Among them is the title track, co-written with Toby Gadd writer and producer of 'If I Were A Boy' for Beyonce; and Fergie's 'Big Girl's Don't Cry.' 'Fall,' the song she wrote with labelmate Natasha Bedingfield addresses not being scared to fall in love again, a topic Brandy can relate to. She was most recently engaged to New York Knicks forward Quentin Richardson. Although she doesn't speak about him directly, she acknowledges that falling in and out of love hasn't killed her desire to be in a relationship.
"When you're in a relationship you think it's [going to] last forever then boom it doesn't. It's like your whole world is upside down. For a very long time I couldn't really accept the reality that I was no longer with this person I was so much in love with," she says. "Once you love someone you can't stop loving them. You may fall out of love with them on an intimate level but love always remains and that's the gift. I will do it over and over again until I get it right honey!" No matter the relationship problems she's still anticipating meeting someone special stating that when she sings her power ballads she's not singing about anyone in particular. "I'm excited about my new love life that I don't have yet! [Laughs] I look forward to being the type of woman that I've always wanted to be, in a relationship."
After more than 10 years in the spotlight, Brandy Norwood has remained true to herself as an artist in an ever-changing industry. The entertainment industry has neither made her bitter nor resentful. "I wouldn't trade it for anything because the things that I experienced as a teenager was beyond anything that I could ever imagine." As a child growing up in the public eye now raising a child, who at 6-years-old is leaning towards being a performer, Brandy wishes a simpler life for her daughter perhaps as a lawyer rather than a singer. "Of course if this is something that she wants to really truly do I will encourage her and support her. I'll show her the ropes for sure."