Three Reasons why Brandy is so Underrated
This article originally appeared on JaJuan's website and was republished with permission.
Over the last 27 years, Brandy Rayana Norwood, more commonly known as Brandy, has graced the arena of mainstream R&B culture with passion, poise, humility and undeniable talent. Beginning her professional career at the age of 16, Brandy emerged as a young, sweet, fresh-faced act with a remarkable voice distinguishable from the rest of the industry. From the onset, she was identified by her peers as a unique force brimming with untapped potential.
In fact, following the release of her breakout, self-titled, now classic debut album: Brandy (1994), she garnered full attention from the R&B community, which help to propel her into the zeitgeist of the 90s R&B scene. Following this release, she became expected to blossom further after establishing such a solid foundation. The level of responsibility and bevy of expectations foisted upon her at such a young age would have been too difficult to overcome for the average teenage act. However, Brandy embraced the pressure and used it as ammunition to fuel her career, leading up to the creation of what would become an industrial diamond.
Over the last three decades, she has been able to accomplish so much for her career, akin to Black culture as a whole. She had her own show for myriad seasons: Moesha, she has amassed over seven, full-length studio albums, innumerable top 10 singles and has snagged some prominent acting roles over the years as well, which include playing Disney’s first Black live-action princess in Cinderella and Cassie Brown in the Fox hit- series Star. After earning the repute and longevity that she has attained over the years, her status as a legend should be solidified and not questioned or challenged.
Moreover, even with everything under her belt, Brandy’s career has been met with slander and scrutiny from media outlets. With the recent advent of her latest, full-length LP: b7 and her recent Verzuz battle against her R&B sister Monica, Brandy gracefully reminds everyone that she is a modern living legend who has been flourishing in this game of American music and television and that her contributions to the culture are not to be undermined nor overlooked. In other words, she commands “respek” on her name.
Upon brief examination of some of her greatest, yet under observed accolades, it becomes glaringly apparent that Brandy is one of the most underrated R&B artists of all-time. For an act as culturally impactful as Brandy, it is imperative that she receives proper flowers. Finally, let us give it up for a living legend.
1. Most of her legacy arose at an early stage in her life
Some may believe her age is a trivial facet in this entire equation. Regardless of this train of thought, it is an essential component to place into perspective. During the earlier stages of her career, the idea of discovering and nurturing young talent was a major trend. This formula is something that stems all the way back to the golden, once-in-a-generation acts of the Jackson 5 and young Stevie Wonder. However, there was a resurgence of this movement during the 90s. Other acts to arise would include Kriss Kross, Bow Wow, Aaliyah, Immature, Shai, Soul 4 Real, Tevin Campbell, Xscape and more. While most of these acts are nostalgic and notable in varying capacities, Brandy was definitely a stand-out case as her career skyrocketed beyond most of her child star peers.
#BlackGirlMagi Upon reflection of her first album, it would go on to be certified four-times platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), it peaked at #6 on the US Billboard/R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, remaining on the charts for 86 consecutive weeks. On top of all the positive reception from the release of Brandy, she helped to produce arguably three of the most timeless R&B tracks of all-time: I Wanna Be Down (94’), Baby (94’), and Best Friend (95’).
At only 15-years-old, Brandy was able to achieve more in a couple years than some artists amass throughout their entire careers. In hindsight, the wackiest part about this scenario is that this was merely the beginning of what was to come from the rest of the her career, which is remains pertinent today.
2. She created “Full Moon”
18 years ago, Brandy contributed to the cultivation of what is now, arguably her best and most forward-thinking album to date: Full Moon. Although this may not seem like the most eye-popping or substantive feat on the surface, this record is critically acclaimed by R&B purists and has garnered a lowkey reputation by many to be a groundbreaking body of work that has shaped the trajectory of modern R&B as we know it today. With this record, there was a major transition being made: Brandy’s image was shifting from the sweet and innocent to the grown and autonomous. It is her coming-of-age story within the lens of her art.
To add to the transformation of her image, the content matter of her songs matured and she pushed the envelope of her vocal ability more than ever beforehand. The most salient constants that persist from her earlier days into this project are her relaxing humility, style and of course, talent. Aside from that, every aspect of what fans knew Brandy to be were irrevocably altered on this record. From a vocal standpoint, Brandy delivers a masterful clinic on how to execute textured harmonies, intricate riffs and layered vocals, which turned out to be complimentary to the new-aged, cutting-edge R&B sound of the early 00s. In fact, her performance on this record is so seminal to modern R&B that many of her peers have dubbed her as the “vocal bible.”
American Gospel singer B-Slade commented on the importance of her vocal exhibition on this record: “Full Moon singlehandedly changed the vocal game. It has been the template for vocal choices and background vocal arrangements for years.” American R&B singer Luke James calls it “the blueprint for how to do vocals.” In terms of vocals, this may have been her apex. In addition to her vocals, the content matter on this record illustrate her growth from adolescence to womanhood as the topics fluctuate between post break-up melodrama to strong feminist energy strategizing how she plans to recover from the abyss of lack luster romance. With songs like He Is, WOW, and When You Touch Me, she dives into the hyper sentimental admiration that stems from loving someone wholeheartedly, which is a troupe that managed to traverse over from her previous project: Never Say Never (1998). On the other hand, she challenges the idea and meaning of fidelity by loosening up with high tempo tracks like What About Us? and It’s Not Worth It.
All on a single record, Brandy tackles the many dimensions that accompany being in love and the subsequent aftermath without being overtly ambitious nor underwhelming. She does just enough to get her point across, which helps this record reach its full potential. Considering the production on this record, most of it feels futuristic and far ahead into, what was then, the new millenium at the time.
Even from today’s perspective, the sounds and instrumentals of this record still feel extremely innovative and much further into the future. Executively orchestrated by the man responsible for many of her biggest hits: Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, they come together once again to cultivate a broad-based assortment of progressive tracks that would usher in a new branch of sound for R&B music. This sound can heard behind the vocals of many alt-leaning R&B artists today such as H.E.R., Solange Knowles, Teyana Taylor, Ari Lennox and Jhené Aiko. Ultimately, Full Moon is a trailblazing canvas of art that has dramatically influenced today’s sphere of R&B music. For lovers of R&B, this record is required listening.
3. She’s a renaissance woman
It is already a known precedent that her vocal ability is the main pillar of her promienence and by far, her most respected talent but she’s not merely a singer. Little do people tend to give her just credit for, Brandy is a purveyor of myriad talents. Unfortunately, this is a facet that often times is downplayed or overlooked altogether when considering her legacy. But she wears many masks and holds her own in a multitude of creative crafts.
As an actress, Brandy has held her own since her younger years, as she began this portion of her career on ABC’s historic, yet short-lived series: Thea under the role as daughter of Thea: Danesha Turrell. Despite the fact that the show only ran for 19 episodes before facing cancellation, Brandy was able to make her presence known as Danesha, which would act as leaping pad for her secondary hustle. The failure of Thea would actually turn out to be a “blessing in disguise” for Brandy as she moved from being a major player in an underwhelming production to the centerpiece of her own show: Moesha.
Running for six full seasons (1996-2001), Moesha centers around the life of Moesha Mitchell, a middle-class girl from Leimert Park, and her transition from adolescence to adulthood. Backed by the, then brand new network UPN, it would turn out to become the most successful show on the network, would go on to be considered one of the biggest hits within the network’s short-lived time span and would become a notable staple within the history of Black television sitcoms.
To add, Brandy went on to win a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress, which would only bolster the allure of her brand. Following her stint as Moesha, Brandy would go on to continue her acting career in an assortment of other roles. Some of her other roles include Cinderella in Cinderella, Karla Wilson in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Kayla Harris in Double Platinum, Leah Estrogen in Osmosis Jones, Melinda in Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Chardonnay Pitts in The Game and more.
Also, another hustle that Brandy has that many aren’t knowledgable or aware of: she raps. Under the esoteric alias of Bran’Nu, Brandy was first featured on Timbaland’s 2009 record: Shockvalue 2. On two tracks: Meet in The Middle and Symphony, Brandy holds her own with her delivery of a couple of unsuspecting, yet sizzling hot-16 bar verses. Opposite to her signature breathy and sultry vocal tone, her rapper voice is callous and gritty. Her rapping is just as refreshing as it is astounding. After hearing her, it can be said that she is better than some actual rappers today.
At this juncture, it seems like there isn’t much Brandy can’t do. Her versatility is unmatched by most. She is a jill of many trades and for this, she is worthy of top-notch recognition. She deserves similar regard to the Will Smith’s and Queen Latifah’s of the world and her background and resume evidently warrant this notion. After examination of most things Brandy has been able to do for the culture over the last 30 years, one can only hope that she gains the respect, honor and recognition she deserves. #ThankYouBrandy