Brandy - Human (2008)

Brandy
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It's been 4 years since Brandy's had new music out, but the effects of what she's experienced since then could impact her for a lifetime; changing labels, single motherhood, discarding her management as well as a fiance, and of course, the pending wrongful death car accident lawsuit. So it's no wonder that the 29-year-old Ms. Norwood has adopted a more personal (if a bit platitudinal) approach on her fifth studio CD, Human.

It's been 4 years since Brandy's had new music out, but the effects of what she's experienced since then could impact her for a lifetime; changing labels, single motherhood, discarding her management as well as a fiance, and of course, the pending wrongful death car accident lawsuit. So it's no wonder that the 29-year-old Ms. Norwood has adopted a more personal (if a bit platitudinal) approach on her fifth studio CD, Human.

"I've dropped all the baggage, let go of the habits,"she declares in the pulsating opening track, "The Definition," and most of the other songs follow suit in laying bare her desire to be accepted as a whole and imperfect person in both the world and in her relationships. Rodney Jerkins, her long-time producer, has retained his golden touch, giving the first half of the CD a sophisticated, nebulous feel. Brandy's soprano has also evolved, simultaeneously more raw and resonant as she strives to unite the world and spill out her heart's contents for the world to hear. Some of them are brimming with hope and optimism, like the "come together" vibe of "Warm It Up (With Love)" and "Right Here (Departed)," as well as the techno-laced, "sing our troubles away" invitation, "Piano Man": "Play me a song about heartache, I promise I can sing every word, Mr. Piano Man. Play me a song about love lost, that's another one everyone's heard, strike up the band. We can have the whole world singing tonight..."

The second half of Human becomes more introspective, more about of facing frailties and love lost than about stumbling past the issues with blind optimism. There's the achingly vulnerable "Long Distance," where Brandy wrestles with the loneliness and longing that comes with the constant separation from her sweetheart, and "Camouflage" acknowledges her weariness in hiding her less-than-ideal qualities for so long and needing acceptance ("God knows I ain't perfect, tell me who in the world is. All I know is that I'm searching, for somebody to love me with these flaws I've got..."). The title track is one of the strongest on the entire CD, an adult contemporary ballad about how she's accepted her shortcomings and now wants the world to embrace her as is: "I cry, you cry, I hurt, you hurt. I make, mistakes, but I can't turn back time..."

It may be too overbearing or monotonous for some fans, but what's laudable is that Ms. Norwood is honest enough to take listeners through the emotional roller coaster ride that's turned her life upside-down for the last few years. A sassy banger here and there, or a triumphant proclamation of contentment, would've lent assurance to her feeling closure about it all, but there are plenty of R&B sirens dropping air-headed club anthems in the world already.  So the slice of humility she's serving up makes Human that much more essential to hear.

By Melody Charles

 

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