Brandy: Why Her Past, and Comeback, Are So Important
His name was David. And boy, did I like him. He had to have known after the love letter I wrote him in the 7th grade which included lyrics from my favorite 90s R&B songs. The majority of the verses I used were from Brandy's eponymous 1994 debut, specifically "Baby," "I Wanna Be Down," and "I'm Yours." I wrote the love letter in the form of a mad-lib, except I went ahead and filled in the blanks myself (I've been impatient with love since knee-high.) For future reference (or in the vain of embarrassing myself more), the letter also included lyrics from Mariah Carey's "Fantasy," Brandy's "Sittin' Up in My Room," and TLC's "Diggin' On You."
"Brandy" holds a special place in my heart, not only because it's the first full-length I ever purchased but because of the memories attached to many of the album's songs. It reminds me of the first time, of many times to come, when I really, really liked a boy and the first time, of many times to come, when I went against Mama Ramirez's advice to "never chase a boy" but to "let him chase you."
"Brandy" brought David and I together again at our 8th grade graduation dance. Don't ask me why the DJ chose to play "Brokenhearted" at such celebration, but I was far from mad. I looked across the gymnasium, where all the boys were standing against the wall, and waited, impatiently, for David to come over and ask me to dance.
"Where do I put my hands, again?" was all I can ask myself.
He walked over and even asked for my hand. Must have been that fancy, velvet burgundy dress of mine.
All those memories rushed back to me on Saturday (July 22), when Brandy took the stage at Philadelphia's one-day Global Fusion Festival. Midway through her nine-song set, she performed a medley of three "Brandy" hits: "Baby," "I Wanna Be Down," and "Best Friend."
A Brash Publicity's publicist reached out to grab Brandy (no, not just her attention) and tell her how much he loved her. To hell with professionalism, one of our most adored singers of OUR time was taking us back to our most cherished youthful days.
He wasn't the only one who got caught up; in the footage above, guess who's the one singing aloud to every word? Yes, to hell with professionalism.
Blame nostalgia. Sweet, sweet nostalgia.
We -- comprised of mostly twentysomethings, in this case -- hold 90s R&B artists close and dear to our hearts because of just that: nostalgia. Of course, talent plays a factor too -- who can deny the majority of the the male crooners' velvety vocals? Whether it's the words or production ("I Wanna Be Down" wouldn't be "I Wanna Be Down" without the beginning synths and bass throughout), many of these artists' hits recall, if not sparked, our fondest reflections, including some "firsts."
These memories have even pushed many of us to place pressure on these same artists to replicate their former work and its success. Tuck at those same strings again. Please. But, have we gone too far in asking our favorite 90s artists to bask in the nostalgia of their hits? If that is the case, who's to blame when they fail?
Fortunately, and importantly, there are 90s R&B artists who've pulled inspiration from their past and evolved. Brandy is one of them.
Her third studio album, "Full Moon," debuted at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart on March 23, 2002. "Full Moon" followed the platinum success of her debut self-titled album and her sophomore album, "Never Say Never." "Brandy" peaked at No. 6, staying on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for 87 weeks. "Never Say Never" peaked at No. 2, selling 4.6 million copies. Although her most personal album, "Afrodisiac," and "Human" didn't hit a million as her former, they both cracked the top 5.
Brandy's Global Fusion Festival 30-minute set, included hits from her entire discography as well as from her upcoming effort, "Two Eleven." Before an encore of "The Boy is Mine," for which she asked the audience to sing Monica's part and of course we obliged, Brandy closed her set with "Put it Down." The album's first single got a great response from the crowd, including her most loyal fans. "Put It Down," featuring Chris Brown, rose from No. 52 to No. 47 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart last week.
Brandy's sixth studio album, said to arrive in October, includes penmanship by some of today's great R&B writers, such as Frank Ocean, Ester Dean and Sean Garrett.
"It's just great to be back and doing R&B again and working with great writers like Sean Garrett and Ester Dean and producers like Bangladesh. Frank Ocean is a genius. I've always known it. He's definitely a gift to the world and to my project," Brandy told The Juice.
As for the sound of the album? "The core of the album is R&B. I'm excited about it," she continued to say about "Two Eleven."
It's been nearly four years since Brandy's last album. Going off the crowd's reaction to the vintage to virgin hits she performed on Saturday, it's undeniable her presence has been missed and her comeback is highly-anticipated.
Let's reminisce but also let Brandy cook.