Brandy gives Billboard a song-by-song breakdown of her first album, released Sept. 27, 1994.
Like many of her fans 20 years later, Brandy can still remember the first time she heard her debut single “I Wanna Be Down” on the radio in the late summer of 1994.
“I remember being at Taco Bell, in the drive-thru, and hearing it on the radio, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m on the radio!’” Brandy, now 35, recalls to Billboard. “Remember how DJs, they talk in the beginning and the song is playing a little bit? And then they’d say, ‘Here’s Brandy with a new song.’ It was like, ‘Thank you God, this is everything for me.’ And I was with my friends at Taco Bell. It felt like it belonged there.”
The single helped introduce the then-15-year-old’s self-titled debut Brandy (released Sept. 27, 1994) and herald its singer as the latest fresh face of R&B at a time when youth was just starting to rule the airwaves. Fellow 15-year-old Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number had just been released months prior, a 14-year-old upstart named Usher had just released his own self-titled debut in late August, pre-teen vocal trio Immature scored a top hit 10 with ballad “Never Lie” and a 13-year-old named Monica was waiting in the wings to release her debut Miss Thang the following summer.
But there was something special about Brandy, from its throwback, funk-soul production (led by then-21-year-old writer-producer Keith Crouch and R&B group Somethin’ For The People, best known for slow jam “My Love is The Shhh”) to the smoky, evocative vocals coming from its lead performer. Though Brandy grew up idolizing mezzo sopranos Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and even tried to score a record contract with Atlantic’s A&R director Darryl Williams at the age of 12 by auditioning with their songs, it took her a few years to embrace the subtle power of her own alto range.