In the early 1990s, R&B was in the process of resetting for a new generation, with several divas taking career hiatuses and leaving a vacuum for new artists to fill. At the time, Brandy Norwood was a talented young singer from Mississippi looking to share her velvety voice and magnetic personality with the world, entering numerous talent shows as a way of putting herself out there. She eventually caught the attention of Atlantic Records in 1993, and her eponymous debut album Brandy was released on Sept. 27, 1994.
Brandy was a worldwide success, delivering two No. 1 singles on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart and hitting No. 20 on the Billboard 200. To celebrate Brandy’s 25th birthday and look back on the beginning of the R&B pioneer’s career, we ranked every track on the album.
14. “I’m Yours”
It’s possible that Brandy was inspired by the ’80s R&B hitmaker Anita Baker on this heartfelt slow jam, as Baker was praised for her ability to deliver earth-shattering ballads. But in an album packed with similar-sounding tunes, “I’m Yours” fades into the background as the album progresses.
13. “Love is On My Side”
A 17-year-old Robin Thicke co-wrote this emotionally-charged ballad, much to Brandy’s delight. While this tribute to love contains many of the makings of a then-contemporary R&B classic, that is unfortunately also its downfall: Brandy’s sultry voice, while strong as usual, doesn’t mesh well with some of the track’s synth production, and almost gives the feel of two different songs stitched together.
12. “Give Me You”
With a chorus of male backup singers, Brandy takes listeners to church on “Give Me You,” a moving ode to God and the love and abundance He brings when you dedicate yourself to Him. “Give Me You” successfully captures Brandy’s message that “He’ll always be around” and “He’ll never leave you” if you devote yourself to Him, but musically feels like an afterthought when standing next to other tracks.
11. “Always On My Mind”
On “Always On My Mind,” Brandy does what she does best: deliver angelic vocals over a midtempo beat that brought a refreshing newness to R&B at the time of its release a quarter century ago. Its similarity to a number of other tracks on Brandy, however, relegate the song to filler status.
10. “I Dedicate (Part III)”
Sprinkled throughout Brandy’s tracklist are three different interludes comprising one song called “I Dedicate,” in which Brandy takes a minute (literally) to shout out the people who supported her as she went from talented Southern belle to R&B’s newest it girl. Part 3 of “I Dedicate” closes out the album and offers little in terms of both dedications and musical variety: Brandy spends most of the track repeatedly cooing “I dedicate” and “I give you my voice / This song’s for you,” presumably speaking to her friend God from previous track “Give Me You.”
9. “As Long As You’re Here”
“As Long As You’re Here” may arguably be the most pop-leaning track on Brandy, with a steady hi-hat and 808 combination that could make the song a natural fit on some of the albums of the late ‘90s bubblegum pop explosion. The song is a plea to a lover to work on their rocky relationship together: to not fear what comes next, but embrace it.
8. “I Dedicate (Part II)”
Clocking in at just under a minute, Part II of “I Dedicate” is the shortest snippet of the song (along with the album’s shortest track), with its lyrics pretty much staying in the same dedicatory place as Part III. All three parts of “I Dedicate” were sampled by Drake on “Fire & Desire” from his Views album, but Part II is the most noticeable cameo on Drizzy’s track.
7. “I Dedicate (Part I)”
Brandy told Billboard that she wished “I Dedicate” was one complete song; because she recorded the three different parts at different times, they were kept separate rather than stitched together. The first chunk of “I Dedicate” features a conversation between Brandy and producer Jeff “Fuzzy” Young on the last day of the album recording process, and Brandy takes the time to thank all those who have either inspired her or personally helped her along her journey. Among the artists she shouts out: Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and brother Ray J.
6. “Movin’ On”
Brandy’s opening track contains the right balance of attitude and pure musicality that makes it the perfect introduction to one of R&B’s newest stars. Brandy credits gospel group The Clark Sisters (along with Whitney Houston, of course) for inspiring her style on the song, which starts as a typical ‘90s hip-hop track before building up with church-like high notes.
5. “Sunny Day”
This feel-good album cut makes the perfect soundtrack for anyone looking to reflect on everything they have on a beautiful day. In Brandy’s case, however, she uses the song to reminisce on what she doesn’t have: namely, her ex. Brandy recalls performing the song outdoors on a bright day after the album’s release, but since then “Sunny Day” has sadly been relegated to forgotten deep cut status.
The fourth and final single to be released from Brandy, “Brokenhearted” was one of three singles from the singer’s debut to crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a typical R&B slow jam exploring regret and sadness, but has stood the test of time in part thanks to its remix the year after Brandy’s release with Boyz II Men member Wanya Morris.
The highest-charting single from Brandy on the Hot 100, “Baby” was initially a struggle for 16-year-old Brandy to record: she felt like the song’s lyrical content leaned a little mature, eventually finding her footing while thinking of a boy she had a crush on. The video, filmed on a stage in Times Square in the winter of 1994, was the moment when Brandy says she felt herself “starting to open up, really come out of [her] shell, and find [herself] as a young artist.” “Baby” went on to earn Norwood a Grammy nomination for best female R&B vocal performance the following year.
2. “Best Friend”
Of Brandy’s four singles, “Best Friend” made the smallest splash after its release in June of 1995 (although it still cracked the Hot 100 top 40). The song is dedicated to her brother Ray J, who was originally set to join his sister for a duet on the song. When that fell through, Brandy recorded all her own background vocals herself — something she says she enjoys more than singing the melody. “I come from a church where I grew up singing a cappella,” she says, “so I love playing with different notes, and feeling that union with different harmonies and sounds.”
1. “I Wanna Be Down”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brandy’s debut single is still making waves a quarter century after its release: Cardi B shouted out both Norwood and the song earlier this year, and the song remains one of the singer’s calling cards. The track’s divine synth work, combined with Brandy’s wide vocal range, creates something that feels both timeless and like a perfect snapshot of R&B in the early 1990s. An all-femcee remix bolstered the song’s success and further cemented its spot in hip-hop and R&B history, and proved that Brandy was a musical force that should never be underestimated.