Saturday, December 06, 2008
Album Review: Brandy - Human (4.5/5)
Brandy's waited an extensive 4 years before putting another album. Her last album, Afrodisiac became Norwood's first critically acclaimed album, but became her first commercial failure. The album only spawned one notable single, "Talk About Out Love" with Kanye West --earning most of its success in the UK, giving Norwood her fifth top ten. Singles following ("Who Is She 2 u," and the title track, "Afrodisac") failed to generate any sort of success for the singer. I didn't enjoy, Afrodisiac as much as I should've done, but I guess it was a good jump off point for the next album.
Thinking about the commercialization of, Human will most likely put you off. It's not set to breaking any records with its sales or singles--but it will give Norwood a safe return into the spotlight, more as an artist with something to say, rather an artist looking for hits. She can spawn another "Have You Ever?" or "The Boy Is Mine," on the next album. Human, is a pretty compelling album, soaked in gritty R&B numbers (although not as gritty as the stuff on, Afrodisiac), balancing out a satisfying ratio between ballads, mid-tempos and upbeats--It is one of the better R&B albums of the year, I can only hope it receives the recognition it deserves.
After Norwood talks to the listeners abouts being a 'human' in the 20 second introduction. The opens nicely with, "The Definition" which was among my initial favorite cuts from the album. Pounding with hardcore urban soaked bassline, accompanied by Norwoods signature raspy vocal work. The lyrics talk about someone finding happiness through another person ("the definition of love is you"). The piano backed, "Warm It Up (With Love") was another initial favorite--who knew my favorites would follow consecutively--the piano give it a delicate feel and the tambourines bulk it up a bit. The chorus has an anthem feel to it.
Among the biggest highlights on the album are the singles; The Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins produced "Right Here (Departed)," I thought was a brilliant comeback (obviously the charts disagree). Rummaging with layered vocals, a smooth distorted bassline and a powerful chorus--Norwood's never sounded better. The forthcoming single, "Long Distance" is beautiful piano ballad, pacing slowly throughout the first half before building nicely to its climax towards the second half. It could be Norwood's best ballad ever, closely rivalling "Have You Ever?"
"Piano Man," has an Usher "Love In This Club," swagger in the beginning and pacing out throughout the song. I'll admit the verses are somewhat lacking, but the chorus is killer--backed smoothly with syth and piano. "Camouflage," is a nice mid-tempo--sounding a tad like something you'd hear from teen singer JoJo's sophomore album, The High Road with an R&B edge. Although I'd say this one really among the few songs that show a strong pop-presence. "Torn Down," begins with a mash of acoustic and piano, before adding a kinetic handclap in the mix--it's another song that explores a more pop venture. It sounds like "Wow," from 2002s Full Moon.
The weepy title track, "Human" is the highlight on the somewhat weaker second half of the album. The chorus is surprisingly mellow--consisting of nothing more than faint orchestration, handclaps and clicks. The lyrics admit flaws as a human ("I'm no superwoman/I'm fragile and broke") also making references to past songs ("Angel In Disguise") from the Never Say Never album.
I knew, Human was going to be an album I would like, but I also expected some flaws, but there are way less than I had anticipated. "Shattered Glass," has a nice melody in some parts, but it's pretty uninteresting and for the most part boring. I don't really like, "True" that much either, but I expect it might grow on me, I've always been a sucker for ballads. "A Capella (Something's Missing)," is an interesting one, but maybe should've been left of the album. Norwood shows some nice vocal on this A Capella but it drags the album pace of the album way down.
"1st & Love," has a nice handclap beat, it does sounds like all modern R&B songs sound like these days, but it isn't bad. The album closes with the piano ballad, "Fall" throwing reminiscent of "Tomorrow," from the Never say Never album. It's really beautiful. Human, is an amazing album--aside from its flaws--an almost faultess effort.
Best: Right Here (Departed), The Definition, Human, Long Distance, Fall, Warm It Up