Is Brandy a R&B legend? Head to Head with Edd

Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.

This time around, I’m joined by my partner in rhyme, Kyle Ng of YouKnowIGotSoul.com. You can hear us rant and rave about the state of R&B every week on the SoulBack Podcast. But today, we’re talking about one of his favorite artists, Brandy. Let the battle begin.

What are Brandy’s three best albums?

Kyle:

1. Never Say Never

2. Afrodisiac

3. Full Moon

I’ve already accepted I’ll probably receive some death threats for not putting Full Moon at No. 1. For some reason it’s considered the greatest R&B album of all time as per R&B fans on Twitter, but that simply isn’t true. Full Moon has some really great moments and showcases a lot of growth for Brandy, but as an overall project? I have to put Afrodisiac and Never Say Never above it. For me it was tougher deciding between No. 1 and 2 because they are great in their own ways.  Never Say Never is such a well put together album and represents everything we love about 90s R&B with the heartfelt lyrics and strong vocals whereas the lyrical content combined with the dark production on Afrodisiac is a game changer. In the end, I have to go with Never Say Never simply because it has more hits and less filler (I’m looking at you “Turn It Up”).

Edd:

1. Never Say Never

2. Full Moon

3. Afrodisiac

Full Moon is the greatest R&B album of all time???? Playa please. I feel you Kyle, I’ve never been one to bow to the whims of R&B Twitter. Full Moon is beloved because, for many Brandy fans, it was the album that introduced them to her sound. However, take it from a brother who has been following Brandy since she had that mushroom haircut on the TV show Thea, her best is Never Say Never. Distinctive tracks, radio hits, signature ballads and incredible album cuts – this album showcased Brandy at her best. Full Moon is solid but some of the experimentation doesn’t always pay off, and as much as I love the production of Afrodisiac, Kyle’s right about the filler. Never Say Never is the definitive Brandy experience – the closest she’s ever gotten to delivering a five-star album.

Brandy’s worst album is…

Kyle: Two Eleven

Here’s another pick that will probably get me some death threats because of Twitter, but to me this album never really felt like a Brandy album. As much as fans love to hate Human for being super poppy, the project at least felt personal and made us understand her as an artist. Two Eleven on the other hand has always felt just like an assortment of songs that were presented to Brandy to record. I also believe the album is still overly hyped by the Internet today not because of the overall quality, but because it’s the last released Brandy album so it holds a special place in fans’ heart because they were rooting hard for her comeback in 2012.

Edd: Two Eleven

Brandy doesn’t have any outright awful albums, and despite its reputation, Two Eleven isn’t bad at all. I probably like it more than Kyle. It’s sin is that it’s just maddeningly uneven. I’ll happily revisit the singles and a couple of other tracks, but everything else seems like needless padding. It’s not the worst album in the world but it’s the worst album Brandy’s name is attached to.

What’s the first song that made you a fan?

Kyle: “The Boy is Mine”

This song was huge in 1998. The Brandy and Monica duet was played on the radio non-stop and the music video was always No. 1 on the MTV countdown. I just remember listening to both their voices and really gravitating towards Brandy’s raspy tone.

Edd: “I Wanna Be Down”

Yep, I’ve been down since the first single. I’ll admit that I wasn’t in love with Brandy’s  immediate follow-ups – “Baby” and “Best Friend” felt too juvenile even for ninth grade Edd – but the creeping groove of “I Wanna Be Down” instantly hooked me. It’s still one of my favorite beats from that era. In my eyes, a star was instantly born.

Name Brandy’s best single

Kyle: “Full Moon”

This Mike City produced record is such a classic. The production still sounds fresh today and Brandy truly utilized her voice as an instrument on that record. Just listen to that bridge!

Edd: “Full Moon”

Now see, I really wanted to go with “Angel In Disguise” but that’s tricky because it wasn’t officially released as a single (even though it cracked the top 20 on Billboard and was all over radio). Instead, I’ll have to agree with young Kyle and go with “Full Moon.” Mike City put in work with that warbling production and, to echo Kyle’s point, it’s the bridge that really brings this one home. “I ain’t even gotta … li-e-i-e-ieeeeeeeeee!”

What’s her worst single?

Kyle: “It All Belongs to Me,” featuring Monica

 I know these days Brandy fans will pretend that this was a solo Monica single, but living in denial isn’t healthy. This song was such a disappointment when it came out. Yes, the bar was set incredibly high after their legendary collaboration “The Boy Is Mine,” but they didn’t even come close with this one. The lyrics are ridiculous (“Log off your Facebook”) and the chorus structurally just sounds awkward.

Edd: “Top of the World,” featuring Mase

Kyle properly slandered “It All Belongs to Me.” LOL at the stans trying to pawn that song off on poor Monica. But honestly, I found it more boring than offensive. But “Top of the World,” the first single from Never Say Never? THAT song is a playa please moment. It’s a generic, vapid track that has nothing to offer besides a bouncy beat and a Mase feature (which in 1998 was akin to a Drake feature today). Literally ANYONE could have sung this song with the same result. It’s no shock that this single flopped stateside (I don’t think it even charted despite being her big comeback) and is barely mentioned today.

Brandy’s best video is…

Kyle: ““Talk About our Love”

The concept with people disappearing and re-appearing was pretty cool and you could see some great chemistry between Kanye West and Brandy on screen.

Readers note: My actual answer is “What About Us?” but the video looks absolutely ridiculous in 2020 with all the special effects going on (a floating baseball bat and Motorola cellphone???). To be fair though, the video at the time was groundbreaking and really accompanied the futuristic sound of the actual record.

Edd: “Sittin’ Up in My Room”

Brandy doesn’t have a lot of standout visuals, so I know the obvious answer here would be the Jerry Springer-esque “The Boy Is Mine” (especially the fun twist at the end). But I was always partial to “Sittin Up In My Room.”  The bright colors really pop on this one and shots of Brandy dancing in her mirror and getting dressed for a party feel fun and authentic. She could have kept a few of those dance moves though – that mid 90s hip slap ain’t slapping in 2020. “Sittin’ Up in My Room” is pretty simplistic by today’s standards but it’s very memorable and tells its story very well.

What’s Brandy’s best guest feature?

Kyle: “Thought You Said”

This is such a gem. The Mario Winans produced track can be found on Diddy’s Press Play album. The song is everything we love about Brandy: vocals that evoke emotion and unique harmonies. This is another record where she showcases her vocals as an instrument.  And you have to love the way she adlibs over Diddy’s rap parts.

Edd: “Optimistic”

Ugh, Kyle stole another of my answers. Diddy’s Press Play album is SO underrated and “Thought You Said” is one of the best efforts on the LP. Butttttt, since I’m too petty to agree with Kyle all the time, I’m go with August Greene’s recent rendition of Sounds of Blackness’ “Optimistic.” Brandy absolutely steals the show here, doing great justice to an already incredible song.

Does Brandy have any classic albums? If so, what are they?

Kyle: I would say Brandy has one classic album in Never Say Never but I can definitely understand cases being made for her debut, Full Moon and Afrodisiac for various reasons. I’ll let you guys decide on that one while I listen to “Angel in Disguise” in peace.

Edd: Listen, y’all know I’m very particular about bestowing classic status upon an album. But I think it’s safe to call Never Say Never a classic. As I mentioned earlier, it’s very close to a 5 star album, it has tracks that have defined her career, is her biggest seller to date and has become a template for R&B artists. I’m sure SummaYall  will make the case for Full Moon as well, but that one doesn’t check nearly as many boxes. Remember playas, an album can be good and NOT be a classic. But in this case, I think Never Say Never qualifies.

Is Brandy a R&B legend?

Kyle: Absolutely. If it’s not for her musical output then it’s definitely for her influence on the next generation of R&B artists. There’s a reason why she’s been dubbed the vocal bible and the term “Brandy runs” exists.

Edd: I’ve always found Brandy’s fandom fascinating. As I said earlier, my generation literally grew up with her. She’s our age (she just a few months older than me, in fact) and we witnessed her rise from young actress to R&B star. We appreciated her talents but never put her in the realm of the icons. However, it’s the generation behind us – Kyle’s crew – that really elevated her to elite status. Maybe it’s because while we saw Brandy as a peer, they saw her in the same light as the Whitney Houstons of our time – larger than life and aspirational. So even though Brandy wasn’t a legend during the peak of my fandom, she definitely has inspired scores of fans and future artists since. In that case, yeah, I think it’s safe to call her an R&B legend.

Who did you agree with most, Kyle or Edd? Let us know who won the battle below.

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4 Comments

  1. C’mon now, “Human” was terrible with its overt pop leanings. 2/11 came through with some top notch (if not sometimes overly sparse) production, that showed her in a different “grown” light. It’s the album that sounded more like her live performances, if that makes sense.

  2. I’d say her best feature is either on Q’s “Stuff Like That” or her stealing away John Legend’s “Quickly” from him.

  3. Definitely not a legend. What exactly has she done to acclaim legend status. Outside of the 3 album’s you named she has had several other albums that did not go well. She has not done anything iconic that would put her I. Legendary status. She has a great voice we can not deny that but even to this day she is left off of greatest R&B singers list while Monica, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé can be located on everyone. When her new album drops B7 we will see if that helps her acclaim legendary status.

    • You wouldn’t consider being the first black Cinderella legendary? First black barbie? The fact that almost every one in the music industry, particularly rnb, lists her as an influence and their favorite singer? Starred in iconic show Moesha for the culture? Which spawned other shows like the parkers? All as a teenager.

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