Early on lauded as one of the most popular artists in her genre and still one of the most celebrated and emulated, Brandy returns triumphantly with her sixth studio album Two Eleven, to once again stand in the lane she carved into R&B music.
A singer’s singer, Brandy’s unique vocal nuances are showcased effortlessly on Two Eleven (named for both the singer’s date of birth and the fateful day that her idol, Whitney Houston, passed away), simultaneously decorating and anchoring throbbing beats and achy melodies helmed by a commanding crew of writers and producers (Frank Ocean, Sean Garrett, Bangladesh, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, among others).
Brandy is stepping boldly into this next chapter of her career. This is more than suggested by the decidedly hip-hop intro to the album, a swaggering symphony of sorts that sets the tone for what’s to come. One thing is for sure, Brandy is in love. Whether it is the straight-forward radio single, “Wildest Dreams,” the whimsical “No Such Thing As Too Late,” or the synthy soul of the impassioned “Paint This House,” Brandy’s sweet vocals confidently croon the value of truly building a thing, the blessing of a real connection after waiting for what seems like forever.
Two Eleven is fun. With her soda-pop lead single “Put It Down” (peppered with a largely unnecessary feature by Chris Brown) and the electro-calypso “Let Me Go” (featuring an edgy and fun Lykke Li sample), both produced by the always futuristic Bangladesh, Brandy is making us move.
She is also turning us on. Throughout Two Eleven, Brandy is making it clear that she is sexy. The siren splashes her sensuality all around on the smoky “Slower,” the pulsating “Can You Hear Me Now,” and the explicit banger, “What You Need.” Brandy is wearing her womanhood like a cocktail dress and spiked heels; searing indeed.
Few singers capture the angst of vulnerability better, and when Brandy exposes us to the desperation intimate affairs can bring, she is at the top of her game. She shines on the knocking boom-bap of the yearning “So Sick” where her breathy delivery makes it hard to differentiate between the bassline and your own pounding heart, and the crucial “Without You,” produced by Londoner, Harmony Samuels.
Listen: Brandy – “Without You”
Crafted with punching bass wrapped around the eerie chords for the theme of American soap opera, The Young and the Restless, “Without You” feels frantic. Brandy is 100% authentic here as she is on the glowing “Scared Of Beautiful.” Produced and written by Frank Ocean and Warryn Campbell, this song is tailor made for Brandy and the legions of fans who connected with her transparency. A lavish confrontation, “Scared Of Beautiful” reflects Brandy’s internal struggle over the years, both professionally and personally to feel “good enough.” Fiercely introspective this gem pushes us toward accepting the best of ourselves.
Brandy has found her footing on Two Eleven, delivering a cohesive album that solidifies her station, validates her die-hard fans and will surely win her new audiences. We welcome her return.