The year was 2002. The year before, Brandy had ended the successful five-season run of her UPN sitcom Moesha. Musically, it had been nearly four years since the R&B singer/actress released an album following 1998’s mega successful sophomore effort Never Say Never, which included the Billboard Hot 100 number one hits “The Boy Is Mine” with Monica and “Have You Ever.” The gap years in between albums were spent mostly on her budding acting film career, including roles as the first-Black Cinderella in the ABC television movie with her idol Whitney Houston, another ABC movie Double Platinum starring alongside another diva – Diana Ross, and the teen horror flick I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. But music was calling the GRAMMY-award winner back to the studio. With that call, her third studio album Full Moon was birthed on March 5, 2002.
Brandy first teased her new musical era with the release of the album’s lead single “What About Us?” on January 2, 2002 on AOL’s First Listen (who remembers the iconic tag throughout when a new song would premiere?) and would go on to highlight the new direction her music would be taking. The Dave Meyers-directed video showcased on MTV’s Making The Video would also heighten the anticipation of the new futuristic vibes to come, along with a new image of Brandy. Gone were her signature braids. Now, she had sleek long hair with bangs. The glitchy Rodney Jerkins-production on the single was on a whole different level than the B. Rocka and Darkchild works on Never Say Never. This time around, the two creatives took their chemistry to new heights, upping the voltage with electrifying production courtesy of Rodney and his team: fellow NSN collaborators Fred Jerkins III and LaShawn Daniels as well as newcomer (and who would become Brandy’s “husband”) Robert “Big Bert” Smith. The collective made daring moves in R&B at the time, exploring forward thinking sounds of Middle Eastern-influences, the 2-step sound from the UK (think Craig David’s “Feel Me In”), neo-soul, and some electro moments, while all still keeping true to Brandy’s signature R&B/Pop roots. The Mike City-produced album title track and second single “Full Moon” was the perfect R&B blend with Pop while adding some undertone elements from Brandy’s previous two albums at the time to be one of the standouts from the project. The progressive sounds of “I Thought,” “Anybody” and the smooth yet roughness of “Apart” gave the album a special edge. Transitions from song-to-song were sick, like “Like This” blending into “All In Me” or “Can We” going right into “What About Us?” The fact that Brandy had Michael Jackson do some backgrounds on “It’s Not Worth It” is one major flex to have! Then there’s the underrated Pop ballad gems like “Come A Little Closer” and “Love Wouldn’t Count Me Out.” And to no be left out of the conversation is the beautiful Warryn “Baby Dub” Campbell ballad “He Is.” But one song from the album that will forever go down in history is the slow jam “When You Touch Me,” the testament that Brandy was no longer the young teen from four years earlier but also showing off her vocals in a whole new way.
Brandy’s vocals have always been one of a kind ever since she hit the scene with her 1994 self-titled debut album. But is was Full Moon where the maturity in her vocals took center stage. Her vocals were more richer than ever. Her tones even in the background vocals sent chills to the listener. The vocal acrobats were out of this world. It was because of this album that Brandy was given a new title: “The Vocal Bible.” Any young R&B or Pop artist – male or female – that came out afterwards have always held the 2002 album to high regards because of Brandy’s vocal performance that have inspired them and many more. Whether it’s their vocal play or sound, they all learned from the school of Brandy’s Full Moon.
When released, Brandy described Full Moon as an autobiographical work of art, detailing her relationships and emotions between 1998 and 2001 and how she had come full circle to be the woman she was at the time. The album hit more close to home when the then 23 year-old announced she was expecting her first child, daughter Sy’Rai. Full Moon didn’t get the have the lengthy promotional timeframe like her previous albums. Only two singles and music videos were produced, while the proposed third single “He Is” was even re-recorded to fit pop radio but only released on a limited basis. However, the album still went platinum with over one million copies sold in the U.S. alone and the singles “What About Us?” and “Full Moon” both peaking at number seven and eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. At the same time, there were critics who didn’t quite understand the direction of the album or the unique sounds. Fast forward many years later, the album is regarded as one of the top tier R&B albums ever released. The Full Moon era may have been a short and sweet one due to Brandy being a new mother at the time, but the legacy and icon status of the album still lives on nostalgically for the OG “Stars” fanbase and among a group of new listeners for the first time twenty years later. Full Moon is a bonafide classic!