Album Review: Brandy – ‘B7’

The wait is finally over! It’s really been eight years since Brandy last released an album. Since the release of 2012’s Two Eleven, Brandy had been making more of a focus on acting, from her starring roles on Broadway in ‘Chicago,’ BET’s ‘The Game’ and the one-season of ‘Zoe Ever After,’ and more recently, FOX’s Lee Daniels-produced music drama ‘Star.’ But she wasn’t totally away from the music. Dissatisfied with the major label system after her last album was released via RCA Records, Brandy began Slayana Records and released the backwoods-juke joint record “Beggin & Pleadin” and released a top 5 hit on the UK Singles Chart in 2015 on 99 Soul’s “The Girl Is Mine” with Destiny’s Child. After several collaborations, promises of EPs, and “coming soon” album release dates, things began to look promising with the buzz single “Freedom Rings” and the Daniel Caesar-duet “Love Again.” The latter single became Brandy’s first Billboard Adult R&B Songs number one single and earned her a 2020 GRAMMY-nomination for Best R&B Performance.

Now the 41 year-old legend is ready to do it all on her own independently with the release of her seventh studio album, simply titled B7. The new era kicked off with the lead single “Baby Mama” featuring Chance The Rapper, where the Hit-Boy-produced uptempo is her ode to all the single mothers out there with its colorful Derek Blanks-directed video. But the album as a whole isn’t reliant on that topic or as big sounding as the single. B7 opens with “Saving All My Love,” which looking at the title isn’t a cover or uses a sample of her idol, Whitney Houston, 1985 number one hit of the same name. Brandy opens about self-worth, motherhood and express why she’s been away from the forefront in music, easily her most raw album opener since “Who I Am” from 2004s Afrodisiac. In fact, the track actually sets the tone for what the rest of the album is all about. Miss Norwood travels the roads of love and the downfalls of failed relationships, something that has been part of Brandy’s story coming up in the industry. Between songs, Brandy has her “All My Life” three-part interludes that sums up each section the album is heading towards. On the just-released second single “Borderline,” Brandy makes it known while she’s a loyal and a down woman who loves hard, she can still be jealous and it’s best you don’t break her heart before she goes crazy on you. I mean, she does let you know “karma is a b**ch!” A track that has been teased for some time now via social media that fans have been anticipating on the album, “No Tomorrow” lets it be known that her man makes her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world on this love letter of a track.

“I’m gon’ blow your phone up, in case there is no tomorrow,” sings Brandy with a subject that’s very real in a COVID-19 kind of world nowadays where you never know when’s the last time you’ll see a loved one. “Rather Be” is a beautiful love song co-written by Victoria Monet that’s been getting a lot of praise for is switch between production styles and lyrical content. B7 finds Brandy exploring her different inspirations like New-Age legendary artist, Enya, which are evident on songs like “Unconditional Oceans” and the dreamy “Lucid Dreams.” On “I Am More,” she explores a little more of a rock edge on the song that has her wanting to be more than friends and not just the side piece with a guy because she’s proven she can be more than the main chick. And while “I Am More” literally just came out, there’s an ongoing online debate on whether Bran is saying “retarded” or “retarding” in the opening verse (retarding means delay or holding back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment). A highlight on the track is that “Brand Nu” makes her return rapping towards the end. Speaking of Brandy’s rapper alter ego, she shows out on “High Heels,” a track of self-acceptance featuring her 18 year-old daughter Sy’rai. Bran’s duet with her daughter has been a long time coming for those wondering if she would follow in her mother’s huge footsteps. But no pressure here, because Sy’rai holds her own and has moments where her tones mirrors her mom’s.

For most of Brandy’s career, her albums have been mainly handled by a chief producer and their team. So it’s no surprise that DJ Camper serves as the lead producer on the album and co-executive producer, a musical relationship that actually helped B-Rocka find her passion for music again. B7 has her more involved in production and songwriting, something that hasn’t been done on a full scale since 1998’s majorly epic Never Say Never album with Rodney Jerkins. While Brandy hasn’t hashed out any issues with Rodney yet, she did bring someone back from the old team. Songwriting and vocal production extraordinaire LaShawn Daniels was along Bran’s new musical journey, but unfortunately, unable to see the fruits of his labor after his untimely death September 2019, yet his stamp of approval is all over this album while being listed as vocal producer and co-executive producer. While many await for the day that B-Rocka and Darkchild come back together to make up for what was the Human album, there are some moments with Camper reminiscent of their magic. With its jazzy piano opening turning into a nice banger turning up the beat, “Say Something” gives off a Darkchild-moment from Never Say Never but without sounding like a complete copycat. Connecting the dots, Brandy closes the album with an emotional ballad named “Bye Bipolar.” The song details all the challenges and battles she’s ever encountered, but has found the silver lining in loving life to the fullest and wrapping up the complete emotion of what the album’s message is and giving an ode to her 1998 five-times platinum album (“I’m saying never, saying never.”) A perfect closing of an optimistic future.

One thing about B7 is that it’s not necessarily meant to be in competition with the younger artists of today. Brandy has been the true meaning of a megastar since her self-titled debut album twenty-six years ago. She’s had the big mainstream hits and survived some moments that could’ve derailed her all the way out of the scene. But Brandy lovers will appreciate this album for being a playbook of all of her greatest “vocal bible” moments on one album with a more richer than ever and mature tone. The album isn’t uptempo heavy as some of its predecessors, but has a vibe that’s more chill, content and showcasing her vocals in every way possible with Brandy-enthusiasts finding new runs and riffs to study. B7 feels like its Brandy at the place musically she’s always wanted to be at without all of the major label politics. Although it took eight years between projects, B7 is a comfortable place for an artist of Brandy’s stature without diminishing her legendary status. Just like the song title, Brandy has found love again in herself and music.

B7 is now available on streaming services and for purchasing at digital music retailers via her very own imprint BrandNu and eOne. As an additional special treat, Brandy’s successful 90s-sitcom ‘Moesha’ is FINALLY on Netflix to binge!