Brandy is one of the few performers still standing who has unarguably shaped and moulded an entire genre. Releasing her debut album at the tender age of 15, she went on to eclipse 40 million sales worldwide, defining and re-defining pop tropes at will. Simply put, she’s one of R&B’s true icons, a Queen from the 90s Imperial phase. And now she’s back.
‘B7’ is a rich return, one that finds Brandy eschewing the culture of the feature to focus on herself, her life, and her artistry. Guests are carefully picked - Sy’Rai, Chance the Rapper, and the sometimes-cancelled Daniel Caesar – but only ever to amplify the song and the message; the central voice is hers, with Brandy sitting at the centre of her own creative solar system.
Opening with the exceptionally beautiful ‘Save All My Love’ the album is marked out as personal, cutting a little deeper than most. A rush of emotion that tackles self-worth, motherhood, and a whole lot more, by the time we reach bluntly titled closer ‘Bye Bipolar’ we’re left to wonder, has she ever been as explicitly honest as this?
‘All My Life’ (Parts One and Two) is a supreme act of soulful autobiography, but while she’s open about the struggles she’s been through, Brandy places emphasis on her optimistic aspects. ‘B7’ is weighted by statements of affirmation, with ‘I Am More’ and ‘Rather Be’ becoming mantra-like motions towards positive manifestation.
‘High Heels’ ushers its way towards sheer joy, with Brandy linking up alongside Sy’Rai to dance into the inky twilight. ‘Say Something’ is a poem about communication, while the itchily infectious ‘Baby Mama’ finds Brandy sparring alongside Chance the Rapper on a potent ode to motherhood.
The long-awaited follow up to 2012’s ‘Two Eleven’, ‘B7’ is perhaps a little overlong. Mid-album cuts such as ‘Borderline’ are no more than nice – pleasing on the ear, tugging at the heartstrings, but failing to match the gravitational pull of the record’s true highlights.
That being said, ‘B7’ is a triumph. A record worth savouring, it sits alongside NewGen R&B talent – step forward ChloexHalle, we see you Kiana Lede – while retaining that classic touch. A master of the form, it’s a joy to have Brandy back in our lives.
Words: Robin Murray
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