Album Review: Brandy – ‘Two Eleven’

After a four-year hiatus, Brandy has finally delivered her sixth studio album, Two Eleven, on October 16. The album’s production credits include contributions from Breyon Prescott, Bangladesh, Hit Boy, The Bizness, Jim Beans, Rico Love, Mario Winans, Kevin McCall and Warren Campbell. Additionally, the album includes tracks penned by Rico Love, Sean Garrett, Frank Ocean, Chris Brown, and Mario Winans.

The standard version of the album has 14 tracks, including an intro and outro. After the intro, the first song is”Wildest Dreams,” which emote the thought of “never in a million years would I believe this could happen to me” idea of how great things come to those who keep moving forward.

The track “So Sick” is about when you are invested in someone who you become love-sick. “Slower,” which was written by Chris Brown, is a very sensual track that explains how slow and steady will always win the race. Furthermore,”No Such Thing As Too Late” explains how patience is essential to experience true love.

“Let Me Go” is all about how you have become spoiled by love and don’t want to be apart from someone you love because they know you get in certain moods. “Without You” exclaims how you can’t even simply function without the one you care for there in your presence.

“Put It Down,” the album’s lead single featuring Chris Brown, is a playful, yet sensual track that describes the qualities of man who are appreciated. “Hardly Breathing” is about being hurt and heartbreak in the past. “Do You Know What You Have” touches on the topic of someone not knowing when they have someone or something that is one in a million.

“Scared of Beautiful,” written by Frank Ocean, explains the struggle of self-acceptance with either being good or bad throughout life in various aspects. “Wish Your Love Away,” written by Mario Winans, brings back the feeling of a 90’s ballad with brief instrumental parts originally featured in “The Boy Is Mine.” The track is all about letting an ex-lover know it is over. “Paint This House” is about breaking in a new home with some good old baby-making fun.

Overall, Two Eleven is a solid effort from Brandy. She single-handedly made it known that she is back and ready to take over good music. With the perfect collection of tracks, Two Eleven

Brandy has single-handedly made it crystal clear that she is back within her core of making good music which is rhythm and blues. Two Eleven is certainly worth the money, as it has a collection of songs that may make you dance, reflect, or even cry. It’s clear that Brandy really put her all into this album.

Standout tracks: Slower, Scared of Beautiful, and Wish Your Love Away

Buy Two Eleven on iTunes
Buy Two Eleven on Amazon

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10 Underrated Songs by Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton Underrated Songs

“I used to dream of living lavish, now your girl’s a living legend,” Toni Braxton sings on her newest offering “Heart Away.” She’s absolutely right: she is a living legend. With three multi-platinum albums, six top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and over 67 million records sold, Braxton is basking in the glory of her success.

As she gears up for her eighth studio album Sex & Cigarettes, let’s countdown some of her most slept-on records in a new monthly series we like to call UnderRated. (Sidenote: to be considered an “underrated” record, the song couldn’t have I have been a single at any point in time.)

Check out the list below:

“Gimme Some” (feat. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) from the album The Heat (2000)

Credits: Jazze Pha, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Lisa Lopes (Writers); Babyface and Jazze Pha (Producers)

Oh, Toni, why wasn’t this danceable number a single? Even though Babyface and Jazze Pha seem like an unlikely musical pair, they went to work on the lyrical content and production of this banger, which has Braxton taking charge when it comes to her love interest.

“It is an age-old story / Goes back back to Adam and to Eve / I know you know what I want for / And if it ain’t clear to ya baby / Don’t stop, let’s Rock, give it to me baby,” she sings. Left-Eye had a stellar verse too.

“What’s Good” from the album Libra (2005)

Credits: Bryan-Michael Cox, Johnta Austin, Toni Braxton, Joe Sample (Writers); Bryan-Michael Cox and Keri Lewis (Producers)

“What’s Good” appears as the third track off of Libra, and following the hip-hop edged songs “Please” and “Trippin’,” it’s a perfect musical shift in the gear of the album. Led by a genius sample of Joe Sample’s “In All My Wildest Dreams,” Braxton sings & coos confidently inc her signature contralto tone about the great things her new man does for her.

“It’s like a house I never left / Like a fever I wanna catch / Like a mountain that’s worth the climb / Talkin’ ’bout this man of mine / Like my money I wanna spend / My homie-lover-friend / He’ll be with me till the end / And he’s never failed me yet,” she sings.

“Caught (Don’t Take Your Hat Off) [feat. Mo’Nique]” from Pulse (2010)

Credits: Mikkel Stoleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, LaShawn Daniels (Writers); Stargate (Producer)

Songs that appear on an album’s deluxe edition have a way of adding value to the original album; that’s exactly what this Stargate-produced jam off the Pulse deluxe album does. Braxton kicks her lover out of her house after being cheated on.

“Baby I been more than good to you / When you leaving gimme my key back too / It’s about to go down /Your, your other new lady/ You’re out there with your pants down,” she sings. The light, somber piano is almost addicting, and Mo’Nique’s monologue is the perfect touch.

“Talking In His Sleep” from the album Secrets (1996)

Credits: Toni Braxton (Writer); Keith Crouch (Producer)

Following “Un-Break My Heart” on the Secrets track listing is no easy feat, but bluesy tune “Talking in His Sleep” holds its own. Braxton’s speaking voice has a chilling effect as she touches on infidelity and adultery. “Guilty secrets/ They are haunting my life / And he doesn’t even know that I know/ Can you hear him / The promises he makes/ Said we’ll be together for always / He’s such a liar / Then he goes out to burn me.” The Mary J. Blige-esque jazzy bass line is killer!

“You’ve Been Wrong” from the album The Heat (2000)

Credits: Toni Braxton, Brian Casey, Brandon Casey, Teddy Bishop, Kevin Hicks, Thom Bell, Linda Creed (Writers); Teddy Bishop and Kevin Hicks (Producers)

If The Heat was a family, “Just Be a Man About It” would be the older sibling to this guitar-led track, which hears Braxton finally finding the strength to leave a no-good lover. “Finally I’ve realized/ Your lies have opened up my eyes/ This love affair, now it’s over, over/You’ve been wrong for so long/ And I can’t take the pain you bring me no more/ You’ve been wrong for so long/ And I can’t take the pain you bring me no more,” she sings. Oh, and the Stylistics’ “Stop Look Listen To Your Heart” interpolation? Genius.

“Lies, Lies, Lies” from the album More Than a Woman (2002)

Credits: Keri Lewis and Stokley (Writers); Keri Lewis (Producer)

Ms. Braxton is fed up on this rock n’ roll (yes, rock!) cut. “Don’t bother to apologize / It’s too late, heard it all before / And it should come as no surprise / I’m leavin’, I packed my things / ’Cuz I’m through with this merry-go-round / I’m getting off, I finally found / My strength way deep down / I shoulda left your ass after the first round,” she sings. This is one of the best songs Braxton has ever recorded. EVER (in my opinion).

The raw emotion, the pacing of the song, the commitment to the vocal — Toni was in her bag! Stokley didn’t play a single game with the lyrics, guitar solo, or the backing vocals. Shout out to Chris Dave, who played the drums on this song. And trust, this song is nothing without the drums!

“Shadowless” from the album Libra (2005)

Credits: Alex Cantrell and Philip White (Writers); Keri Lewis (Producer)

Some of Toni’s best songs have a nice guitar somewhere hidden in the instrumentation, but the acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song about regret and love lost. “Gotta make it right with you / Ooh you baby / So tell me what I gotta do / Ooh to make u come back home / Ooh boy how can this be / I remember that every step / U were here with me/ Now I’m shadowless,” she sings. There is just something so magical about the Living Legend’s smoky vocals over the spirited strums of the guitar. Although this would’ve been a nice finale track for this album, penultimate isn’t so bad either.
(If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the AOL Sessions version of this song.)

“The Heat” from the album The Heat (2000)

Credits: Keri Lewis and Toni Braxton (Writers and Producers)

Braxton channels the summer vibes and brings the heat on this sexy title track. “Summer’s almost over so you better hurry / Andale! Andale! / Starting right now let’s dance and party / Ole! Ole! Ole! / Give Me a reason to love you through, through the season / No need to hesitate, come on let’s get it on,” she sings. This song is easy and breezy; sultry and sensual; sex — well, y’all get the point. And to answer your question, Toni, yes, I do want some ice cream.

“Why Should I Care” from the album Secrets (1996)

Credit: Babyface (Writer and Producer)

Braxton is fed up and denying her ex lover a second chance on this ‘90s tune. “And every time I start to slip / I just remind myself / I need only thing of it / I went through so much hell / You say ya wanna get things back / The way they used to be / Can you give one good reason / Why I should darlin’/ Why should I care / Why should I care for you,” she sings. Babyface and Toni Braxton are always a magical pair, but you have to get into these background vocals from the one and only Chanté Moore!

“Do You Remember When” from the album More Than a Woman (2002)

Credits: Toni Braxton, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins, LaShawn Daniels III (Writers); Rodney Jerkins (Producer)

This More Than a Woman cut finds Toni Braxton thinking back on the better moments of her time with an ex lover. “Do it like you did back then / And then we’ll do it again / Do you remember when? / Reminiscing and more on what we had before / Makes me feel so warm inside / Wanting you constantly and feeling so sorry / That we had to say goodbye,” she sings. Although this song feels like a The Neptunes-Kelis combo, Rodney Jerkins’ groovy production and Toni’s tender vocals fit seamlessly on this track, making it one of the standouts on this album.

Honorable Mentions

“Selfish” from More Than a Woman: Upon first listen, you’ll notice how intricate the background vocals are. So, it’s no surprise that this song credits Brandy as a writer and her ex-boyfriend Robert Smith as the producer of this breezy tune.

“If I Have to Wait” from Pulse: It’s unfortunate that Country radio and the Country music industry is so exclusive, because this had the potential to be a nice crossover hit.

“Sposed to Be” from Libra: Blackground Records was not feeling the original album that Toni Braxton and then-husband Keri Lewis turned in, so they set her up with additional recording sessions. That decision led to the creation of this sensual cut, which is spearheaded by The Underdogs and even features a writing credit for Keri Hilson.

What are your favorite songs from this list? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Ready, Set, Release: 10 R&B Albums We’re Anticipating This Year

Will 2018 be the year our favorite established and budding artist use their new opportunities to take the music industry by storm?

This dream could turn into a reality for many artists. For starters, an artist could go on tour for thousands to perform their biggest hits, or sing for hundreds to reconnect with them on an intimate level.

Then again, an artist could align themselves with lucrative brands to influence consumers to believe in their products while gaining exposure from a new audience for themselves.

But the simplest approach to keep your names in the headlines is to release new music. An artist whose album release is more anticipated than a Lebron Ring finds this selling tactic the easiest.

With the help of our faithful readers, we’ve compiled a list of 10 artists who we hope drop an album this year.

Jacquees

Jacquees has been bubbling for more than seven years and still has not released a debut album. The Rich Gang crooner has kept us occupied with consistent material while gassing us about his debut album, 4275, which was expected to drop in 2017. Is Jacquees debut album caught up in the rapture of Cash Money’s financial scrambles? Is Jacquees still recording and perfecting his first album? No one can accurately give a reason to his album delay, but we do know he’s joining forces with Chris Brown for a mixtape, promising to “fuck this R&B shit up.”

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Justine Skye, Let’s Talk ‘Ultraviolet’: A Career Conversation

I’ve been following Justine Skye for a while. Not as far back as her Tumblr days, but around the time her Tyga-assisted cut “Collide” began to pick up some steam.

Over the past three years since, Skye has produced a couple of solid records, had some impressive sponsorships and endorsements, and even landed a record deal with Roc Nation. Minor successes aside, there’s been a common note when I’ve mentioned her name in conversation: “She’s not memorable.” And that criticism is more than valid. As someone who has kept up with her work, I even have trouble remembering most of the tracks from her three EPs (although, admittedly, I’d rather not remember her 8 Ounces EP.) Skye’s musical issues ultimately boil down to two things: artistry and execution.

We all know that every successful recording artist isn’t original, or even necessarily talented. However, those type of artists know their market, work within the limits of their artistry, and execute accordingly. The reason why it’s been hard for this Brooklyn beauty to pop is because we, as consumers, don’t know what sport she’s playing nor the arena she’s playing in.

On the artistic side of things, Skye has always struggled to nail her “sound.” Her singing voice is quite generic — which isn’t a dig, nor a hindrance necessarily — but her lyrics are also somewhat lackluster, as well as her ad-libs. Nothing truly stands out, and because Skye’s artistry hasn’t developed, her music sways with the trends of the and sounds of the time. I expressed these concerns in a series of tweets back in 2016 — which ultimately got me blocked on my old Twitter account by Ms. Skye, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Justine Skye Tweet 3Let’s talk execution. Skye released “U Don’t Know” featuring Nigerian singer WizKid in September 2016, with the accompanying video released the following month. Then, a little over a month after the video release, she releases her 8 Ounces EP without “U Don’t Know.” Yet, in 2018, she included the mid-tempo track on her album, and this time without the WizKid feature.

Poor execution.

Sometimes the first single doesn’t work, so that’s okay. She tried again in July with “Back for More” featuring Jeremih. Despite the seven month stretch between singles, the song was an appropriate, summer jam. Unfortunately, even with the feature, the song didn’t get past a few adds at urban radio. The video was released in early August, and then it was silence again from Team Skye.

Poor execution.

Skye then releases third single “Don’t Think About It” on December 1. A week later, she announced the release of her debut album with another single — the PARTYNEXTDOOR-penned “Goodlove” and the video for “Don’t Think About It.” By the time the album dropped, she released another single (“Heaven”), which totaled a five tracks from a 10-track album.

Even with all of these musical misfires, I decided to give the album a listen. After listening to the 33-minute project, I was left generally underwhelmed. Although short albums aren’t common, they can definitely work with a strong thematic direction (see: Lalah Hathaway’s honestly. and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.)

Ultraviolet suffers from a combination of issues, but ultimately the music just fails to hit. I must say, though, that “Goodlove” and “You Got Me” have been on repeat, and guess who penned both of these tracks? PARTYNEXTDOOR. On a 10-track album, if the two standouts are written by the same person, I think that’s worth noting. Hit-Boy’s production on “Lil’ Boy” was also a bright spot for me on this otherwise mid-tempo album.

I don’t have anything against Justine Skye or her music, even. She’s given us jams like “Never Leave,” “I’m Yours” and “Messin’ w/You.” However, if she wants a serious shot at chart success, she’s going to need to find her artistic voice and learn how to properly execute when it comes to the visuals, singles, and the art of timing.

Ultraviolet has left me with more questions than answers, but the biggest question of all is still, “Who is Justine Skye?”

Follow Nathan on Twitter @TheGreatIsNate.

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