The two enduring divas rose from the ashes of career setback after their respective 2002 (Charmbracelet) and 2003 (Love & Life) albums were viewed as a disappointment by critics and multiplied any previous success with their incredible 2005 albums (The Emancipation of Mimi, The Breakthrough).
As with comeback albums from Carey and Blige, Brandy is seeing a comparable reaction from industry tastemakers for her impending new album B7.
Nearly eight years after releasing Two Eleven, the seasoned vocalist’s legendary name is buzzing louder than ever across the mainstream spectrum, noticeably after sharing the official lead single “Baby Mama” featuring Chance the Rapper.
“I wanted to celebrate how I feel about my daughter and how I feel about my motherhood. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be a mother,” Brandy told Rated R&B about “Baby Mama.”
The special song isn’t Brandy’s first effort to introduce B7. Initially, “Love Again” featuring Daniel Caesar, her chart best on Adult R&B Airplay, was serviced as the album’s first single. “Freedom Rings,” a bluesy emancipation, drew attention to the 25th anniversary of her self-titled album in September 2019. But the Hit-Boy-produced track is the proper leap forward to her much-anticipated album. It’s Brandy’s most ambitious shift in focus for a song release since 2012, when she released “Put It Down” featuring Chris Brown.
Largely instrumental in the sonic direction of B7, DJ Camper mentioned on Instagram last May that he and Brandy had selected the first single. They had changed their minds, though. This news arrived almost five months after the Grammy-winning musician revealed that the full-length record had “one more beat and song to go.”
Now couldn’t be a better time for Brandy’s B7 album. On an impressive press run for the anticipated LP, the revered superstar is on the right track for an R&B success story. “Baby Mama” is performing considerably well on urban adult contemporary radio, landing Brandy her tenth top 10 entry on the Adult R&B Airplay chart in late June.
A week shy of its July 31 release date, Brandy teases B7 with the surprise debut of “Rather Be,” a supernatural vocal peak of the Full Moon era. As time goes on for this new album era, there could be a lot more in store for the Vocal Bible. Expect these career landmarks and positive affirmations to reveal themselves for Brandy and her B7 album.
The Return of the Single
Artists have grown infatuated dropping songs every other New Music Friday, ultimately hoping one will cause a profitable shift in sales or garner interest in an album.
For Brandy, she hasn’t reverted to those marketing strategies to promote B7. Yes, she put out “Love Again” last year as a tester for the album, but she didn’t shift its focus or shelve its success by issuing another single. For the most part, the positive outcomes that blossomed from her work with Daniel Caesar came from the sheer fact that her audience merely missed her voice.
When the time came to announce B7‘s official single, Brandy did it without much hesitation in her rollout. Even ahead of the official radio impact for “Baby Mama,” Brandy hit the ground running to push it to its greatest potential, which showed in its early success on urban adult contemporary radio. It also helped that she released its official music video, and delivered a stellar debut performance on ABC’s Good Morning America shortly thereafter.
Even as the days grow shorter for B7, Brandy hasn’t lost sight of the single. She continues to breathe new life into the track in each of her promotional interviews. She doesn’t give away much of the album, keeping the energy solely on “Baby Mama.” Hopefully, the momentum for the first single persists well after the album’s coming-out party.
The Newfound R&B Commercial Success
It seems like only yesterday that Brandy reconvened in the top 10 on the Billboard Adult R&B Airplay chart after 20 years last July with the Daniel Caesar-assisted duet “Love Again.” The harmonious collaboration later resulted in Brandy’s first Adult R&B number one hit.
“Baby Mama” is vying to match or exceed the incredible success of its predecessor. In June, the Chance the Rapper-assisted jam broke into the top 10 on the aforementioned chart, tallying her tenth top 10 single. In fact, it’s Brandy’s second lead single of her career to invade the top 10 on this particular chart, as “I Wanna Be Down,” off her self-titled debut album, reached No. 5.
While the Hit-Boy-helmed record could mark Brandy’s second straight number one on the Adult R&B Airplay chart, she is also in the race elsewhere for another pole position.
B7 seems on course to become her first-ever number one album on the Billboard 200. The closest Brandy’s name has gotten to the top spot on the popular albums chart was in 1998 and 2002 for Never Say Never and Full Moon. Both albums debuted at No. 2, respectively.
The Fight for More Meaningful Music
When Brandy’s B7 arrives, it will not only sound like Brandy but feel like her too. That’s because she co-wrote all but one track, something that the credits on her previous albums don’t reflect. “I never really had written a lot of the songs in my career,” Brandy said to Rated R&B. “I think that every artist gets to the point where they want to find their own way to express themselves. For me, this is my first time really expressing myself from my own perspective.”
Brandy, now an independent artist, hinted that she wanted to take a more hands-on approach after a May 2018 interview, where she felt her music wasn’t able to reach the wider audience because she was “singing the wrong songs.”
At this point in her prosperous career, Brandy doesn’t have to settle for songs that don’t align with the message she wants to convey. She no longer has to strategically obtain guest features to secure adequate radio support or to be relevant.
According to Brandy, B7 is complete with songs that belong on the album. That checks an important box for an artist like the living legend herself, who arguably makes some of her best music when she isn’t chasing the hype and creates her own path.
Between 2018 and 2019, the Grammy winner worked with a small group of fresh and familiar studio collaborators — DJ Camper, Victoria Monét, Hit-Boy, Prince Charlez and the late LaShawn Daniels — who knows her past yet are interested in contributing to the future of Brandy.
The Songbook of Brandy Reigns Supreme
Many albums by our favorite artists subtly channel singular sounds and include core elements that were already adored by fans. Brandy knows that every album holds a special place in her fans’ hearts.
Looking at previous records that preceded B7, Brandy described in one interview in June that her new album will interconnect Full Moon, as well as 1998’s Never Say Never. Her B-Rocka scholars can already attest to how she and her studio associates focused on the innovative and experimental motifs of the highly regarded former album on the suspense builder “Rather Be.”
The new album will serve as a dedication of sorts to her day-one fans. Boasting a three-part interlude on B7, Brandy refers to an identical track form that turned up on her eponymous debut.
At first blush, Brandy’s powerful message of motherhood with Chance the Rapper is another collaboration. If you look a little closer, it’s reminiscent of her lead for 2012’s Two Eleven “Put It Down.” In contrast, the former expunges the negative connotation associated with the cultural term, while the latter addresses the idealization that chivalry can still exist. Still, the two singles bear a mature form of lyricism that adds growth and sophistication to Brandy’s discography.
Moreover, Brandy returns further to the basics with the well-established typeface from her first three albums (Brandy, Never Say Never, Full Moon). In perspective, she is not only hailing her truest form but potentially intending to mutually reclaim the nostalgic vision and influential glory of those massive records.
Brandy Could Regain the Recording Academy’s Attention
After this year’s nomination for Best R&B Performance (“Love Again”), Brandy has voting members of the Recording Academy in the palm of her hand.
Absent from the nomination pool since 2005, when Afrodisiac snared a nod for Best Contemporary R&B Album, the consideration for the 2020 Grammy determined that the Recording Academy was finally ready to award artists on the merit of true talent and not name recognition.
In years past, three out of Brandy’s already-released six albums were contenders in album categories in the R&B field, including Best Contemporary R&B Album and Best R&B Album. The former category, which is now called Best Progressive R&B Album, could see B7 dropped in the 2021 ballot box.
Although it’s too early to predict if B7 will be in the running for the newest R&B album category, or on the roll call for the coveted Album of the Year title, she’s an underdog that rightfully deserves to be blinded by cameras flashing on music’s biggest night like her fellow soul sisters Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
B7 is out on July 31 via Brand Nu Entertainment/Entertainment One.