Album Reviews

Brandy – Afrodisiac

(atlantic) UK release date: 28 June 2004

25-year-old Brandy Rayana Norwood has come some distance since her days better known as Moesha. While her acting talent may be confirmed by the dire quality of spin-off The Parkers, television’s loss has been softened by her ascension in the music world.

It’s been over a year since Never Say Never slipped unnoticed into the public domain, but with Afrodisiac an opportunity has been given to Brandy to make her mark – or fade into insignificance. Opening with Who I Am, a familiar tale of strength through adversity, very much in the Christina Aguilera Fighter mode (minus the trailer park ‘dirrtyness’) there is a strong sense of a female with power evoked.

Afrodisiac’s strong racial connotations in the title shouldn’t be mistaken as anything other than a cry for acceptance as a sex symbol in the Beyonce mould. The pictures in the album’s sleeve add credence to this plea, but gracefully there’s a lot more substance to this through the beautifully sung and equally brilliantly produced song. Thankfully there’s no hint of ‘independent women’ in the song as Brandy takes a rare honest stance: “I admit that I’m a prisoner of your sex appeal”.

As if to take a step back and accept that as an individual Brandy cannot hold her own, Who Is She 2 U overly relies on Timbaland‘s production. Eerily it seems that Timbaland has found someone to fill the void left by Aaliyah. Furthermore Kanye West‘s contribution on the very average Talk About Our Love can be seen in the same way as Ja Rule‘s work with Ashanti .

I Tried rekindles the flailing interest in Afrodisiac, although Timbaland’s trademark production is instantly recognisable Brandy comes into her own with her own distinct vocals. The beat of Focus is again Timbaland through and through, with its heavy bass. However. once more it is the vocals that take centre stage.

Sadiddy is a more powerful song, and the switch to vocal rather than beat heavy emphasis in the production is probably why it is arguably Afrodisiac’s standout track. Add to that the fact Brandy is making up her own words and it is almost creative genius. Then again, it won’t have been too long since you last got tongue-tied and invented a new saying.

Maybe it’s the impact of television or the demands of the British education system that have destroyed my attention span but I find it very difficult to actually listen to the second half of the album. Or then again, that could be because it’s not particularly interesting.

Before getting too disheartened, Timbaland returns in superhero outfit to rescue Afrodisiac on Come As You Are. While all the vocals are blurring into one song Lil’ John And The Eastsidaz style, the beat is enough to stop me going to, well, do something else.

In a final attempt to salvage the latter part of Afrodisiac Brandy turns to unexpected R’n’B beat producers in the form of – wait for it, drum roll please…Coldplay . As odd as that seems, the soothing piano beat from Clocks is lullaby-esque alongside Brandy’s vocals.

For an album that offered so much promise in the opening songs, Afrodisiac wanes away rather disappointingly. That’s not to say it isn’t a ‘nice’ album and that it doesn’t deserve to be purchased. It’s just a little bit dull and in some places slightly repetitive. On balance, the positives on Afrodisiac only just outweigh the negatives.

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More on Brandy
Brandy – Human
Brandy – The Best Of Brandy
Brandy – Afrodisiac