There is no other young black artist who still engenders as much goodwill despite not having a hit song in nearly a decade as she does. People really want her to succeed again.
And it looks like Brandy wants to get it right this time too.
Of course, all the black music blogs are focusing on that “I really feel like this is my last chance” remark because it naturally leads one to question whether or not that goodwill everyone has for her might run out if the new album disappoints. I get that, though I think it’s not really the right question.
The question this trailer raises is really about whether or not Brandy has a clear sense of what it means to age out of the industry’s target market and how doing so makes her career moving forward a different animal than her career in the 90s – and whether that will inspire her to take a creative leap forward (like she did each time on her middle three albums – Never Say Never, Full Moon and Afrodisiac) or scare her into hiring the latest trendy producers and songwriters to help her get a “hit.”
I don’t think that having aged out of the industry’s target market means that Brandy should record an adult contemporary album, ship her next video to Centric, and hit up the Essence Music Festival.
But I do think that it means Brandy has to have a realistic sense of what “hit” for her actually means. It is very hard to stay on the top of the charts after 15 years in the game. For anyone. Just ask Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. Ups and downs come with the territory when you’re an artist who has real longevity.
I hope Brandy knows that.
This is actually the time to find a way to surprise and delight her core audience and intrigue a younger audience less emotionally attached to her by doing something that is unexpected, something that expands who we know Brandy to be.
I don’t think the way to do that is to sing a bunch of prewritten songs that are submitted to the label by producers. Brandy doesn’t need to sound like Rihanna or Keri Hilson or Ciara. She doesn’t need to be “of the moment.” I don’t think anyone would respond to that at all.
She needs to stay in her lane, find musically daring and innovative producers* to push her, and figure out what a Brandy album sounds like in 2011.
*Given the work that Keith Crouch has done on Rahsaan Patterson’s last two albums, I’d love to see Brandy reunite with him. I’d also love it if she worked with the Mike City and Kanye West again, Just Blaze, Salaam Remi, and young wunderkind Bei Maejor . Though I do think one or two main collaborators would be best, for cohesion.