Actress and singer Brandy has grown up before our
eyes, going from a sitcom daughter (on Thea and later her own hit
Moesha) to a star on the radio. Her music has always been a savvy
construction of dance beats and soft ballads; enjoyable enough to get you to
sort of overlook the fact that she isn't the strongest singer in the world.
She is a likeable one, and she wears her limitations well.
For example, "Sittin' Up In My Room," which is
included here, was the best song on the soundtrack to the 1995 movie
Waiting To Exhale, even though she was surrounded by more technically
proficient singers like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige,
Toni Braxton and Chaka Khan. However the song has a lovely innocence,
a swaying beat and a sense of life that makes all of the broad showboating
on other songs like "Exhale (Shoop, Shoop)" seem rather phony.
Brandy is like our little sister. We like her
even though she isn't the best, because we know she is working harder.
In the decade that she has been recording she has put out some superlative
singles, like the gorgeous ballad show-down "The Boy Is Mine" with Monica,
the melodic teen pop of "Baby," the sweetly broken-hearted "Have You Ever" and
the eccentric beats of "What About Us?" Also strong is a gorgeous duet
"Brokenhearted" with Boyz II Men member Wanya Morris. There are two
mixes of "I Wanna Be Down," though the original mix has aged much better
than the remix done with Queen Latifah, YoYo and M.C. Lyte.
"U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)," with
Shaunta and Da Brat, is on the other hand, is nearly unlistenable, a
shapeless, funkless blob of beats and sound which could make your ears
bleed upon repeated listens. This song isn't the best of anybody, much
less Brandy, and the fact that it was released as a single is undoubtedly
one of the big reasons why Brandy's last album stiffed.
There are a few quirky extras here, an
odd-but-enjoyable cover of Phil Collins' protest for the homeless "Another
Day In Paradise" was done as a duet with brother Ray-J for a British tribute
album and a cover of Michael Jackson's throw-down "Rock With You" was done
with that song's original producer Quincy Jones and rapper Heavy D (which
came from Jones' Q's Jook Joint album.)
There are a few clunkers here, (again, I can't stress
this strongly enough, program around "U Don't Know Me [Like U Used To]")
but there is a lot more music that it definitely worth revisiting.