Brandy’s rabid legion of fans have been anticipating this day more than the Mayans had been anticipating the end of the world — the release of her new album Two Eleven. After many years, trials, tribulations, hiatuses, and more, everyone’s favorite singer has returned triumphantly.
Two Eleven is no Full Moon, so let’s just put that aside right now. People want it to be, but it’s not. However, it IS its own well rounded body of work that I’m sure Brandy is proud of. One thing that has never faltered is Ms. Norwood’s vocal skill. Still a fine tuned instrument, it’s on front street once again on her latest solo debut, and fans of that aspect of her as an artist definitely won’t be disappointed.
Brandy’s voice floats flawlessly over the current urban yet fitting soundscapes that her production team and writing partners have crafted for her. Sometimes however, you wish there was a tad bit less contemporary production — yet and still, Brandy’s ability to turn any song into a vocal master class almost makes you forget that you’re listening to a trendy Bangladesh produced song like “Let Me Go” (which is my least favorite).
Aside from the Lykke Li sampling “Let Me Go” however, Brandy wrings every emotion out of every song on this album. One misses the sequencing of the Full Moon era, and towards the end of the album (on the Deluxe edition), the album tapers off into unnecessary additions like “Can You Hear Me Now?” and “What You Need”. Brandy stays in her lane of mid-tempo to slower paced ballads, and it serves her voice and flourish for lush vocals and backgrounds well, even with the obvious urban radio tailored “Put It Down” featuring Chris Brown.
On the cut “Without You”, Brandy’s vocal skill, range and talent for melisma all converge into one STELLAR vocal R&B female performance — one that hasn’t been heard in quite awhile. The The Bizness produced “Wildest Dreams” is far and away one of the best songs on the album, and one which has garnered constant rotation since its initial leak and subsequent release. Word also comes that it is receiving the video treatment as well.
Other standouts are the mid-tempo yet futuristic sexy bounce of “Slower” and the amazingly written “Do You Know What You Have” — either could have come straight from the Full Moon days, honestly.
Well written songs, similar themes throughout, solid vocal performances, and a current yet history honoring sound — Two Eleven recalls Brandy’s halcyon days as America’s pre-eminent vocal and multi-faceted prodigy. I’m glad for her return. This album after multiple listens grows on you, and you will find yourself enjoying being enveloped in Brandy’s timbre and penchant for emoting a song only as she can. One of the best female vocal albums of 2012. A welcome return and addition to the overly produced EDM-flavored R&B and pop that has seemed to rule the charts this year.
Of note and one thing that hasn’t been mentioned — the obvious non-inclusion of the duet Brandy did with Monica, “It All Belongs To Me”. While I didn’t like that song at all, one assumed that it would be on both Monica AND Brandy’s albums, but I guess not…