Since making her Atlantic debut a decade ago when she was all of 15 years old, Brandy has been the consummate modern artist, a charismatic and multi-talented performer whose gifts span the creative spectrum. Now, with her eagerly anticipated new album, "Afrodisiac," the Grammy Award-winning star has put the focus back on her true passion -- music. Her fourth full-length release -- and first new music since 2002's "Full Moon," it is unquestionably the most accomplished, passionate, and personal collection of her multi-platinum career. Highlighted by such tracks such as the pulsating "Who Is She 2 U?" and the mesmerizing first single, "Talk About Our Love," the album finds Brandy working at the highest level of her considerable abilities -- opening her heart and soul to the world...and creating brilliant, evocative music in the process.
"This is a very special record for me," Brandy says. "I've been through a lot of stuff over the last few years, and it's definitely helped me and my creative process to share my life in my music, and to share it in a way that I never have before. The lyrics are straightforward and heartfelt, expressing how I feel and confronting things I've actually experienced. There's so much passion, so much happiness, so much pain -- every emotion is on this album."
Brandy went into the "Afrodisiac" sessions determined to express her inner spirit in ways she'd never before attempted on record.
Her autobiographical efforts were supported by master producer/beatmaker Timbaland, who served as the singer's main collaborator on the record. "Timbaland really brought the fire to this album," she says. "The music actually tells a story in itself, even without my vocals on it, so I let myself be driven by it. To be able to put a melody on a track that already had a life, that just blew me away. It's great, passionate music. Timbaland turned on all his creative juices -- I think this is definitely some of his best work."
With Timbaland steering the sonic grooves, Brandy was able to reach down into herself to find a new depth of soul and sensuality. She pushed her vocal talents to the limit, resulting in a record that is flush with a striking emotional vibrancy and in-the-moment reality.
"I do things with my voice that I've never done before," she says. "Every song, every lyric, is acted out through the tone of my voice. It's not just about sounding good, it's about singing so people can really relate and hear exactly what you're saying and feel exactly where you're coming from.
"With the last album, the focus was very much on the technical," she continues. "It was about how it sounded. So I wanted to go into this album with a more honest approach. Even if there are some flaws, if you have the passion, then that's all that matters. You can hit that perfect note, but if you don't have the feeling, people won't understand it."
Throughout the sessions, Brandy found herself delving into her own personal experiences, using her introspective ruminations to bring vivid color to her performances. As the album's intro track insists, "Afrodisiac" is incontrovertibly "About Brandy."
"To confront the things I've gone through can be very difficult," she says. "But I've been able to do that on this album, to let everything go and just push it behind that mic. My experiences were reflected on my other records, but it was like they were coded. On this new album, you hear it. You hear the struggle. You hear the frustration. You hear the happiness. You hear my yearning to be in love. Whereas before, people would say, 'Oh, she can sing,' or 'This is a good record,' but you couldn't really hear me. You didn't hear the passion. You hear it now, because I'm connected to it."
Among the album's many highlights is "Cool (Thought I'd Be)," which is inspired by the British rock band Coldplay. The track incorporates lyrics from the group's "Sparks" (found on their debut album, "Parachutes") as well as a sample extracted from an altogether different British combo, Iron Maiden. Raw and provocative, the track is among Brandy's favorite songs on the record.
"Again, you can hear the experience," she says. "It's about me listening to the Coldplay record at home, by myself, reflecting on what's happened to me and my relationship." Brandy's affection for Coldplay can also be heard on "Should I Go," which includes elements of the band's classic, "Clocks."
Elsewhere on the record, fans of classic funk will recognize the progressive funk-fusion pioneers Mandrill, on the album's first single, "Talk About Our Love." The track sees Brandy collaborating with hip-hop sensation Kanye West, whom she hails for bringing "that old-school flavor to the record."
"I think 'Talk About Our Love' is so special," Brandy says. "It's about something everybody can relate to, how when you're in love, and you're trying to make something work, you have all your people -- your mom, your dad, your cousin, your auntie, your homie -- all in your business."
In addition, West co-wrote and produced the tender "Where U Wanna Be," which features a special guest rap from acclaimed MC and Atlantic labelmate T.I. A number of other studio wizards lend their production talents to "Afrodisiac," including longtime Timbaland collaborator Walter Millsap III (who also co-wrote a number of the album's songs), Atlanta's world-renowned Organized Noize Productions (known for their work with a variety of superstars, including TLC, OutKast, and Ludacris), and Ron "Nephew" Feemster (who's worked with the likes of Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Jay-Z) & Big Chuck (Jay-Z).
While she gives major credit to all her collaborators, Brandy views West's contributions as being especially invaluable to wrapping up the overall album. "Kanye put the finishing touches on the record," she says. "The two tracks we did were just what I needed to tie the whole thing together."
For Brandy, "Afrodisiac" marks a major milestone on her remarkable artistic journey. Having spent much of her career as a bona fide multimedia superstar, and still only 25, Brandy is overjoyed to finally be able to fully devote herself to the longest-lasting love of her life.
"When I was younger, I never dreamt about being an actress," she says. "I always wanted to be a singer. My music is my passion; that's where my heart is. I feel that, in the past, everything distracted me from that and kept me from getting out there and touring and really looking my fans straight in the eye. I couldn't do that because I was always too busy. Now that I don't have any of that going on, I'm going to get out there and show my fans that they're the ones who have helped me get to where I want to be. Right now, I don't want to do anything else but music.
--- from the official Brandy website