Brandy has stepped back onto the scene with "Two Eleven", her first studio album since the underwhelming "Human" in 2008. With a new record deal and small army of writers/producers, she set about creating an album self-described as "gritty, edgy, and different."
"Two Eleven" is a fresh R&B affair, atmospheric and infectious. Mid-tempo jams highlight Brandy’s vocals to create an aural experience reminiscent of the late Aaliyah. Interestingly, lead single "Put It Down" doesn’t represent the general experience of the album and lacks the depth of the its best moments. "Wildest Dreams" sets a sexy tone as the album’s opener. It grooves and coasts with a comfortable insistence, never pushing too hard. By time "Slower" rolls around, the album’s swag is firmly established.
Brandy shows a strong degree of confidence by ignoring the current trend of fusing her genre to electronic dance music, a move that’s brought R&B’s reigning king Usher a resurgence of success. While the lyrical quality varies given the preponderance of writers, tracks like "Hardly Breathing" and "Without You" show moments of vulnerability often absent from popular contemporary R&B.
While lacking a certain level of climax, "Two Eleven" never particularly stumbles. By straddling a smooth mid-tempo line, Brandy may leave some fans wishing for a bit more of the promised grit. But there’s something refreshing about an artist embracing an identity without seeking the permission of popular peers. For that, "Two Eleven" may turn out to be a surprise favorite come award season.
Download these tracks: "Wildest Dreams," "Hardly Breathing," "Without You"
CD and Digital formats
Chameleon Records/RCA Records