'B7' Review: Brandy cements herself as R&B royalty with first album in 8 years and 'Borderline' video
Brandy Norwood has returned with her first album in eight years, simply titled 'B7'. And it is an album of pure R&B goodness that hits all the sweet spots and serves as the perfect reminder to anyone that may have forgotten just what a gifted singer and songwriter Brandy has always been. 'B7' has been a long time coming. The album began production in 2018, but Brandy wanted to ensure the album reflected her own "authentic experiences."
To that end, the singer took her own time with it, something she wasn't allowed to do when she was younger. Her self-titled debut album was a smash hit, but while working on and promoting it she was also filming for 'Moesha' during the week and for 'Cinderella' on the weekends, all while she was still a teen. That, unfortunately, was not the healthiest environment for a young girl on a journey of self-discovery. The pressure to meet all the expectations on her is something she still struggles with, nearly three decades later. But in 'B7', we get a Brandy that is finally allowing herself the space to breathe. Speaking about the album, Brandy shared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: "You can hear my entire heart on this. It took a while because I didn't want to rush."
What has always stood out about Brandy's music was its very strong R&B core. Throughout the years, Brandy keeps her music true to the genre, producing some of the smoothest music that transports you to another dimension. And to top it all off, she blends her stunning musicality and vocals with gorgeous songwriting. In an interview with Apple Music, Brandy stated, "I felt like I wanted to just be as honest as possible with this new project. I wanted to approach this project like if this was my last chance, if this was my last shot at creating music, what would this project be about? What would it sound like? Would I just bare it all? Would I tell my story as deep as I could tell it? And I wanted to, of course, stay true to R&B but at the same time go outside of the box."
With this album, Brandy is making it abundantly clear that she is one of the best vocalists and songwriters in the game. From her whistle notes on tracks like 'All My Life, Pt. 1' to her low notes on tracks like 'No Tomorrow' to her flawless runs all across the release, to her effortless switching between softer breathy vocals and full belts, to lyrics that detail her experiences with "love and heartache and coming into [her] own and finding [her] own self-love," as she shared in her interview with Huffington Post, 'B7' is a masterclass in music production and writing as well as singing.
Musically, the most impressive aspect of this album is its fluidity. Brandy and her team elected to shed structure in favor of feeling, with the singer sharing in an interview with EW, gave them "the room to express our emotions without being confined to an industry standard." As a result, 'B7' feels like an out-of-body experience, with Brandy's whispery vocals being the magic carpet that gently guides you through a journey from pain and loss to self-discovery and love. 'Borderline' is probably one of the best representations of this form of storytelling, and just happens to be one of Brandy's favorites off the record. In an interview with Dee Dowdy from WCCG 104.5 FM, Brandy said of the track, "if another artist were to have that song, were to sing that song, I would wish that song was my song."
But for all its focus on love, 'B7' still holds within it a sense of maturity. Brandy could have certainly never predicted the album would drop amidst a global pandemic and racial tensions, but in addition to that, while the album was being created, Brandy's mentor and one of the producers and writers on the album, LaShawn Daniels passed away. For Brandy, this album then went from a reflection of her personal experiences to also being a form of therapy. Speaking about the experience to The Guardian, the singer shared, "It's a little scary because I had to finish it without him... I just wonder: would he be proud of what I was able to put together?" Listening to the album, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be.
Idolator's Mike Wass, commenting on the stunning cover artwork for 'B7' which has Brandy donning her iconic braids with beads cascading down her face, said it showed the singer was "back and she really means business this time around." If 'B7' is an indication of what more we can expect from Brandy in the coming years, then that sentiment perfectly captures what this album accomplishes: Brandy is and will always be one of the reigning queens of R&B. As she appropriately raps on 'I Am More', "I am here for the world / Been here for the world, king b*tch / Bein' an original since 1994, ask a snitch / Never catch me comin' off of a bench playing the six / Never catch me in a group singin' with some other chicks / I got a lion in my pocket, I'm lying but not lying / I'm a lion in my pocket."