We’ve been waiting on Brandy to show up for a while. No, we’re not talking about the eight-year wait between her last album, Two Eleven, and her latest B7. Somewhere along in her blockbuster career, it seemed like the singer lost herself and what made her special. Whether it was shady industry politics, a shaken confidence or a lack of control over her art (or, more than likely, some combination of it all), her more recent material always felt like she was holding something back. Still, there were always glimmers of the star we first met. Now, with B7, it feels as if Brandy is finally ready to shed the things that were holding her back and step fully into her artistry.
This bolder Brandy is felt throughout the project, with the singer taking on a much more experimental sound than we normally anticipate from her. For the most part, she shirks traditional song structure in favor of more poetic lyrics and grooves that subvert our expectations of what R&B can sound like while also showing off her throaty, rich lower register. Opener “Saving All My Love” is a pretty good example of this, with Brandy letting us into her thoughts (“Sorry for my tardy / Long time / I was broken-hearted / Hearted and guarded”) while DJ Camper wraps her vocal in minimal, abstract production that includes stuttering drums and instrumentation that never seems to repeat itself exactly.
This theme continues throughout the album, which produces more than its fair share of standouts (“Rather Be,” “Borderline,” “No Tomorrow” and “Say Something” are definitely going to get many repeat spins). She takes us through her healing process as she delves into the different aspects of love (both of self and others) while asserting her womanhood fiercely and protectively. Even on the album’s lead single “Baby Mama” (whose chart-friendly sound is the exception and not the rule on the album), she’s proudly embracing her talent (“On the stage I provide like a daddy / and a mama”) and the roles she takes on in her life (“I’m every woman and a baby mama”) all at once.
That being said, there are moments that feel like the ideas could have been developed just a bit further to reach their greatest potential. “High Heels,” her duet with her baby girl Sy’rai, is a cute cut and both ladies sound great together. However, it doesn’t soar like it could due to its lack of a catchy hook and a need for more melody in the production. It also includes a rap from Brandy that, while a sweet sentiment for her daughter, isn’t really needed.
B7 isn’t what you’d expect when you think of a “Brandy” album. That’s a very good thing, though. Brandy allowed herself to explore her craft without the goal of creating a “pop hit” and the album benefits from it greatly. It’s cohesive and perhaps the truest reflection of her artistry we’ve gotten in a while. This isn’t the same ol’ Brandy. She’s new, improved and only getting better with time.