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By HANNAH ELLIOTT, Robinson High
Grade: **, 2/5 asterisks
Even if you aren’t one to follow R&B and soul, you probably recognize the face of Brandy Norwood.
She has been gracing TV screens as well as the radio waves since the early ’90s. I remember seeing her in a TV movie version of Cinderella and her face stuck. Brandy’s previous five albums built her credit in the music scene with her multidimensional and strong vocals, and they have been credited as inspiration for countless artists such as former Red Hot Chili Pepper’s guitarist John Frusciante and Kanye West. After hit and miss TV shows and an appearance on Dancing With the Stars, Brandy decided to return to the music game with her sixth album, Two Eleven.
I have had minimal R&B exposure over the years, other than a brief obsession with Ciara in the third grade and radio-station surfing in my hometown, Atlanta, the home of R&B. Other than that I have only heard whatever popular radio stations decide to play incessantly, and whatever that happens to be, I have written it off as music that can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be rap or pop.
Two Eleven begins and ends with Intro and Outro, two short instrumentals that act as the bread on either side of a sandwich. A throwback to the interludes on Brandy’s previous albums, to a new listener they just came across as a desperate panic to make the album sound more cohesive. Instead, they were slightly awkward and ruined the flow.
Wildest Dreams immediately sounded like an R&B hook I’ve heard before. As the song progressed I grew fonder, as it layered soft, groovy piano and jazz flute, and Brandy’s raspy alto vocals soothed my ears. Put It Down featuring Chris Brown is a chill yet high-energy song that is an obvious attempt at a more current chart topper. It is an accessible listen, but strays away from the authenticity of the R&B of the rest of the album.
I never gave Brandy much credit, but after listening closely to Two Eleven, I began to appreciate the artistry and skill behind a decent R&B album. It is very easy to listen to, but in a sense that, if you aren’t paying close attention, you may forget you are listening to any music at all.