Your name is Brandy...
You're a superstar singer with a four-million-selling debut.
You've won an American Music Award, many Soul Train
Awards, including the Lady of Soul "Entertainer of the Year"
Award, several NAACP Image Awards, several new artist
awards, multiple Grammy nominations, and six consecutive
Top Ten singles, including two platinum hits, "Baby" and
"Sittin' Up In My Room," and two gold hits, "I Wanna Be
Down" and "Brokenhearted."
You've worked with industry heavyweights like Babyface,
Lenny Kravitz, and 14-time Grammy winner David Foster.
What do you wanna do next?
Well believe it or not the answer to that easy question was,
for a while, "Not sing." Not sing? Yep, not sing.
Why? Had the acting bug that bit the beautiful, charismatic
singer damaged her vocal chords? Was it the packed
schedule that included Moesha, her hilarious and touching
number-one-rated show on the UPN network? Or her dazzling
turn as Cinderella in the top-rated ABC-TV motion picture, in
which she held her own against a superstar cast that
included her idol, Whitney Houston? Was it rehearsals for
another showstopping tour or preparations for her upcoming
featured role in I Still Know, the sequel to last year's
teen-scream hit, I Know What You Did Last Summer?
Nope... none of the above.
Brandy didn't want to sing for a very simple reason, a reason
that proves why she's the dynamic yet down-to-earth
vocalist that stars are made of: She just didn't feel it. And if
she didn't feel it, she couldn't sing it. Artists talk all the time
about "keeping it real. " Brandy was ready to do just that.
She refused to take the easy way out; she owed her fans
something real, something heartfelt, something different.
"If I can't feel it, then I won't sing it," says the 19-year-old
singer, with a firm shake of her braids and a smile that shows
that she means business. "And many of the songs I heard
were not "me." They didn't express what I wanted to say at
this point in my career. And I critiqued myself. I'm not the
little girl I was when I made my first record. My voice is a
stronger instrument now, my vocals come from both my heart
and my diaphragm. My heart, because I've matured in the
four years since the last album, I'm more emotionally there.
The diaphragm because I've been practicing, doing more
scales with my father, just strengthening my sound."
Once she heard songs that expressed her own point of view
and met up with producers like R&B hitmeister Rodney Jerkins
and David Foster, who she says, "Brought out the desire in
me, the vocals I didn't know I had" Brandy, the little singer
who went from a small town choir girl in Mississippi to a
worldwide star who regularly sees her name in lights, knew
she was on the right track.
And she'll never say never again. "NEVER SAY NEVER ," the
follow-up to "BRANDY," 1994's smash debut, sounds like a
woman taking control of her art and her life with a melodic
force unparalleled in contemporary pop R&B. From the sassy
opener, "The Boy is Mine," a duet with Monica (which Brandy
co-wrote and co-produced), to the slinky stylish funk of the
title track, to the joyous, percussive groove of "You Make Me
Happy, " "NEVER SAY NEVER " is a document from the soul
of a young woman on the move, figuring out the winding
roads of romance, the sure-footed initial steps to
independence, the exhilaration and freedom of her own
Perhaps the most-telling track is a sure-fire hit called "Top Of
The World" which features hiphop star MASE in which Brandy
manages to both address her critics who say she "thinks
she's too good" as well as conquer her own youthful
insecurities about life as she makes her way in the world.
Over a slamming persuasive beat and a funky scratch guitar,
she sings, "Just tryin" to be me, doin" what I gotta do/Just
tryin" to be me, provin' what I gotta prove/Some people think
that I'm just sittin' on top of the world."
Because, for Brandy, sittin' on top of the world is not what
it's all about. Each project she's taken on throughout her
career has been a challenge hard work and sacrifice that
makes the beautiful moments worth it all.
"I don't think the producers really believed in me on
Cinderella, " she says, about her early days on the set. "I
thought maybe they cast me because of my name or because
Whitney Houston wanted me in the part. I felt like I had to
prove myself. There were dance rehearsals and music
rehearsals, but on top of all that, I rehearsed by myself every
day, an hour on every song. And you know what? By the time
we got to the studio to record the score, they were shocked.
I wasn't just the girl Whitney hand-picked. I was a real
But this kind of fortitude is what drives Brandy. "I didn't think
my record company believed in me at first. I didn't think the
people on Moesha believed in me. I feel like my whole career
has been a proving ground. But that's what I like. It makes
things interesting, makes me work harder on my projects."
* * * * *
Your name is Brandy...
You're the star of Cinderella, a television event watched by
more than 60 million people, giving ABC-TV its biggest #1
ratings win in over 10 years as well as home video sales of
over 1 million copies. Your hit TV show draws four million
viewers a week, receiving nominations from the NAACP. You
swept the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards on your first trip as
a nominee and have won 35 citations from other award
groups. You've started your own TV production company
based on a concept you pitched to Tristar Pictures, adding to
your growing respect within the film and television industries.
You're a role model for people everywhere, and you've
started the Norwood Kids Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to serving young people.
What haven't you gotten that you'd like to add to your list of
"I don't really want to answer that," says Brandy, "Because
then I'd feel unappreciative. I haven't thought about that,
because I feel like I have everything I've ever dreamed of. If
I stopped today, I would look back, know that I've earned a
lot and know that my dreams have come true. But I can tell
you what I've learned.
"I can only make music that I care about. I can't listen to the
people who say I'm too-good-too-be-true. I'm just gonna be
myself. Brandy," she adds with a laugh. "I'm not going to
lower my standards, I'll continue to surround myself with
beautiful, positive people. It's hard being nineteen sometimes
in this business, because I'm more of an adult than a
teenager, I have to stay focused. But I'm not boastful. I'm
going to stay low, keep moving, and believe in God. As long
as people can relate to my music, to what I'm saying and feel
the groove, then I'll know it was all worth it."
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