Album review: Brandy - Human

Album review: Brandy - HumanAfter a 6 year hiatus, hitting the tabloids about her fake ass marriage, her brothers' sex tape hitting the Internet and being involved in a motoring incident which took a woman's life; Brandy is back with only her fifth studio album. You'd think this would make for her dreariest album yet, but it's not. If anything it's her most optimistic and most stripped down album yet.

Human lays Brandy bare. Not only sonically, but lyrically with songs about falling in love, falling out of love, loss, imperfections and things which means the most to you. It's definitely her most introspective album yet which is evident from the word go with the 'call out for worldwide love' song "Warm it up (with love)" . The song is absolutely stunning! My favourite track on the album hands down. Every time I listen to it I get shivers, and when the bridge takes off and the bass line and additional synths kick in, I just get lost in the song completely. A beautiful song which I don't think I'll ever get bored of. I love everything about it. The music is beautiful and Brandy's vocals are flawless: providing the melody as well as a musical backdrop. The low note she hits on the "Everybody locks that door" line gets re-wound each time. I cannot say enough good things about this song. I love it to pieces. Brandy and Rodney Jerkins were definitely on their A-game on this song. Beautiful lyrics, beautiful vocal performance and beautiful arrangements.

Whilst Brandy doesn't re-invent the wheel with any of the sounds she dabbles in on this album, she does work styles she hasn't before. "Piano man" is 3 minutes and 52 seconds of hood knocking crack. Rodney Jerkins did not mess around with the production. He came correct with the songwriting, the synths, the drums, the bass line, the piano - everything! The "'Do you have a request book handy, I could flick though?' 'I do'. He said: 'My name is Rodney, good to meet you!'" line was a nice touch. Brandy always showed some form of love and admiration for Rodney and his craft in interludes on her Never say never and Full moon album, but on this occasion she did it in song which was really nice. Clubs need to be jumping on this song, because dudes would step the hell out of this shit and girls would wind and work it like their lives depend on it. Epic records need to make this single number three. Brandy get props for switching up her style on this song and also dropping a hood-tastic track without any auto tune. I honestly was expecting it to kick in at some point. "Camouflage" is a beautiful anthemic song with a country like twang to it; giving the song a Tracy Chapman-esque vibe about it. The message of the song is one which can resonate with everyone, and Brandy's heart felt vocals and Rodney Jerkins stellar production make this a winner every which way. "Human" is a beautiful song. Brandy's vocals sound stunning and she hits notes and does things vocally that she's never done before. Toby Gad did a great job with the production and it's a wonderfully uplifting song, fitting for Brandy given her ordeals over the past couple of years.

"A capella (Something's missing)" is Brandy showing off why she is the illest in the game when it comes to vocal arrangements. As the song states, it's performed acapella with minimal instrumentation. The most shocking thing is that Brandy is actually holding back on this song. Those of you who have heard Afrodisiac's "Should I go" and "Finally" know that Brandy can go MUCH harder with the harmonies. Still, this is a great song that makes me smile every time I listen to it. "1st and love" is a nice song. There aren't that many changes between the un-mastered version and the final album version, but it does sound tighter and Brandy throws in some additional vocals. "Fall" is the song that everybody loved when it first leaked and whilst it's still a great song, I'm torn as to if the album version is better overall. The music itself sounds much more complete and Brandy's backing vocals are tighter. But her lead vocals don't sound as raw as they did on the leaked version. There were many riffs and notes she hit on the leaked that she ducks out of on the final version, and as a result she sounds more sedate. I prefer the musical arrangements of the album version, but the leaked version gets my vote purely because Brandy sounded better on it. As a cool touch, Brandy drops the chorus to "Camouflage" acapella at the end and her vocals sound so rich unplugged that it makes you wish she'd done a whole song this way and do more live gigs.

Not all of the songs are hits on the target though. "Shattered heart" feels odd and it's difficult to catch the melody and bounce because it's so off-kilter. It also feels like Rodney Jerkins was trying to mimic Nelly Furtado's "Say my name" a little too much. Those who had heard the leaked song "After the flood" will notice the similarities between the songs. The sounds used, the chord changes and some of the drums are exactly the same. But I personally feel "After the flood" was a better song. "True" also feels under produced and Brandy's vocals are shaky on a couple of occasions. The song isn't terrible, but it's skippable. This could've been that big ballad for Brandy, but after a beautifully arranged bridge section the song doesn't take off like it should. With some re-arrangements this could be a great song. But as it is, it just feels lacklustre, as though not enough was done with it. Album opener "The definition" borders on awful. The song sounds outdated and wasn't the best way to kick off the album. Brandy usually serves up brilliant album openers, but she fell off on this occasion. The song should' have been left off of the album, with "Warm it up (with love)" being the album first full length song instead.

Human is a good album, but underwhelming as a whole. Full moon and Afrodisiac were sonically interesting albums because the primary producers took Brandy in a completely different direction and gave her some of their best work in exchange for Brandy giving them her best vocal performances. Human feels much more stripped down and lacking. In all honesty if some of the songs on Human were given to any other artist they wouldn't be anything but a drop in the ocean. It's Brandy's confidence and honesty which makes this album shine more than anything. Where-as Full moon had Brandy making that awkward transition from teen star to woman, and Afrodisiac had her coming off as trying to be too hood and sexy, Human has Brandy sounding like a strong, confident woman who gets life that bit better than she did before. She sounds content on this album and not bitter as she did on several songs she did for each of her past albums. Brilliantly, Brandy chose not to conform and hop on bandwagons, which is to be commended in a game where bandwagoning seems to be all the rage. Brandy stays in her whole lane which I respect her for and she should get an award for going a whole album without a man hating song. (I know ladies in R&B seem to find it hard these days).

Human is by no means a bad album. There isn't a flat out rubbish song on it. But I feel Full moon and Afrodisiac were much fulfilling albums after a 4 year wait. Where-as with Human I'm left thinking, "Is this what I waited almost 5 years for!?" and left with conflicted feelings of joy and slight disappointment. Fans will like this album and be content with it because it features decent new material from Brandy. But this album lacks the 'wow' factor to win over new fans who haven't been interested in her up until now.

Brandy's 'Human' scores itself a 7 out of 10
Album highlights:
■ Warm it up (With love) J's fave
■ Right here (Departed)
■ Piano man
■ Long distance
■ Torn down
■ Human
■ True
■ A capella (Something's missing)
■ 1st and love
■ Fall

16 comments:

  1. :( I'm kind of disappointed by your review. Not your review itself, but the grade you gave the album. You're usually pretty spot on when it comes to reviews, so I hope I'm not disappointed.

    Funny thing though, the two reviews I've read about this album before yours actually said "Warm it up (with love)" was the worst song on the album. Funny world isn't it.

    The only ones I've heard are "Piano Man", which is brilliant, and "A capella (Something's missing)", which is absolutely amazing. Also, I did hear the album version of "Fall". The only reason I like it better than the leaked version is because of that ridiculous bridge!

    Good review, and I can't wait to hear it!

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  2. That score is a little low to me too J. If you take Human for what it is it is an amazing album and definitely better than other big releases like Sasha Fierce and 808's. I will be picking up my copy this week!

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  3. Why are you two going on like 7 is a bad score!? 7 is respectable. I was mulling over this review for days because I wasn't sure what to score the album. But in the end I had to go for a 7.

    You seem to be fixated on the score and not what I actually said in the review. I'm a fan of Brandy, just like you two. But I'm not going to just give her album a 9 or a 10 score because of that. As a fan I'm a tad bit dissapointed that this album wasn't better and had more of a lasting impact. But with that said it is a good album, I have bought it and listen to it a heck of a lot. But Brandy could do better and HAS done better.

    Only because I gave Beyoncé's album a 7, it doesn't mean I think her's is on the same level. Human is a better album than I am.. Sasha Fierce by far. But it's not better than Afrodisiac or Full moon, which I would give 8's 9's...possibly even a 10 to. That's what I based the score on. The album as a whole and in comparison to her past efforts. 7 doesn't mean bad. It just means not amazing - and Brandy is more than capable of amazing.

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  4. 7 isn't a bad score, I guess I just expected more. But I've found out that you usually grade things tougher than I do, so I might like it more than you, lol. Just from the samples I've heard, and few songs I mentioned, I'm sure I'll love this album.

    I'm really anxious to listen to "Warm it up (with love" since you're blowing it up so much! :)

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  5. But that was the problem J, you gushed about the album only calling out minor flaws then BAM 7 the same thing you gave the totally flawed 808's and Heartbreak. I did enjoy the review though don't get me wrong I think that you did a great job on it.

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  6. Ya'll know I had to say something here...lool héhéhé...

    Well Im HUGE brandy fan(as some u know allready know), I’ve been following her since the begining…

    So I can say that this album is a very decent one, very mature, Lyrics absolutely fantastic BUT NOT HER BEST ONE..SORRY!!! It’s very samy samy...Yes they are. Some of you that like ‘piano man’ practicaly like ‘Fall’ also, Well its just because Its SAME MELODY…YOU CAN ACTUALLY SING ‘FALL’ OVER ‘PIANO MAN’. YES, I tried it and IT WORKED!

    The only tracks that I like(beside ‘1st and love’ and ‘Fall’) is ‘Warm it up’, ‘Torn it down’, ‘Acapella (Something is missing)’, just because they are different, thats it! The other ones are good (dont get me wrong) but Before this album we had a LOT of Unreleased Brandy tracks that are 10000 times BETTER then some of these songs here: ‘After the flood’, ‘Throw it all away’, ‘Porcelin Doll’, ‘Gonna find my love’(HOTNESS by the way), ‘Honey’, ‘Feel so good’, ‘Doesnt really matter’, ‘What have you done for me’, ’sweet nothings’, ‘Follow me’, ‘The list’, ‘Maximum risk’, Hell even ‘Drum life’ is HOTTER then some songs in HUMAN…

    The album is decent But ‘Fool moon’ is BY FAR better(HER BEST so far IMO)so is ’Afrodisiac’

    I will still support her album by buying it, of course!

    Very GOOD review Mister J. you keep it real (and that's what I like about you)

    Some sentences from U raises my admiration for your blog :
    ""A capella (Something's missing)" is Brandy showing off why she is the illest in the game when it comes to vocal arrangements. As the song states, it's perfomed acapella with minimal instrumentation. The most shocking thing is that Brandy is actually holding back on this song. Those of you who have heard Afrodisiac's "Should I go" and "Finally" know that Brandy can go MUCH harder with the harmonies"
    Just WOW man, I can REALLY READ MY MIND :-D

    "Human is by no means a bad album. There isn't a flat out rubbish song on it. But I felt Full moon

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  7. sentences like:
    "Human is by no means a bad album. There isn't a flat out rubbish song on it. But I felt Full moon and Afrodisiac were fulfilling albums after a 4 year wait. Where-as with Human I'm left thinking, "Is this what I waited almost 5 years for!?" and left with confilicted feelings of joy and slight dissapointment."

    I COULDNT AGREE MORE

    Im a big fan of yours, for real.

    keep up the good work

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  8. You were spot on with "Warm it up (with love"...that song is a masterpiece!!! "Camouflage" is awesome, as is "Human". I actually don't think "Shattered Heart" is that bad, I like it. I kinda love "True" because Brandy's voice on the chorus is so incredible.

    My least favorites are "The Definition" and "Torn Down". "Torn Down" just doesn't do anything for me, but while I don't think "The Definition" is as bad you described, I do agree that Brandy sounds off at parts.

    And I can't say enough about the new bridge in "Fall". It completes an already awesome song! Brandy does sound less raw, and sometimes muted, in the new version, but I still LOVE this song.

    I love every song except those two I mentioned, and I still need to give this thing multiple listens, but I couldn't have listened to this album at a better time, because Brandy's voice relieves my stress about school better than anything else could! :)

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  9. Something is Missing and Mr. Piano man are AMAZING. Nothing more to say about those, this is a very solid album, I hope it sells okay because Brandy really came correct on this album.

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  10. @ Anonymous:
    I honestly don't think Human is a great deal worse or better than 808's & heartbreak or I am... Sasha Fierce to be honest. There is something lacking about Human overall and this is what made me give it a 7. It's a solid album, but Brandy can do solid albums in her sleep. She needs to be knocking out AMAZINGLY solid albums. Brandy shouldn't be putting out anything less than amazing in my opinion. I rate her THAT highly and think that much of her talent. We're gonna have to agree to disagree. I think the album is a 7, you think it's worth higher. That's fine! As long as you plan to buy the album, it's all good! ;D Thanks for checking out my reviews and commenting too! I do appreciate it.

    @ Ralph :
    It's good to have ya buddy! :D I'm glad you agree with me, because I know I'm not alone in my feelings concerning this album. I LOVE Brandy. I've defended her against Beyoncé stans (you know vicious they can be!) on many other blogs and forums. But I'm not gonna sit here and give Human a 10 when I think it's a 7. Like you rightly said, many of the unreleased material which leaked over the year are better than what ended up on this album. "Feel so good" and "This must be love" = better than a good couple of the songs on Human.

    @ Junlee:
    "The definition" sounds outdated and that is never a term I've ever associated with a Brandy joint before. I can still listen to it, but it's a weak song. "Shattered heart" gets skipped on a regular. I didn't even rip that song to my computer. That shit can stay on the CD and off the mp3 player. I really don't like it. I can't even listen to it all the way through.

    I really like "Torn down". I didn't jump on it when I heard the leaked version, but the finalized album version won me over for some reason - despite there being little difference between them. It's the one bandwagon-ey song on the album because of the whole "Irreplaceable" type sound. But it's a nice song. I love the lyrics and Brandy's vocals on it, especially on the bridge.

    I've said all I can say about "Warm it up (with love)" really. :)

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  11. I think the thing I like about "Shattered Heart" is it has that "Brandy harmony" sound on it (I don't know what else to call it, you know what I mean), and I like the beat. I think the major problem with the song is how it ends. It's actually kind of annoying.

    I mostly agree with you about "The Definition", and towards the end of the song, Brandy's vocals just sound really off, and quite bad actually. I think it's the bridge part, but I could be mistaken. The only thing I like about the song is the beginning of the chorus with the "I've made the greatest discovery...". That part is actually kind of stuck in my head as I type this. But definitely one of the, if not the, weakest song on the album.

    I don't know what it is about "Torn Down", but I just cannot latch onto it. I've listened to it three times now, and everytime, I'm hit with this feeling of "That's it?" I dunno, maybe it will be a grower.

    And J, the part of "Warm it up (with love)" that you talked about where Brandy hits that really low note is incredible. I didn't even think she could go that low! I would love to hear her perfom this song live.

    A song that's kind of under the radar (compared to some other hot songs at least) is "Human". That song is SO lyrically true, and she sounds incredible!

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  12. Brandy goes low on at least one song one each of her albums. Listen to the song "Finally" on Afrodisiac. Her very last note at the very end of the song goes that low: it was my favourite part of the song because of it.

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  13. She also went really low at the end of "The Definition" but it didn't have near the effect! lol

    I guess I've never paid attention to the very end of "Finally" because I get so enamoured with the chorus. I'll give it a listen.

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  14. Okay... "True" is now my jam! I was leaning the hell out of it last night.

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  15. Yeah, it's one of my favorites. The echo effect on the with me heart line in the chorus is incredible.

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