Album Review: Brandy – Two Eleven (2012)
Carl J. Bachus | Collegio Writer
It’s easy to say, without exaggeration, that Brandy Norwood was hot stuff in the ‘90s. She was a multiplatinum-selling recording artist, with hits like “I Wanna Be Down” and “Top of the
World.” She even had her own television sitcom. Unfortunately, her trademark mix of hip-hop and ‘90s teeny-bopper pop wasn’t able to survive the pop and R&B surge of the early 2000s; not to say she didn’t try. After a couple of lukewarm comeback efforts, Norwood returns with her sixth studio effort, “Two Eleven.”
One has to commend Brandy for remaining committed to her own sound and not conforming to the current wave of R&B stars trying to cross over to the dance charts. “Two Eleven” is extremely laidback and shows Norwood maturing lyrically, yet still remaining true to what makes her, well, Brandy. There is a slow-jam appeal to the majority of the album’s tracks, like “No Such Thing As Too Late” and the Frank Ocean-penned “Scared of Beautiful.” The songs conform to a singular thematic sound, serving as a testament to the amount of thought that went into the production.
Although filled mostly with smooth, groove-inducing tracks, “Two Eleven” isn’t without a few radio-ready, up-tempo offerings. The most prevalent of these are “Let Me Go,” a Bangladesh-produced track that eases into its sound-off like a low-key answer to the bravado of Beyonce’s “Countdown,” and the slickly produced “What You Need,” which could easily become this year’s “Motivation.”
If there’s any uncertainty about the LP’s quality, it probably stems from “Put It Down” featuring Chris Brown, the album’s lead single and probably the dullest track on the album. The production of “Two Eleven” is point-focused, probably Brandy’s most one-track-minded effort since 1998’s “Never Say Never.” The heavy use of the drum machine harkens back to Kanye West’s vocally poor, but instrumentally underappreciated “808s & Heartbreak” album while still accentuating the unique raspy tone of Brandy’s voice. With “Two Eleven,” Norwood has finally produced a true-to-form adult-Brandy album, one that successfully showcases her personal, perpetual-‘90s style without her former “Moesha” fatigue.
“Two Eleven” is Brandy’s best album to date, in a technical sense. Even with her limited range, she’s managed to concoct a fluid mix of slow jams and club-ready tracks that showcase her musical maturity, her sense of self and a healthy appreciation for the genre and time period in which she got her break.