Never Say Never (Atlantic Records)
By: Sylvia White
Well, it has been about five years since we have heard anything from this young lady but I guess she has been rather busy with her television show to hit the recording studio. This, her sophomore project, is reaping awards already. From her prior contribution she received more props than I can remember any artist receiving just from one release. Though it took her awhile, many fans are glad to hear something new from her. Her latest release "Never Say Never" is a recording that has faired well on the R&B charts, even garnered her a number one record.
On "Never Say Never", we see and hear Brandy with stronger vocals than her prior album, as well as, slightly improved production. Her time away from the music field has not caused her to fall flat in any manner. She has matured and I think that is her most prominent message throughout the album. There is no longer child's play, at least that is what she would have us believe.
On her lead off track, "Angel In Disguise" Brandy gets a bit of vocal help from the likes of R&B crooner, Joe. A fast paced track that leaves the listener with a jar of the hips and a need to get on the dance floor."The Boy Is Mine" is a duet with her sometimes reported rival, Monica, that has placed Brandy on the top. It is a song that is to the point of overplay in many areas. A good tune though the female battling to see who's man he really is, can leave the listener declaring that indeed, it isn't Brandy! "Learn The Hard Way" is a somewhat droning tune that doesn't show Brandy at her vocal best. She is far too subtle here. "Almost Doesn't Count" is a nice tune that let's Brandy use her whispering purr to display a mood of soulful harmony. A very nice, almost mellow tune. On "Top Of The World" she gets help from her hip hop crony, Mase, who lends a smooth rap to her already smooth baseline. In this song, an admission that what you see isn't always as it is, by the R&B diva in training, has been a rather radio friendly anthem. "Don't Know Me (Like U Used To) is one of my favorites off the album. I love the intense baseline that drops and picks up ever so often. This is a catchy track, that is a sure party winner. Very nice production. "Never Say Never", the title track off the album is weak in terms of title tracks. She leaves me wanting something more from her delivery and it's production. "Truthfully" is a very nice ballad that has a slow drag appeal that I adore. Another favorite that displays Brandy's pouty harmonization and her airy charm. "Have You Ever", my definite favorite, is one of those sweeping Diane Warren tunes that leaves your heartstrings tugged, tucked and pulled. I adore this song greatly and it may prove to be a radio winner as well. Brandy at her vocal sweetest with such tender lyrics. A true compliment to her talents. "Put That On Everything", another mid-tempo track that has a certain maturity to it's production quality as well as Brandy's delivery.
On the track entitled, "Happy", Brandy gives us a little sass and more of that breathy appeal. An up-tempo dance groove. "One Voice", a nice ballad, with chorus effects. Another sweeping tune that puts Brandy in an almost declarative nature this time around. "Tomorrow", a ballad that almost echoes, again we hear her with more mature riffs and vocal interchanges. The orchestration is beautiful. "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", is a remake of the Bryan Adams classic that is well done but still unnecessary.
The album overall, receives a strong 4 from me. There is production strength here and more mature vocals but still, the kid lingers in her lyrics and at times, even her emotive talents. There is soul, but she lacks the ability to display the blues portion of the titled R&B. She is still not to the level of being an well-rounded diva. With more time and more practice, Brandy is certain to make an even stronger musical mark on the world. Overall, a good sophomore contribution.