Brandy - Afrodisiac
Over on this side of the Atlantic, the success of Coldplay is baffling. Not in such a way that their success isn't deserved but that no matter the celebrity girlfriend and their time spent away from the UK, are they really making it or is this another 'the Brits are coming' kind of story that's greeted almost every band from The Beatles to Bros. And then you hear this album and when Brandy and Timbaland credit Coldplay on a couple of songs, notably the namecheck on I Tried and the sampling of Clocks on the album's closing track, Coldplay's success suddenly feels, well, real.
Timbaland was been brought in when Brandy and her manager asked Rodney Jenkins to walk away from the mixing desk and showing that he remains one of R&B and hip-hop's key producers. The sound that Timbaland adopts here is not the clipped electro-beats of his Missy Elliot productions but one that's rich, soulful and closer to Alicia Keys than what might be expected, particular on Kanye West's production of Talk About Our Love, which lifts the sweeping strings from You Don't Know My Name and credits her with a mention in the lyrics.
The mentions of Coldplay and Alicia Keys are but a couple of small notes from within the album but they represent a growing maturity to Brandy's music as she shows how a former child star can mature with grace. This is, therefore, a richly emotional and openly honest album that, in spite of a small number of tracks that have been included to do little more than push the running time towards the hour mark, is a wholly rewarding listen. Whether the Kanye West-produced Talk About Our Love or the Timbaland-produced title track, Where You Wanna Be or Turn It Up this is often an effortlessly easy album to enjoy - as relaxed when sensual as it is when called to be gently falling in love. Moreover, from never really having enjoyed r'n'b, Afrodisiac is an album to finally make it sound as involving as Alicia Keys' remarkable The Diary Of..., showing that despite Timbaland's recent talk of retirement, his work on Afrodisiac sounds as easy as it did when producing Missy Elliot and suggesting that having given the tough, tough beats a break, he brings an outsider's ear to r'n'b.
The final track's debt to Coldplay is surprising in closing an album like this, showing that Afrodisiac is not the cliched set of sparse rhythms and songs about love and seduction that the likes of Usher deliver. Instead, Brandy has released an album that not only has a knowledge of the history of soul but is unafraid to mix r'n'b, raw ballads and British despair onto a single set of fifteen songs. No matter than her previous producer, manager and peers from earlier albums may have doubted the wisdom of her actions prior to Afrodisiac, Brandy has proven that she knew exactly what she was doing.