Afrodisiac is Brandy's fourth studio album.
It was released on Atlantic Records on June 28, 2004.
Album Conception & ProductionEdit
Following the birth of her daughter Sy'rai in June of 2002, Brandy soon entered recording studios to begin work on her then-untitled fourth album with producer Mike City and companion Robert "Big Bert" Smith.
As Brandy envisioned the longplayer to sound "much rawer" and more "street" than her 2002 album "Full Moon," Robert quckily emerged as the album's executive producer and A&R, replacing longtime contributor and mentor Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, who Brandy felt was not going in the same direction creatively after all.
About parting ways with Rodney Jerkins (whose Darkchild team took production credits on her last two albums), Brandy commented that
"Darkchild created a sound with me and gave it to everybody. I didn't like that [...] I needed to change my sound and I wanted to explore my versatility, my creativity and my art."
They eventually finished a number of demo recordings and at least four full songs until late November of 2002, including "Ryde or Die" and "Sunshine" (which was inspired by Sy'rai).
Although Robert expected the album to drop by the spring 2003 at one time or another, Brandy and Big Bert ended their relationship in mid-2003 which resulted in the album's delay and several personnel changes.
Brandy eventually decided to scrap most of the project & enlisted Timbaland (with who they previously worked on singer Kiley Dean's unreleased album "Simple Girl") as the main contributor on the album.
Impressed by Timbaland's input, Brandy rediscovered the musical affection that she had missed on the "Full Moon" album and its technical priority.
According to Brandy aout collaborating with him:
"I made the change because I needed to evolve. I needed to explore my talent and versatility and see if I had another side to me, another sound," she said about collaborating.
I wanted to do my own thing, and I've always wanted to work with Timbaland [...] and see how my voice would sound over his tracks. It was an edgier Brandy, a sassier sound, but still with a lot of heart and a lot of passion."
With the help of Timbaland's protégés such as Candice Nelson, Steve "Static" Garrett and co-producer Walter Millsap III, Brandy and Timbaland worked on what was tentatively titled "B-Rocka" (which was aa nickname actually given to her by Rodney Jerkins) and was originally planned for a release in Christmas of 2003.
Their first collaboration, a song called "Turn It Up" was leaked onto the internet in the autumn of 2003 and it was soon released as a promotional buzz track.
Having concluded additional recording sessions with Warryn Campbell, Theron Feemster and Organized Nois in November of 2003, Atlantic Records announced that Brandy was putting the finishing touches on her still-untitled album.
At the time, the album was scheduled for a release on March 2, 2004 and Brandy would shoot a music video for the "hyper, bass-heavy" banger "Black Pepper" song during the second week of December.
However, plans for the single fell through as the song was scrapped in favor of the song "Talk About Our Love" produced by rapper Kanye West.
The single & album cut "Where You Wanna Be" were eleventh-hour additions to the album that were commissioned by Kanye's manager Geroid Roberson (who was one of the executive producers on "Afrodisiac") who encouraged Brandy to attempt further studio sessions with Kanye.
According to Brandy about her decision to work with Kanye:
"Kanye put the finishing touches on the record. The two tracks we did were just what I needed to tie the whole thing together."
As with Brandy's previous albums, the prime focus on the album is about "relationship with love and life in general. It's about passion. It's romantic and that's where I am right now," Brandy had noted during the promotional touring in 2004.
Also at the time, she was engaged to New York Knicks basketball player Quentin Richardson.
"I'm not trying to be edgy, sassy, romantic, vulnerable or whatever emotions come across. I really am all that."
The album contains several references to Timbaland and longtime partner Missy Elliott and alludes to fellow 1990s R&B singers such as Aaliyah and Monica.
The album's opening track "Who I Am" discusses her rocky relationship with Robert Smith as well as the progression of her public image while "I Tried" was heavily inspired by English rock band Coldplay (which also incorporating lyrics of their 2000 song "Sparks").
The tenth track "Turn It Up" is an homage to the early 1990s with references to Donnie Simpson's "Video Soul," Kid n' Play & their 1990 film House Party and Tony! Toni! Toné!'s 1996 studio album "House of Music."
The line "Cause I don't wanna sound familiar, want a guaranteed single, not an album filler" levels indirect criticism at former main producer Rodney Jerkins.
On the ending track "Should I Go" (which samples Coldplay's song "Clocks"), Brandy openly talks about contemplating stepping away from the music business, admitting that she's trying to figure out where she fits in today.
Although Brandy received a sole writing credit on album cut "Finally" only, she noted "Afrodisiac" as the most honest effort of her career yet based on its deeply autobiographical content, commenting:
"Everything I do has something to do with what I've gone through in my life [and] I definitely wanted to incorporate that in my art. It makes it more real when you add what's been going on in your life in your music. I've grown and I've gone through some things in my life, and I celebrate that, I honor that."
Soundwise, Brandy's collaboration with Timbaland, recent motherhood, life experiences and growing affinity toward alternative music (such as Coldplay) caused her to shift toward a more matured outlook and raw nature with the album, a venture into the organic sounds of soul blues, ambient music, and the nostalgic street-wise sound of 1990’s hip-hop.
The promotion for "Afrodisiac" first began with a massive media event in Montego Bay, Jamaica where the album was previewed to a hand-picked list of journalists at a press launch held in the Royal Pavilion of the Half Moon Hotel.
On May 23, 2004, the promotional touring for the album began with a series of major national television appearances that were highlighted with performances on:
- "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on July 13, 2004
- CBS' "The Late Late Show" and "On Air With Ryan Seacrest" on July 14, 2004
- NBC's "Today" show as part of their outdoor Toyota Concert Series on July 16, 2004
- ABC's "The View" on July 19, 2004.
Outside the United States, she made appearances on "Top of the Pops" and "Anke Late Night" where she performed a rendition of Whitney Houston's song "One Moment in Time" in the form of a coffee commercial.
Additionally, Brandy was seen in a host of special programming airing on music television networks BET, MTV, VH1 and Fuse.
The album's arrival in stores was celebrated with an appearance as a presenter on the 2004 BET Awards which was preceded by a special live performance on 106 & Park.
On July 1, 2004, Brandy headed to New York for appearances on MTV's "TRL" and Fuse's "Daily Download."
In addition, tracks from the album were streamed over one million times via MTV.com's "The Leak" in the week preceding the album's release.
Online, Brandy was introduced as the LAUNCHcast Artist of the Month for July 2004.
The promotion included exclusive interviews and performances as well as contests to win live video chats with her.
The "Talk About Our Love" online campaign kicked off with an AOL "First Listen" premiere.
Brandy was AOL's "Artist of the Month" for June of 2004. Her "Sessions@AOL" performance debuted on the service in July of 2004.
- Who I Am (3:35) (written by Warryn Campbell & Joi Campbell; produced by Baby Dubb & Brandy)
- Afrodisiac (3:47) (written by Kenisha Pratt, Kenneth Pratt, Isaac Phillip & Timothy Mosley; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Who Is She 2 U (4:43) (written by Walter Millsap III, Candice Nelson, Timothy Mosley, Leon Ware & Jacqueline Hilliard; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Talk About Our Love (feat. Kanye West) (3:34) (written by Kanye West, Harold Lilly, Carlos Wilson, Louis Wilson, Ricardo A. Wilson & Claude Cave II; produced by Kanye West & Brandy)
- I Tried (4:45) (written by Millsap Nelson, Timothy Mosley, Will Champion, Steve Harris, Chris Martin, Guy Berryman & Johnny Buckman; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Where You Wanna Be (feat. T.I.) (3:32) (written by Kanye West & Harold Lilly; produced by Kanye West & Brandy)
- Focus (4:07) (written by Walter Millsap III, Candice Nelson, Isaac Phillip & Timothy Mosley; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Sadiddy (4:00) (written by Kenisha Pratt, Kenneth Pratt, Isaac Phillip & Timothy Mosley; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Turn It Up (4:13) (written by Walter Millsap, Candice Nelson & Timothy Mosley; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Necessary (3:59) (written by Rico Wade, Patrick Brown, Ray Murray & Cee-Lo Green; produced by Organized Noise & Brandy)
- Say You Will (3:50) (written by Theron Feemster; produced by Ron "Neff-U" Feemster, Big Chuck & Brandy)
- Come As You Are (3:44) (written by Steve Garrett & Timothy Mosley; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- Finally (3:53) (written by Walter Millsap, Candice Nelson, Timothy Mosley, Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steven Stern & Don Harper; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
- How I Feel (4:41) (written by Walter Millsap, Candice Nelson & Erick Walls; produced by Walter Millsap & Brandy)
- Should I Go (4:56) (written by Walter Millsap, Candice Nelson, Timothy Mosley, Guy Berryman, Johnny Buckman, Will Champion & Chris Martin; produced by Timbaland & Brandy)
Limited Edition Reissue Bonus Tracks
- Sirens (3:59) (written by Garrett & Timothy Mosley; produced by Walter Millsap & Brandy)
- Like It Was Yesterday (3:53) (written by Michael Flowers; produced by Mike City)
- Nodding Off (4:10) (written by Walter Millsap, Candice Nelson & Timothy Mosley; produced by Walter Millsap & Brandy)
- "Who Is She 2 U" contains a sample of Jacqueline Hilliard's 1968 song "Instant Love"
- "Talk About Our Love" contains a sample of Mandrill's song "Gilly Hines" from their 1978 album "New Worlds"
- "I Tried" contains a sample of Iron Maiden's 1998 song "The Clansman" and Coldplay's 2000 song "Sparks"
- "Where You Wanna Be" contains a sample of Janis Ian's 1974 song "Jesse"
- "Finally" contains a sample of "Rock House Jail" from the soundtrack to the 1996 film "The Rock"
- "Should I Go" contains a sample of Coldplay's 2002 song "Clocks"
- "Nodding Off" contains a sample of Sunny Deol & Amrita Singh's 1983 song "Ek Din Jab Hum Jawaan Hongay"
"Afrodisiac" debuted at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 (behind rapper Lloyd Banks' debut solo album "The Hunger for Me" and R&B singer Usher's "Confessions" album) and at number four on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling more than 131,700 copies in its first week.
Even though sales soon declined and the album fell short off the upper half of the Billboard 200 in its eighth week, it was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for more than 500,000 copies shipped to stores, including 417,000 sold copies.
On international music markets, the album failed to reach the top thirty on the majority of the charts it appeared on except China, Japan and Switzerland where it managed to debut within the top ten and number twenty-six, respectively.
In the United Kingdom, the album was awarded a silver certification by the British Phonographic Industry on September 24, 2004 based on a sales total of 60,000 copies.
"Afrodisiac" became her most well received album to date, averaging a 73 out of a 100 among averaged reviews on Metacritic (which uses a normalized rating system).
Andy Kellman of Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and praised it as "Brandy's fourth consecutive durable showing, [...] stocked with a number of spectacular — and emotionally resonant — singles that wind up making for her most accomplished set yet."
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an "A-" rating, calling it "Brandy's meatiest album to date" and ranked it sixth on his personal year-end top ten list.
He found special approval for Timbaland "who produced most of the disc, turns up the bass, the volume, and the tension whenever he can, bolstering her less-than-commanding, down-pillow-soft voice."
Rolling Stone writer James Hunter (like both Kellman and Browne) compared the album to "Janet Jackson at her best: She's a pop star, but she's making the most of her big studio budgets and is following her muse."
He described the set as "mainstream soul with eccentric details and shadings" and gave the album four stars out of five.
Vibe writer Laura Checkoway gave the album 3.5 out of 5 stars and noted it as "a far cry from the pleasing pubescent fluff of her formative years" and although she felt that "Brandy's sultry alto drowns on some songs," she acknowledged that "while Brandy's musical liaison with Timbaland is what some people might call a match made in heaven, it's her crazy, sexy, cool revival that's the true bliss of this fourth coming."
Steve Jones from USA Today gave the album a three out of four stars rating, and commented:
"Timbaland provides her with plenty of funk-infused beats to groove to [and] while a few of the tracks are a bit pedestrian, Brandy is still seductive more often that not."
Ben Sisario, who wrote for Blender and gave the album three out of five stars, summed the album as "an episode of her growing-pains TV show Moesha: This week, our honey-voiced heroine sheds her girlishness, sexing up to become 'a woman, a passionate woman", referring to its lyrical makeover.
He called non-Timbaland productions like "Talk About Our Love" and "Say You Will" the highlights of the album.
In 2012, amid the released of Brandy's sixth album "Two Eleven," Noah Berlatsky of The Atlantic called the album "the best album of Brandy's career and one of the greatest R&B albums of the last 25 years."
- Background vocals – Jo Ann Campbell, Steve "Static" Garrett, Tim Mosley, Kenisha Pratt, Kenneth Pratt
- Bass guitar – Shorty B., Keenan "Kee Note" Holloway, Thaddeus T. Tribbett
- Conduction – Bruce Fowler, Nick Glennie-Smith, Larry Gold, Don Harper, DeMonica Plummer
- Guitar – Mike Hartnett, Glenn S. Jeffrey, Eric Walls
- Keyboards – Parris Bowens, Ervin Pope, Dave Robbins
- Percussion – George "Spanky" McCurdy
- Violin – Miri Ben-Ari
- A&R – Kyambo Joshua & Geroid Roberson
- Executive producers – Kyambo Joshua, Craig Kallman, Brandy Norwood, Gee Roberson
- Engineering – Bruce Buechner, Sean Davis, Jimmy Douglass, Blake English, Jun Ishizeki, Cha Cha Jones, Eugene Toale
- Engineering assistants – Demacio Castellon, Ricky Chao, Jermeal Hicks, Halsey Quemere
- Mixing – Jimmy Douglass, Dave Lopez, Manny Marroquin, Peter Mokran, Tim Mosley
- Mastering – Brian Gardner, Chris Gehringer
- Vocal production – Brandy Norwood, Kenny Hicks
- Art direction – Liz Barrett
- Design – Julian Peploe
- Photography – Roger Ericson
"Afrodisiac" was named the fourth best album of 2004 by Slant Magazine.
The publication's editor Sal Cinquemani called it "a devastating yet confident break-up album [and] extraordinarily personal, often heart-wrenching R&B record."
David Browne from Entertainment Weekly ranked the album sixth on his "Best of 2004 Music" top ten list and remarked that:
"Brandy remains the queen of the R&B murmur but the producers, especially the ever-inventive Timbaland, compensate with dramatic, rumbly, off-kilter beats and tones that add gravitas to this rueful ex-teen star. Everything — the rhythms, the mopey songs, Brandy's delivery — simmers, but ferociously."
The album finished eighth on Nekesa Mumbi Moody's 10 best albums list for Associated Press.
She wrote that the album "was surely [Brandy's] best. From the tell-all, autobiographical themes to the hypnotic beats, this album captures your attention from the first note and refuses to be ignored."
Alex Macpherson and David Drake from Stylus Magazine ranked it 12th and 16th on their individual list of the "Top 40 Albums of 2004" respectively.
Rolling Stone listed the album within their "Top 50 Records of 2004" list and dubbed it "not only her best but also the year's outstanding R&B disc."
In 2010, the album was named the 115th best album of the 2000s decade by Slant Magazine.
For the album, Brandy earned her fourth consecutive Grammy Award nomination for "Best Contemporary R&B Album" at the 47th Grammy Awards.
At the 2005 Soul Train Music Awards, "Afrodisiac" was nominated for "Best R&B/Soul Album, Female" but lost to Alicia Keys' 2004 album "The Diary of Alicia Keys."
"Talk About Our Love" received a "Best Collaboration" nod at the 2004 MOBO Awards. Its accompanying music video was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award for "Best R&B Video" at the 2004 award ceremony.
Serving as an inspiration for other artists, Barbadian singer Rihanna revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that her 2007 multi-platinum album "Good Girl Gone Bad" was primarily influenced by Afrodisiac.
In the interview she stated:
"Brandy's album really helped to inspire, because that album I listen to all day, all night when I was in the studio [...] I really admired that every song was a great song."
Rock musician John Frusciante (who was former guitarist of legendary rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers) mentioned that Brandy and the album were the “main inspiration” behind the guitar work on the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s 2006 Grammy winning album "Stadium Arcadium."
In 2008, singer Beyoncé Knowles selected album cut "Focus" for her personal music playlist on iTunes.
R&B singer Nivea interpolated the song "I Tried" on her 2010 single "Love Hurts."