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Human

Human is Brandy's fifth studio album. It is also her first album on Epic Records.

The album was released on December 5, 2008.

Album BackgroundEdit

In June of 2004, Brandy Norwood released her fourth studio album "Afrodisiac" amidst the well-publicized termination of her short-lived business relationship with record executive and entertainment manager Benny Medina.

She ended her contract with his Los Angeles-based Handprint Entertainment after less than a year of representation following controversies surrounding Medina's handling of the lead single "Talk About Our Love" and failed negotiations of a purported co-headlining tour with fellow R&B singer Usher

Despite the negative publicity, Afrodisiac emerged as Norwood's most critically acclaimed album by then, but became a moderate seller on most music markets.

The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but while it went on to sell more than 416,000 copies in the United States, it generally failed to chart or sell noticeably elsewhere.

The Kanye West-produced "Talk About Our Love" reached number six on the UK Singles Chart, but later singles such as "Afrodisiac" and "Who Is She 2 U" failed to score successfully on the popular music charts and promotion for the album soon ended.

At the end of 2004, after eleven years with the company, Brandy asked for and received an unconditional release from her original label Atlantic Records. By the time her contract expired, several of Brandy's longtime patrons (such as music producer Darryl Williams & industry executive Sylvia Rhone) had left the company and she felt mismanaged by her new team of which she found was "looking more towards the hip-hop artists" on the label and "didn’t know what to do with [her]."

Completing her contract with Atlantic Records, a compilation album "The Best of Brandy" (which compiles her first four studio albums with the company) was released in March 2005.

Thereupon, Brandy reportedly started shopping for a new record deal under Knockout Entertainment, her brother's Ray J's vanity label which would co-venture her subsequent releases (including her fifth album) which she started recording independently.

Album RecordingEdit

Brandy began recording the album in 2005. Breaking away from her usual formula (which saw her setting up projects with former main producers such as Keith Crouch, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and Timbaland), she entered the studio with several songwriters and producers to record new music, including Louis Winding and Frederik Tao from Danish production team Maximum Risk. The duo produced several songs for Brandy (including both "Honey" and "Sweet Nothings") all of which were penned by frequent collaborator Kenisha Pratt.

Over the following months, Brandy's continued recording contract-free with a vast of producers such as Rockwilder and production duo Tim & Bob who finished several demos with her. Her new management also arranged further recording sessions with fellow client Bryan Michael Cox and his production partners Adonis Shropshire and WyldCard at the Track Record Studios in North Hollywood.

Supposed to produce her whole album at the time, they worked on a number of ballads and midtempo songs reminiscent of their other productions, including a song called "Cry."

In June of 2006, Cox announced that he would serve as the album's executive producer, but direction changes resulting from additional sessions left his songs unused.

In December 2006, Brandy was involved in a fatal automobile accident on Los Angeles' San Diego (405) Freeway which claimed the life of the 38-year-old driver of a Toyota that was struck by her Range Rover. Brandy was neither arrested nor charged with vehicular manslaughter due to insufficient evidence. Nevertheless, multiple lawsuits were filed against Brandy (all of which were ultimately settled out of court by her civil attorney).

Posing an extraordinary hardship for Brandy and her family, she stepped down from her role as a judge on the second season of the amateur talent contest "America's Got Talent" and went into hiatus.

Expanding on dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy, Brandy explained:

"I just wanted people to know that this wasn't news. It's not something that should be talked about like it's gossip. You don't like me? Fine. But don't use this situation to try to hurt me, because the guilt of being involved is enough. It's something that I'll never truly, truly get over."

While the accident put a halt on the album's production, Brandy soon resumed recording which she found to be therapeutical, stating:

"I had to face it and find the strength to move forward. Connecting back with music has definitely helped me through everything. Once I got back in the studio, the butterflies went away."

With most of the album being revamped, other musicians joined the project, including Midi Mafia, RedOne, Toby Gad, Frank Ocean, and Brian Kennedy (the latter of which was consulted to replace Cox as the album's executive producer). Together, they crafted a bunch of new songs, including "Freedom", "One Thing" and "Today" which Norwood later described as sounding "more true to the sound" that she had initially envisioned for the album, however, in early 2008, her A&R manager, Brandon Creed, presented Norwood several demo tracks that were produced by Rodney Jerkins, including "Right Here (Departed)."

Brandy's former main producer on previous albums such as "Never Say Never" and "Full Moon," Jerkins hadn't worked with her since 2002 due to conflicting schedules & a disagreement on her decision to work with Timbaland on Afrodisiac in 2003. Again, the album was reconstructed (with Jerkins taking over executive duties).

On her decision to collaborate with Jerkins, Brandy commented:

"With Rodney being the person who produced [the first single], I, of course, wanted to go from there because of our history and all the music we have made in the past. It felt like the right thing to do [...] I wanted to see where that chemistry would take us creatively this time round."

With Jerkins on board, providing the bulk of "Human," the sound of the album shifted drastically with Brandy and her team abandoning most R&B records in favour of his international pop sounds.

In April of 2008, Brandy inked a new record deal with Epic Records and intended to finish the album by September of the same year. Although the record company announced the US release of the album for November 11th, a call by Timbaland, who requested Norwood to record additional music with him and protegés J-Roc and James Fauntleroy, caused another month-long delay of "Human."

His tracks did however also not make the final cut on the album track listing as he was unable to contribute trademark backing vocals to his songs.

In addition to Timbaland, Brandy worked with producers Rico Love, Blac Elvis, Rob Knox, The Clutch & songwriters Chasity Nwagbara, Kara DioGuardi and Greg Curtis on the album although their songs remain yet unreleased on any format. Further studio collaborations with Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, Missy Elliott, Yung Berg & and Tonex failed to materialize due to scheduling conflicts.

Album ContentEdit

Introduced by the words of Brandy's description of a human being on "Human Intro," the album opens with the Jerkins-crafted "The Definition" (one of the few uptempo recordings on the album). Penned by Atlanta writer Crystal Johnson, the song depicts Brandy rhapsodizing about love.

It received generally mixed reviews, with The Boston Globe emphasizing it the most essential track on "Human."

The track "Warm It Up (With Love)" (another Darkchild production) was created around a piano sample and released to strong positive reactions. It was highlighted by AllMusic and Slant Magazine. Newsday writer Glenn Gamboa noted it as "guiding principle" on the album.

The lead single "Right Here (Departed)" was not recorded until late into the production of Human and the first song Brandy recorded with Jerkins following their musical reunification in early June 2008.

Written by The Writing Camp and recorded with therapeutical background, the track chronicles a woman's talks about mutual support with loved ones. It reached number-one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, number 22 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and the top ten of the French Singles Chart, becoming Brandy's biggest chart success in years.

The fifth track "Piano Man" was recorded as an ode to the kind of creative relationship cultivated by a vocalist and his or her producer or DJ. Brandy collaborated with several singers on the record. Natasha Bedingfield (left) co-wrote and recorded vocals for "Fall" while Esthero (right) penned the album's title track.

The track "Long Distance" (a ballad about the difficulties of a long-distance relationship) was released to positive reactions by critics, with The New York Times calling it an "hymnlike single that distantly echoes Janet Jackson’s "Again."

The eighth track "Camouflage," one out of two songs on the album that were penned by songwriter Claude Kelly, garnered strong reviews in general, with Newsday declaring it a "worthy cousin to Beyoncé's 'Irreplaceable' that [is] more about esteem-raising and self-improvement than a search for a sassy put-down."

The track "Torn Down" (a joint production by Midi Mafia and Dapo Torimiro) was one of the few prominent "Human" features on the setlist of Brandy's promotional 2009 concert tour Human World Tour.

Incorporating elements of country music, critics noted it a "resolute, crisp mix of static synths, acoustic guitar, and hand claps." Brandy wrote the album's title track with help from producer Toby Gad and Canadian singer Esthero. A "silky R&B anthem" (as described by Newsday), the adult contemporary ballad deals with forgiveness.

The track "Shattered Heart" is a downbeat song that incorporates elements of Middle Eastern music and changes its tempo after three minutes. It has been described as the only "Timbo-esque" record on the album.

The album's twelfth track, a piano-driven ballad entitled "True," was contributed by RedOne and Claude Kelly and initially written for Michael Jackson. The song was re-arranged and partially re-written to fit Norwood's persona. It was released to positive reviews by critics, who noted it one of the stronger tracks on the album.

The track "A Capella (Something's Missing)" (produced by Soundz) is a near-a cappella song on which Brandy provides "a polyphonic cyberchorus" with multiple tracks of her own voice. Humming the bassline and providing the rhythm, the instrumentation on the track consists of a sole electric guitar.

Hand-clap-laden uptempo recording "1st & Love," the album's fourteenth track, depicts a woman's euphoria with a new-found love at first sight and was discussed as the third single at times.

The final track "Fall," another piano ballad, was co-written by label mate Natasha Bedingfield. As reported, Brandy and Natasha were forced to delay their first joint recording session from Atlanta, Georgia to Los Angeles, California as Chris Brown and his entourage crashed into the studio where they blasted Brown's songs and horsed around.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Human (Intro) (0:19)
  2. The Definition (3:43) (written by Rodney Jerkins & Crystal Johnson; produced by Rodney Jerkins & LaShawn Daniels)
  3. Warm It Up (With Love) (4:03) (written by Rodney Jerkins, Marvin "Tony" Hemmings & Jordan Omley; produced by Rodney Jerkins & Jordan Omley)
  4. Right Here (Departed) (written by Rodney Jerkins, E. Kidd Bogart, David Quinones, Victoria Horn & Erika Nuri; produced by Rodney Jerkins & LaShawn Daniels)
  5. Piano Man (3:59) (written by Rodney Jerkins, Marvin Hemmings & Jordan Omley; produced by Rodney Jerkins & Jordan Omley)
  6. [[Long Distance] (Interlude) (0:59)
  7. Long Distance (3:51) (written by Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Rodney Jerkins & Jeff Bhasker; produced by Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence & James Fauntleroy)
  8. Camouflage (4:04) (written by Rodney Jerkins & Claude Kelly; produced by Rodney Jerkins, D'Mile & LaShawn Daniels)
  9. Torn Down (3:53) (written & produced by Kevin Risto, Waynne Nugent, Dapo Torimiro & James Fauntelroy)
  10. Human (3:53) (written by Brandy Norwood, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins & Jenny-Bea Englishman; produced by Toby Gad & Brandy Norwood)
  11. Shattered Heart (3:53) (written by Rodney Jerkins, Crystal Johnson & LaShawn Daniels; produced by Rodney Jerkins & LaShawn Daniels)
  12. True (3:47) (written by Nadir Khayat & Claude Kelly; produced by RedOne)
  13. A Cappella (Something's Missing) (3:34) (written by Kenneth Charles, Coby Chad, C. Roper, LeChe D. Martin & Tiyon Mack)
  14. 1st & Love (3:20) (written by Chauncey Hollis, Rich King, Christopher Breaux & Jesse Woodard; produced by Hit-Boy & Chase N. Cashe)
  15. Fall (4:21) (written by Brian Seals, Brandy Norwood, Natasha Bedingfield & LaShawn Daniels; produced by Brian Kennedy & LaShawn Daniels)

Japanese Limited Edition Album Bonus Tracks

  1. Gonna Find My Love (3:27) (written by Brandy Norwood, Toby Gad & Lindy Robbins; produced by Toby Gad)
  2. Locket (Locked in Love) (3:46) (written by Christopher Breaux, Rich King & Brian Seals; produced by Brian Kennedy)
  3. Right Here (Departed) (Remix feat. Sean Kingston) (3:43)
  4. Right Here (Departed) (Moto Blanco Radio Edit version) (3:32)
  5. Right Here (Departed) (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Club Mix version) (10:53)

United States Bonus Album Track

  1. Gonna Find My Love (3:27) (written by Brandy Norwood, Toby Gad & Lindy Robbins; produced by Toby Gad)

United States iTunes Deluxe Edition Bonus Album Tracks

  1. Gonna Find My Love (3:27) (written by Brandy Norwood, Toby Gad & Lindy Robbins; produced by Toby Gad)
  2. Locket (Locked in Love) (3:46) (written by Christopher Breaux, Rich King & Brian Seals; produced by Brian Kennedy)
  3. Right Here (Departed) (Mad Decent Right Mad Mix version) (4:34)
  4. Long Distance (a cappella version) (3:48)
  5. Right Here (Departed) (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Club Mix version) (10:53)
  6. Right Here (Departed) (Music Video) (3:43)

Walmart Bonus Album Tracks

  1. Long Distance (Mad Decent Right Remix version) (4:56)
  2. Right Here (Departed) (Moto Blanco Radio Edit version) (3:32)

Album PromotionEdit

In a press statement from August 15, 2008, Brandy revealed the title of the album as well as the name of several new songs.

Named after its title track (which she co-wrote), she stated:

"It’s called Human because that’s what I am and at the end of the day we all are only human. The album speaks for itself."

Further elaborating on the title, the statement uttered that the title was "a real life mirror of Brandy as a woman, an artist, a musician and a performer, communicating what it means to be fully Human: strong yet vulnerable, candid and triumphant, in love with life and in touch with the things of the spirit."

During a promotional tour in support of the album, Brandy stopped by BET’s 106 & Park to perform a five-piece mini-concert that featured the first two singles from the album in addition to "What About Us?," "Full Moon" and "Almost Doesn't Count."

In addition, she launched the worldwide release of the album on "Good Morning America" with an interview and a performance of "Right Here (Departed)."

Throughout December, Brandy appeared on other television shows such as "The Tyra Banks Show" and CW11′s "Morning Show."

In support of the album, she was also featured on a November cover of American weekly magazine "Jet."

Commercial PerformanceEdit

The week after its domestic release, "Human" debuted at number five on the US Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart & at number fifteen on the official Billboard 200 chart (with moderately successful first week sales of 73,000 copies) about half as much as her previous album "Afrodisiac."

As it failed to climb any higher, the album became Norwood's second-lowest charting effort in the US behind her self-titled debut album (1994) which had reached the number 20 position fourteen years prior.

In addition, it reached number six on the Billboard Top Digital Albums chart. Altogether, the album sold 214,000 copies in the United States.

While the lead single "Right Here (Departed)" became Brandy's highest-charting single success in years throughout Europe, the album widely underperformed overseas, failing to enter most national music charts.

However, it reached the top fifty of the Belgian Albums Chart & made it to the top 200 of the French Albums Chart.

Promotion on the album ended soon after its December release and Brandy subsequently started work on a second album with Epic Records.

Amongst those to record with her were songwriting and production partners Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Stargate, Ne-Yo and Brian Kennedy.

Expressing her dissatisfaction with the album's chart performance, Brandy told Blues & Soul magazine she was "a little disappointed about that," but added:

"At the same time, I’m also pleased that Sony has given me another chance to do another project that I feel they’re totally behind. In hindsight I do feel the last album was a little political. So a lotta changes have been made since Human – and hopefully they’re changes for the better! Because, having got all the deep stuff off my chest, I’m now able to really tap into the fun part of music again [...] it’s exactly the type of album that I need to be makiing right now!"

In mid-2009, Epic ended their contract with Brandy following the appointment of Amanda Ghost, making "Human" her only album with the label.

A Los Angeles Times article later revealed Brandy's discontent with the success of the project the following year when asked about the commercial failure of the album:

"It was lacking my belief in it. It lacked my vision. Pretty much bottom line, if you don’t believe in something it’s not going to go. So do I believe that Human was as creative as Never Say Never and Full Moon? No, I do not. You definitely want to put something out that’s like that. I felt at the same time I could have had much better songs and a much better set-up."

A statement Brandy made during a 2010 interview with Out magazine turned out more harsh:

"To hell with that album! [...] Where I felt creatively it could’ve gone and the space I was in creatively, I needed everybody around me to be in that same space. It would’ve been a different album, but with the same inspiration and same blessing for other people. It would’ve been hotter music and a hotter look."

Blaming herself for the album’s commercial results, Brandy dismissed the album as "too pop."

The debut season of her 2010 VH1 reality series "Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business" further revealed that the album's underperformance resulted into another argument between her and executive producer Rodney Jerkins, whose commitment to the project Brandy felt not as "creative and forthcoming" as on previous albums and that he purposefully did not put his best work in the album.

Rodney had distanced himself from the project following its official release, declaring his dissatisfaction with the involvement of other producers on the album.

Critical ReceptionEdit

While "Human" became Brandy's first effort not to be nominated for a Grammy Award in any category, it received generally favorable reviews from music critics, averaging a 67 out of a 100 among averaged reviews on Metacritic.

Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe complimented the album as appropriately rich and varied:

"It's better than good enough. It's a light, breezy listen that shows off Brandy's resilience, humility, joy, and vibrancy."

She especially highlighted Jerkins' input on the album:

"Jerkins manages to bring out the expressive best in her pleasantly raspy vocalizing."

The Guardian writer Alex Macpherson noted Human "a thoughtful, intimate work on which Norwood sings movingly about fragility and fear," giving it four and a half stars out of five.

Andy Kellman of AllMusic called the album Brandy's "most platitudinal" and "least enjoyable release in her catalog," adding:

"Brandy is clearly in a comfort zone that enables her to open up more than ever [...] Human is nothing if not a serious album. But it could very well be her most useful one."

He gave the album three and half stars out of five.

Billboard magazine said that "while Human is missing the sassy Brandy we know and love from such tracks like 'I Wanna Be Down' and 'Talk About Our Love,' we can still appreciate the much-needed solace of setting personal turmoil to memorable music."

Jon Dolan (writing for Blender) gave the album three out of five stars and commended Brandy's decision to re-team with Jerkins:

"Now she’s gone back to girlie hip-hop Eden; four songs were written by Jerkins, author of her best late-’90s hits. Fluttery jams about long distance longing and time-suspending slow dances are balanced by grown-up moments of deeply felt, if slightly weird, balladic fortitude."

Jon Pareles from The New York Times felt that the sentiments of the songs, whether self-affirming or heartbroken, were back to generic ones:

"Song titles like 'Torn Down' and 'Shattered Heart' show how much Brandy is trying to get serious, taking on an adult world where happily ever after is elusive. But she still comes across as a fledgling, a personality still being formed, eagerly tagging along after her role models."

In his review for Entertainment Weekly, Henry Goldblatt noted "the huskiness that defined Brandy's prior work has been replaced by wispier and higher tones. The result is pleasant but far less ambitious than her last CD, 2004's Afrodisiac."

Mikael Wood's review for Los Angeles Times was less emphatic. He gave the album one and a half stars out of four, and said:

"Unfortunately, it's also hard to make it through the thing. Brandy's strong suit has never been her thoughtfulness; appropriately for someone with her Hollywood history, she's long been one of R&B's emptiest vessels, a gorgeous voice used by a series of gifted producers to communicate their own unique ideas."

PersonnelEdit

  • Jim Sitterly — violin
  • Daniel Groover — guitar
  • Toby Gad — guitar, bass
  • Brandy Norwood — lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Jens Gad — drums
  • Alice Lord — viola
  • Martin Bylund — violin
  • Adam Messinger — piano, keyboards
  • RedOne — backing vocals, piano, instruments
  • Tania Maxwell Clements — backing vocals
  • Rodney Jerkins — backing vocals, musician
  • Kee — backing vocals
  • Dapo Torimiro — guitar, keyboards, programming
  • Brandy Norwood — executive producer, vocal producer and arranger
  • Rodney Jerkins — producer, executive producer, arranger, conductor
  • Brian Gardner — mastering
  • Mike Donaldson — engineer
  • Paul Foley — engineer
  • LaShawn Daniels — vocal producer
  • Red One — programming, producer, arranger, editing
  • Dapo Torimiro — producer
  • Bruce Waynne — producer
  • Fusako Chubachi — art direction
  • John D. Norten — engineer
  • Andy Gwynn — engineer
  • Rich King — vocal producer, arranger
  • Toby Gad — arranger, programming, producer, vocal producer, recording
  • James Fauntleroy — vocal producer
  • Greg Ogan — engineer, vocal recording
  • Claude Kelly — vocal arrangements
  • Mattias Bylund — string arrangement
  • Soundz — producer
  • Brian Kennedy — producer
  • Brandon Creed — executive producer
  • Hit-Boy — producer
  • Jordan Omley — vocal producer
  • Chase N. Cashe — producer
  • Bruno Mars — producer
  • Chris Plata — producer
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