NEW ALBUM ALERT: Brandy "B7"
Brandy's voice has aged like fine wine. Eight years since her last album and 26 removed from her debut, the singer—affectionately nicknamed “The Vocal Bible”—still sounds at once fresh and refined on B7. Lyrically, the album traces the map of love from its passionate expressions (“Rather Be”) to gray-area affections (“I Am More”) as well as more interior (“Lucid Dreams”) and exterior (“Baby Mama”) spaces. Vocally, though, it's a master class in riffs and runs, harmony and control. On “Borderline,” her signature wispy tone layers almost as if to form its own kind of element while her voice shifts from shadowy and set back to front and center; “No Tomorrow,” which immediately follows, features a stripped production that allows Brandy to carry the momentum, and carry it she does. When she sings lines like “Can you tell me why you still love me?/And why I feel so deep like back at the altar?/Oh, you're just feeling your way through me/I just wanna touch you so,” it's a brief example of just how she uses her voice as an instrument unto itself. B7 is also about the details: The transition between “Unconditional Oceans” and “Rather Be” is seamless in both sound and mood, while “Say Something” plays with cadence to imbue the track with a certain intensity that sets it apart from the others. “Love Again,” a collaboration with Daniel Caesar, answers for the dearth of old-school-style duets in contemporary R&B with the two engaging in a tender interplay throughout. By the time “Bye Bipolar” arrives to usher the album to a close, it's hard to imagine what's left for the singer to do, and yet she stuns all over again. The ballad is a wrenching kiss-off filtered through a metaphor for how romantic dysfunction can mirror (and cause) mental dysfunction, but it's sung like the gospel, a true benediction.