Brandy

Afrodisiac

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Now over a decade into her music career, Brandy is nothing if not consistent. Afrodisiac nevertheless involves a number of personal and creative changes. Since the making of 2002's Full Moon, she became a mother, split with her husband, picked up new manager Benny "The Actual Fresh Prince" Medina, and swapped out primary producer Rodney Jerkins in favor of Timbaland (not necessarily in that order). And her image has drifted away from the one she cast when she was just starting out; this hasn't transpired without some controversy. It's to be expected, but one still has to wonder what all the fuss is about. First, who doesn't change between the ages of 15 and 25? Second, the development isn't quite as drastic as Janet Jackson's jump from "Escapade" to "Throb," though there's a significant parallel there -- Brandy's provocative pose on the cover of Vibe, which hit stands just before this album, recalls Janet's cupped-breast appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1993. Though the surroundings and circumstances may be new to artist and fans alike, the effectiveness has not suffered for it: Afrodisiac is Brandy's fourth consecutive durable showing, fluffed out with a few innocuous -- if still very listenable -- filler moments, but it is stocked with a number of spectacular -- and emotionally resonant -- singles that wind up making for her most accomplished set yet. To regrettably drag Janet back into this, lead single "Talk About Our Love" is even more exceptional than another recent Kanye West-produced track, Janet's own "I Want You," and is a career highlight for both producer and vocalist. Timbaland provides 60 percent of the tracks; though he has confessed to being worn out by the process of music lately, you wouldn't know it from his inspired work. Whether or not Brandy penned the lyrics, her experiences have clearly engendered a new depth to her songs. Her voice remains a treat to hear, and on a couple tracks she wears a slightly worn scratchiness surprisingly well. Closing track "Should I Go" is about as honest and searching as anyone gets these days, and while it's also noteworthy for allowing Brandy and Timbaland to pay tribute to shared love Coldplay, it's the music industry that's being contemplated, not a romantic relationship. Whatever Brandy decides to do, consider her mark made.

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