Brandy

Human

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Human's release marked the longest wait between Brandy albums, if only by a few months, and it's easy to understand why. After Afrodisiac's June 2004 release, Brandy dropped her manager, left Atlantic, broke off an engagement, was a judge on America's Got Talent, got into a car accident that caused the death of a driver, and signed with Epic (possibly in that order). Issued a few months prior to facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the husband of the woman who died in the accident, Human is easily the most platitudinal Brandy album, but it is no less compelling for it, even when blocking out the complicated context of the singer's personal life. Renewing her alliance with Rodney Jerkins, whose production and co-songwriting work dominate the album's first half, Brandy is clearly in a comfort zone that enables her to open up more than ever. This is demonstrated from the beginning, in "The Definition," where she declares a clean slate with trembling resilience. Through most other voices, optimistic "everyone together now" songs like "Warm It Up (With Love)" and soul-searching adult contemporary ballads like "Human" and "Fall" (written with Natasha Bedingfield) would wilt, but there's no denying Brandy's unforced sincerity. Nothing here will get any party started; Human is nothing if not a serious album, not to mention the least enjoyable release in Brandy's catalog. But it could very well be her most useful one.

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