After a lengthy break on the bench, ‘TGJ Replay’ is back!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits. With the ten year mark swiftly approaching since its release, today’s ‘Replay’ goes back to ‘Afrodisiac’ – R&B beauty Brandy‘s 4th studio album:
The declaration that was 2002’s ‘Full Moon’ acted as the official introduction of the “new” Brandy to music lovers. Showcasing a progressive fusion of dark Urban pop and sensual R&B accented by her now signature vocal layering, dark timbre, and delicious melisma, the metamorphosis from teen pop star to mature R&B maven was undoubtedly birthed with ‘Moon’ and its hits ‘What About Us’, ‘He Is’, and more.
Usherin in a series of high notes in the singer’s life, the platinum-selling era also documented another new birth – that of daughter Sy’Rai.
With motherhood and maturity in tow, Brandy thought and sought to bring her evolution to record and began the process of delivering her fourth studio effort. Ousting longtime collaborator Rodney Jerkins as conductor on the production tip due to “creative differences”, Brandy enlisted Timbaland to direct the project and help craft an innovative sound different from her previous offerings – a feat she claimed Jerkins was not performing. What B-Rocka and Timbo would create, possibly unbeknownst to them, would be the modern Urban pop masterpiece christened ‘Afrodisiac’.
By moniker alone, the album signaled what would be the strongest demonstration yet of the R&B veteran’s journey into womanhood. For, in addition to venturing into unfamiliar sonic territory, ‘Afrodisiac’ – with tunes like ‘Should I Go’, ‘I Tried’, and ‘Who I Am’ – tackled themes of sexuality, pride, love, and her personal life in ways none of her previous three efforts dared. Kicked off by the Kanye West-produced ‘Talk About Our Love’…
‘Talk About Our Love’
The song’s accompanying video acted as one of the first visual representations of the direction B-Rocka was headed. Showcasing her transition from sweet and bubbly teen pop princess to dark Urban pop vixen, “Talk” garnered much of just that as fans and critics alike offered their warm greetings. Praising the number for its development of her personal sound as well as its risk to steer away from the ‘Crunk N B’ heat of the day, the song’s acclaim helped hoist it to top 40 rankings where it peaked at #36.
Even with high anticipation to boot, the aforementioned peak would mark what would then be her lowest peaking lead single. The singer took to the promotional trail to remedy and build buzz.
‘Talk About Our Love’ (live)
With features from West, Timbaland, and then up-and-coming rapper T.I., ‘Afrodisiac’ would stand as the singer’s most adventurous album to date. A notable departure in look, sound, and feel, the era was decorated with a number of peeks at the performer like none before. Some of which found themselves lined with controversy, an association unfamiliar to the diva at that time.
Remember that Vibe cover?
Nevertheless, fans were drawn to ‘Afrodisiac’ – a feat evidenced by its #3 debut on Billboard 200. It’s tenure there may have been brief, but it was enough to warrant attention from critics who lauded it her “best work yet” and even drawing comparisons to Janet Jackson‘s famed self-titled album.
‘Who Is She 2 U’
‘Who Is She 2 U’ (live)
As only three singles were lifted from its ever-talented tracklist, the album would soon slide off charts – lost amidst the fray of the Crunk N’ B top-sellers of the day. Eventually going on to claim Gold status, the album would also earn a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album , but lost to her ‘Who Is She 2 U (remix)’ co-star Usher.
“Who I Am”
Dare we say it, ‘Afrodisiac’ still ranks as our favorite Brandy album (with ‘Two Eleven’ following as a close 2nd). Since its release and subsequent commercial performance, the singer has publicly shunned the album and even listed as her least favorite. Citing its direction as being “out of touch” with the sonic trails she wanted to blaze, ‘Afro’ would also mark her last project with longtime label home Atlantic Records.
2004-2007 would prove trying times for B-Rocka, but she has since rebuilt her public profile and regained ranks as one of R&B’s frontrunners. While we anxiously await the follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2012 project ‘Two Eleven’, we can’t help but wish she would revisit some of the themes that decorate ‘Afrodisiac’.
Look below for our favorite from that modern R&B masterpiece and tell us yours:
“Come As You Are” (TGJ Favorite)