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Human is Brandy's fifth studio album that was released on December 5, 2008 by Epic Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Human Intro 0:20
  2. The Definition 3:42
  3. Warm It Up (With Love) 3:58
  4. Right Here (Departed) 3:38
  5. Piano Man 3:52
  6. Long Distance Interlude 1:00
  7. Long Distance 3:46
  8. Camouflage 3:59
  9. Torn Down 3:20
  10. Human 3:47
  11. Shattered Heart 3:48
  12. True 3:40
  13. A Capella (Something's Missing) 3:30
  14. 1st & Love 3:18
  15. Fall 4:22

Album BackgroundEdit

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

Brandy 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 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 track "Talk About Our Love" reached number six on the UK Singles Chart, but later singles such as "Afrodisiac" & "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 her longtime patrons (such as music producer Darryl Williams and 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 compliation album consisting of Brandy's four albums called "The Best of Brandy" was released in March of 2005. After that, Brandy reportedly began shopping for a new record deal under her brother Ray J's vanity label, Knockout Entertainment, which would co-venture her subsequent releases, including her fifth album which she began recording independently.

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.

They produced several songs for Norwood, including both "Honey" and "Sweet Nothings", all of which were penned by frequent collaborator Kenisha Pratt.

Over the following months, Brandy continued recording contract-free with a vast of producers such as Rockwilder and production duo Tim & Bob who finished several demos with her.

Brandy's 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, California.

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 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 of 2006, Brandy was involved in a fatal automobile accident on Los Angeles' San Diego (405) Freeway. The accident 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 her, 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 "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 therapeutic, saying: "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)". Jerkins hadn't worked with Norwood since 2002, due to conflicting schedules and 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 Norwood and her team abandoning most R&B records in favour of his international pop sounds.

In April of 2008, Brandy signed a new record deal with Epic Records and intended to complete the album by September of that same year.

Norwood inked a new record deal with Epic Records in April 2008 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 11, 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 the album.

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 and 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, by contrast, failed to materialize due to scheduling conflicts.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"Human" peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 73,000 copies. It also peaked at #5 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #6 on Billboard's Top Digital Albums chart.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Human" 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 it 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 Norwood'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."

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