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Never Say Never is Brandy's second studio album that was released on June 9, 1998 by Atlantic Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Intro 0:51
  2. Angel In Disguise 4:48
  3. The Boy Is Mine (with Monica) 4:55
  4. Learn The Hard Way 4:51
  5. Almost Doesn't Count 3:37
  6. Top Of The World (featuring Ma$e) 4:41
  7. U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To) 4:29
  8. Never Say Never 5:10
  9. Truthfully 4:57
  10. Have You Ever? 4:36
  11. Put That On Everything 4:51
  12. In The Car (Interlude) 1:10
  13. Happy 4:06
  14. One Voice 4:07
  15. Tomorrow 5:21
  16. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You 4:10

Album BackgroundEdit

Following the release of her debut album and contributing to several soundtracks (such as "Waiting to Exhale" and "Set It Off"), Brandy took a break from music; during that time, she graduated from high school and enrolled in college. She later established a flourishing acting career and in 1995, she was cast as the lead character in the UPN network sitcom, "Moesha."

Brandy also appeared with Whitney Houston in the 1997 television film, "Cinderella" and filmed "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer." While she enjoyed her acting accomplishments, she felt that her transition to acting had caused people to recognize her more as an actress than a singer, though she was still considering music her career priority.

However, suffering from "sophomore album jitters" made it difficult for Brandy to go into the studio and really produce; she found herself making excuses to her artists & repertoire guys, Paris Davis & Chris Kallman to avoid singing. She eventually returned to the recording studio in October of 1997 to begin working on her sophomore album.

Having been barely satisfied with the material that was presented to her beforehand, recording of a second album had been postponed several times, as Brandy found that many songs would not express what she wanted to tell at that point of her career.

During a promotional interview with Jet magazine in 1999, Brandy said: "Many of the songs I heard were not 'me', and If I can't feel it, then I won't sing it. Also, after her debut album, she felt in a space of wanting to do something different, while exploring her voice and playing with different sounds.

Elaborating on her desire for progression and a more mature sound, Brandy said: "I'm not the little girl I was when I made my first record. My voice is a strong instrument now; my vocals come from both my heart and my diaphragm. My heart because I matured in the four years since the last album; I'm more emotionally there."

Later that year, Brandy requested rapper–songwriter Missy Elliott as one of the producers for her album; however, Atlantic Records refused the approach to have her work with Elliott and her regular co-producer Timbaland following their work with label mate and fellow teen R&B singer Aaliyah on her second studio album, "One in a Million" (which was released the year before).

Instead, the record company consulted Canadian pop producer David Foster and then-newcomer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and his team to contribute to the project, the latter of who went on to craft the majority of the album and would evolve as its executive producer.

Brandy credited the chemistry with both producers with her musical growth, saying: "They brought out the best in me, the vocals I didn't know I had." Nevertheless, after her commercial success, she was heavily pressured, stating: "It's very important to me that my music connects with the general public.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"Never Say Never" debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, selling 160,000 units during its first week of release. It later made it to #2 on the chart and also peaked at #2 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

The album was certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA for more than 5 million shipped units. As of 2012, it has sold more than 4.6 million copies in the United States and 16 million copies worldwide.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Never Say Never" received mostly positive reviews from music critics.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and noted it a "better, more adventurous record than her debut," adding: "Brandy wisely decides to find a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige — it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge. [Her] delivery has improved and her subdued vocals can make mediocre material sound convincing. Still, what makes Never Say Never a winning record is the quality songs and production."

Daryl Easlea from BBC Music felt that the collection of smooth, mid-paced jams provided a snapshot of commercial R&B from the era.

He described the album "as the epitome of a mixed bag. However, given that a lot of R&B in the late 90s sounds like an ornate musical box revolving, the album is an intelligent brew that deviates sufficiently from that template and plays to Brandy and executive producer Rodney Jerkins's considerable strengths."

The Spokesman-Review critic Richard Harrington was positive with the album, writing: "Brandy is co-writer on six of the album's 14 songs and no matter their achievement lyrically, she finds herself grown-up and confident, without taking any false steps."

Rolling Stone magazine was generally positive with the album, giving it three stars out of five stars rating, and wrote: "Brandy exudes more pizazz than the Hanson brothers combined and bursts with enough naive charm to make Jewel look like a jaded sailor. Her second album bubbles with that same effervescence [...]."

J. D. Considine of Entertainment Weekly, felt that Brandy's voice was lacking passion on the album. Although he indicated that it was "hard to argue with Brandy's deference to the rhythm, especially when she rides one of producer Rodney Jerkins itchily propulsive tracks."

He also noted that it was flattening "its emotional range, until the romantic bliss of "Happy," the dogged determination of "Never Say Never," and the conflicted affection of "Angel in Disguise" all end up sounding pretty much the same." He gave the album a B rating.

Angela Lewis, writer for The Independent was disappointed with the album, saying: "This is pop R&B without the soul, and could see Brandy without a future in the adult big league. She lacks real command of tracks like "Have You Ever?", showing she's better at playing by the rules than anything else."

In his Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau gave the album a two-star honorable mention and picked out its three songs ("The Boy Is Mine", "U Don't Know Me" and "Almost Doesn't Count") while describing Brandy as "America's sweetheart, and why not?"

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