Two Eleven is Brandy's sixth studio album that was released on October 12, 2012 by Chameleon Entertainment and RCA Records.
Tracklisting[edit | edit source]
- Intro 0:57
- Wildest Dreams 4:26
- So Sick 4:31
- Slower 2:57
- No Such Thing As Too Late 4:01
- Let Me Go 3:17
- Without You 4:12
- Put It Down (featuring Chris Brown) 4:06
- Hardly Breathing 3:55
- Do You Know What You Have 3:28
- Scared Of Beautiful 3:46
- Wish Your Love Away 3:19
- Paint This House 3:58
- Outro 0:57
Album Background[edit | edit source]
Brandy's joint record deal with RCA and producer Breyon Prescott's Chameleon Records was finalized in late 2010; however, it was not announced to the public until August 2011, when it was also confirmed that her sixth studio album would be released in 2012.
After Brandy was signed in late 2010, professional recording and submissions for the album began. Much of the earlier material recorded under Epic Records was left with the label and allocated to other artists such as Jennifer Lopez.
Speaking of her new record deal during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Brandy commented: "I'm reinventing myself and I feel fearless, [Two Eleven is] mature, it's gritty, it's edgy. RCA reminds me of how Atlantic used to be, they really believed in my vision as an artist when they signed me at 14, RCA welcomed me and Breyon Prescott and Peter Edge showed such passion for what I wanted to do".
Before Prescott worked with Norwood he sought the permission of Brandy's long-time collaborator and friend Darkchild. Prescott told Darkchild that he wanted to work on making an R&B record with Norwood. Darkchild agreed giving him his blessings.
Development[edit | edit source]
In 2009, Brandy introduced her rap alter ego Bran'Nu on Timbaland's album "Shock Value II," the result of artistic experimentation with the musician, who had tapped her for her rhyming ability after seeing a video on YouTube that Brandy had uploaded and showed her rapping freestyle.
Brandy (who had initially thought of rapping as a hobby and fun for friends) felt encouraged by Timbaland to write and perform her own verses on at least three tracks for his album, two of which eventually made it to the track lisiting.
In December 2009, Timbaland revealed his intentions to reteam with her on her next project, producing the bulk of an album that he envisioned to be “half singing, half rapping”.
Brandy confirmed his idea in an interview she held at the release party of Shock Value II: "What I'm doing on the [next] album is a little bit different than what everybody knows me for. Timbaland endorsed that [...] He really gave me a shot to be different and be versatile. I can't thank him enough for that. This is a wonderful opportunity."
Though Brandy went on to record several other rap songs the following months and hoped it would eventually lead to a signing with Timbaland's Mosley Music Group, plans for hip hop-oriented album under his imprint were eventually abandoned as Brandy felt the sound would not aim at her core audience.
Approached on the subject, she later dismissed the idea of recording a rap album, stating that “it was a hobby. I was convinced to do it professionally, which I never should have listened to that advice.”
After unveilling her new record deal in August 2011, Brandy finally revealed that she had found her sound for the album, stating: "What I'm truly excited about is how the album is all about R&B and figuring out the new sound of R&B, and that was the challenge for me. I wanted to do something different – I didn't want to just sing about love over regular beats".
She also stated how Frank Ocean inspired her on this album: "We've always had that great chemistry, and we both understand music in the same ways, to work with him on this album was great as well, and I hope I can get in [the studio] with him some more because his music is just so moving; I'm inspired by him. I think he's a great artist and he hasn't even touched on what he will touch on in the future."
Speaking to Billboard magazine, Brandy said: "I think the fans have been very patient with me, but I just wanted to make sure that this album was right – the right type of music, the right core. I feel like we're getting to that point where I felt comfortable with putting something out."
Speaking of the types of records Brandy was making, in a separate interview with Rap-Up, she compared her album to previous records, saying: "It’s just gonna be a different album, but of course expressing the love that I feel now and the struggles and different situations that I’ve gone through in the past,... My music always tends to be the soundtrack to my life and definitely inspired by what I see other people go through as well—gritty, edgy, different."
Touching the subject matter of songs on the album, Brandy said she felt like the past failures in her life should be addressed, saying:
"The evolution of Brandy is crazy, i've gone through some things that I haven't yet sang about....From the break up with my ex-fiance, to the struggles since the car accident, and then Human not performing well at all, and then to being cheated out of Dancing with the Stars; it's like failure after failure after failure......I'm bringing everything i got. Everything I have to this project. I honestly feel like and i'm not trying to get emotional but i really feel like this is my last chance....This is time away from my daughter."
Recording[edit | edit source]
Brandy began recording the album in early 2009 with her then-record label Epic Records. Among those to first work with her were Ne-Yo, Stargate, and production and songwriting duo Tricky Stewart and The-Dream.
The duo produced the record "Louboutins" for Norwood but after losing her record deal it was re-recorded by actress and singer Jennifer Lopez for her album, "Love?"
Another record which Norwood recorded under Epic was titled "Decisions", which was produced by Stargate and featured guest vocals from American R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo.
The record was reclaimed and eventually recorded by upcoming girl group RichGirl for their debut mixtape, "Fall in Love with RichGirl."
By late 2009, Brandy resumed recording, this time with a duo called The Chase (consisting of Kadis and Sean). In early 2010, she stated that she wanted to work with Will.i.am and Akon.
Throughout 2010, Brandon continued recording independently with a variety of musicians, including producers Danja, Clinton Sparks, The Jam, Corey Gibson and songwriter Stacy Barthe.
Some of this was chronicled on her VH1 reality series "Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business", which originally aired from April 2010 to February 2011 and spawned a soundtrack of the same name on which some of the tracks were included.
During early conceptions of the album, Brandy had wanted to re-unite with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, her longtime collaborator who had executive-produced "Human."
However, midway through 2009, during an interview with Out magazine, Brandy refused to talk about "Human", telling interviews "to hell with that album" when questions were asked about it; it wasn't until 2010 when Norwood would break her silence during an episode of her VH1 reality TV show "Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business."
During one of the episodes when her brother Ray J announces that he wants to work with Darkchild, Brandy reveals that she felt the producer "did not put his all into the album" and that "was a personal issue between me and him."
Elaborating on what she meant, Brandy replied: "You know what kind of chemistry Rodney and I have too, but on some personal issues, he doesn't deliver.....I don't want the same thing that happened to me, to happen to you."
In September 2010, producer Bangladesh confirmed that he had been commissioned by Norwood to helm the production of the entire project even though Brandy later expressed her intent to further connect with several producers, including Jim Beanz, WyldCard, newcomer Kevin McCall, Lonny Bereal, Rico Love, production collectives The Woodworks and The Runners and singer Sean Garrett who worked on nine songs for the album.
Hit-Boy (who had previously worked with Frank Ocean on Brandy's "Human" album) returned to production on "Two Eleven" with the ballad "White Flag", which discusses "emotional defeat". However, it was excluded from the final track listing.
Brandy's collaboration with Drake was a song written by James Fauntleroy and produced by Noah "40" Shebib; however it failed to come to fruition.
A press release from RCA Records announced that Breyon Prescott was overseeing the album with productions by the aforementioned producers as well as Mario Winans and writing from Ester Dean.
Despite Prescott stating that Timbaland was in the studios crafting a song for the album, Brandy revealed on August 29, 2012, that the album was complete and that time didn't allow for her and the producer to work together.
Album Title[edit | edit source]
The album's title is taken from Brandy's birthday; it is also the day on which her idol and friend, entertainer Whitney Houston died eight months prior to the album's release.
Chart Performance[edit | edit source]
"Two Eleven" debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and topped Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with first week sales of 65,000 copies.
Critical Reception[edit | edit source]
"Two Eleven" became Brandy's most critically acclaimed album to date.
At Metacritic, which assigns a rated mean out of 100 from mainstream critics, it received a score of 77, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
Andy Kellman of Allmusic rated the album four out of five stars.
He felt that Norwood "took something of a risk by breaking from her norm and working with numerous songwriters and producers" and remarked that the strategy "paid off", adding that "months after scores of music fans went bananas over an opportunistic resuscitation of a deceased peer's studio scraps, Brandy, a superior vocalist ignored or disregarded by many of those same people, released one of her best albums. She should not be taken for granted."
Steve Jones from USA Today, considered the album Brandy's "most impassioned album in years. Whether she's overjoyed with a new love or ready to be shut of an old one, her heart seems like an open book."
Mesfin Fekadu from San Francisco Chronicle stated: "Not many singers have released six consistently amazing albums. Brandy has. Her newest is a collection of R&B songs that are personal, flavored and fantastic. The album doesn't miss a beat, as Brandy's raspy-yet-earthy tone weaves into each song's beat nicely to create outstanding tracks that will have you listening again and again."
People declared Two Eleven "her best work since 2004's career high Afrodisiac" and wrote, "full of subtle, sensual pleasures, the album unfolds at a slow-to-midtempo pace and stays there for most of the time, even when incorporating hip-hop or electronica beats." The magazine gave the album three and a half out of four stars.
Andrew Chan from Slant Magazine commented that while the album was "touted as progressive R&B, it doesn't exactly redefine the singer as a visionary. What's refreshing about this new work, though, is how it clears a place for her in the realm of forward-thinking urban music while also reaching back to clarify her distinctive position in the diva pantheon."
He called the record "the clearest portrait yet of Brandy's instrument", praising the "unusual tone [of her voice], its strange mix of warmth and cold, hard edges", and felt that the album revealed a "contradictory admiration for [...] Drake, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West circa 808s & Heartbreak"
Ken Capobianco of The Boston Globe believed that with the album, "Brandy delivers one of her better sets with these songs tracking love’s mysterious ways [...] Unlike some past efforts, which sounded like musical wallpaper, there’s swagger to the club tracks and real soul in the ballads."
Andrew Hampp, writing for Billboard, felt that the album "features some of her freshest beats since 2004's experimental, critically adored Afrodisiac" and summed it as "a collection of old-school R&B songs with a modern, often futuristic twist with no trend-chasing experiments with EDM", calling it "her most focused album since 1998's Never Say Never."
Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky started his review by pointing out the album's lead single "Put It Down" was actually the weakest song on "Two Eleven".
Stransky said: "It's one of the weakest offerings from an otherwise well-crafted for-the-fans album. Ignore what's pushed to pop radio. Brandy scores when her raspy-sweet voice soars during ballads and slow jams, and that's what stands out on this intimate, often ethereal collection." He gave the album a B+ rating.
Sarah Godfrey from Washington Post complimented the songs on the album and wrote that the album "serves as a fine tribute [to friend and mentor Whitney Houston], in part because it is a testament to the fact that, despite whatever trends are happening in popular music right now, a good voice always shines through."
Vibe noted that "experimentation can spell struggle for some artists, but Two Eleven finds Brandy cruising fluidly past the predictable. Swinging from OVO-worthy emo-ethereal reflections to quirky up-tempos, the 18-year vet deviates from overdone slow-tempo production."
Rich Juzwiak from Gawker felt that Two Eleven "doesn't sound any younger or older than Brandy is. It's not obtusely hip or desperately serious. It just is, it's just now and it's just right."
Elliot Robinson, writing for So So Gay, dismissed Brown's appearance on "Two Eleven," but praised the tone of the album, writing "When Brandy hits the old school R&B sound she was aiming for, the tracks are simply stunning."
Less enthusiastic with the album, Noah Berlatsky from The Atlantic felt the songs on the album were "worse than the largely ignored Human, but better than the beloved-yet-boring 2002 Full Moon," and added, that "but such parsing seems mostly beside the point. If you're one of the dwindling number of fans of this '90s style, you know what you're getting; if not you'll probably skip it anyway."