Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two Eleven Review

There are two methods, roughly, I use to gain inspiration for new songs.  Method #1 is pretty obvious.  I listen to inspired music.  Method #2, also a bit obvious,  is achieved by listening to crap music.  Brandy's 6th studio album "Two Eleven" however,  has managed to woo me in neither direction.

Let me start by saying,  I would not call myself a consumate Brandy fan, though, as a vocalist I do believe that her chops are unrivaled.  R&B doesn't particularly move me in the way other genres do for varying reasons, some personal, and some simply taste-driven.  So this review will be more about her music and it's evolution and less about the type of songs she's choosing to make.

Two-eleven was named thusly because it's both the Brandy's birthday and sadly also the same day her idol Whitney Houston met her tragic end.  I expected very little in terms of celebratory music once she'd released the name of the album, yet was hoping to see some form of tribute not necessarily by way of a remix but rather songs even just one or two in the spirit of Whitney.  Most of us think of Ms. Houston and are overwhelmed by how her music moved us either to tears or to dance.  Yet Whitney was never a victim.

The parallels between these two artists sonically are uncanny.  Neither of them write/wrote their music but both brought amazing vocal prowess to the songs making you question how they could/can embody the essence of lyrics they'd not penned themselves.  But in today's music scene the audience imposes an almost dire necessity on to artists to live their music, to be the person they sing about/for.

After watching Brandy's Behind the Music and her life throughout the years as a fan, one thing seemed to constantly lurk behind her beautiful smile.  Brandy is no diva.  Not in the Whitney, Mariah, Patti, Beyonce sense anyway.  There was a confidence that she lacked and for reasons that became clear in her behind the music.   Her albums always spoke to that vulnerability and the rasp in her voice lends the songs a palatable pain that seemed to leap beyond the lyrics.  "Aphrodisiac" was more of a celebratory album, but she went back to embrace her more tortured self in "Human".  Two Eleven doesn't feel.  Its emotions are there but so cloudy and disjointed that it's difficult to believe they could all exist within the same being.  Herein lies the difficulty with pulling multiple songwriters to write an album.

This strategy has been done before, and quite successfully (think Usher's Confessions) but more and more it's becoming clear that the more successful singers bear the /songwriter addendum to their names (think Adele, Frank Ocean, Miguel).  No one can sing your song better than you because it's yours.

Let me not digress any further, let's dive into the tracks themselves.  Brandy opens the album with an intro sampling the James Bond theme song, leading you to believe you are about to embark on a journey filled with everything 007 movies encapsulate, action, drama, suspense, and romance.

The very next track "Wildest Dreams" written and co-produced by Sean Garrett harps on the Brandy we remember from "Never Say Never", in love and hoping it will never end.  She plays it safe here but wows us with runs that only she could do and harmonies that make you wonder if it's possible to replicate her vocal chords and fashion them into an instrument for mass consumption.

The journey then heads down a familiar road filled with yearning for a missing lover in "Sick" and then takes a detour to reminisce possibly on better times in "Slower" a song written by Chris Brown that depicts an intimate bedroom encounter using melodies that evoke a 90's style R&B.  The only thing missing from this song was a 16 by Missy Elliot or Ludacris. Not seriously, but that's the vibe you get.  The next song stands out for me because of the message (even though it seems somewhat contradictory in it's placement) and also it's interesting composition.  I imagine that Brandy was thinking of her daughter when singing this song because this is not necessarily a grown and sexy song, but rather one that glorifies the importance of making sure you are 100% ready to give yourself to your sig other.  I do like this song a lot even though the topic deviates a bit from what i thought the album would show us, a more mature Brandy.

A more upbeat "Let Me Go" dance track features a Lykke Li sample and provides a more club-friendly vibe.  This Bangladesh produced song takes us back to Brandy circa "Full Moon" and we can envision her fun sultry video while listening to the her effortless more pared down melodies.

Sigh...and then she starts to lose me.  This song started out with so much hope and aspiration and contains every element of many of her hits, amazing vocals, a simple but catchy hook and production that lets her shine.  However, and maybe this is just me, I found myself wondering midway through the song if she'd slipped a Monica track onto her album (which also made me wonder, where is "It All Belongs To Me"?  I think that song would have filled the girl-power void on this album).  I think Monica is super-talented, but her songs are often tales of longing and pain inflicted at the hands of a man obviously not worthy of her admiration.  Desperation is not the song that's being sung in 2012.   The woman of today is much more interested in being the queen than finding, or rather searching desperately for, a king.  Even Taylor Swift has changed her tune.  Luckily the topic was abruptly changed with "Put It Down", the sensual poppy radio hit instructing her lover to lay the pipe correctly.

Alas, she goes immediately back to Despondence Alley with the Rico Love produced "Hardly Breathing" and the Sean Garrett written "Do You Know What You Have".  In the latter, Brandy croons, "I don't think you recognize love/I'm certified ride or die/Why do I have to ask is it good enough".   Don't get me wrong, I understand that there is a market for this type of song, I just don't relate personally.  The woman in this song is not singing "Put It Down" or maybe she is but to the wrong man.  I want so badly for Brandy to not be this kind of woman.  Yet the next song makes it somewhat clear why she either picks songs like this or feels the way these songs feel.  She herself may never have asked herself "Do You Know What You Have".  In "Scared of Beautiful" she exposes a part of her soul that she may have only tap danced on in "Human".  Brandy is not as confident as we'd expect.  Gorgeous, talented and gracious, you'd expect her to shine so bright, but something is holding her back, and it's internal.  Artists like her have to either, get over it or pretend they're someone else (e.g. Lady Gaga) or bare their true selves (e.g. Frank Ocean).  Until that happens it will always feel like something's missing from the music because there is, soul.

She brings the album to the end with a typical R&B song reminiscent of her brother Ray J's hit yet with her singing back to a lover asking him to "Wish Your Love Away" and closes it out with "Paint This House" a very Dream/Trey Songz sounding tune that does have an interesting, and erotic concept.

Overall, the album was not terrible.  I give it a C, but mainly because the writers/producers failed to capture the essence of a good Brandy song.  I think the fact that all the writers are men impacted the tone of Two Eleven heavily, and not necessarily positively.  A woman's perspective may have helped her seem a bit more 3-dimensional.  Standout tracks include "No Such Thing As Too Late", "Scared of Beautiful" for it's attempt to go deeper than the typical R&B song, and "Let Me Go"'s a fun club track if nothing else.  "Without You" is a well written and well-produced song that Brandy sounds amazing on but I just can't be on board with the message.  But hey if that floats your boat, float on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Performing Tonight @ Metro Fuxon!!

Hey Solternatives!!!!!!!!  Did you miss me?  I'm sure you did, even if it was only sub-consciously lol.  Well you may or may not know that I've recently opened up a private listening lounge for indie artists and music lovers called thebsmnt.  It's kept me pretty busy and I've not been able to perform much, but I've been working on my long-awaited (by me anyway lol) album.  Well tonight, I'm taking a break from thebsmnt to perform some new tunes @ Metro Fuxon w/ SolStar!  It's free, come thru! The show is from 7-11pm @ 554 Piedmont Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30308.  See you there!

Oh, for more info on thebsmnt click here or visit us on facebook!!!  The next event is 8/4/12!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sh*t Independendent Artists Say...

Ok, whether you're an "Artist" or not, I'm sure you've heard some of our ridiculous mantras, sayings, and slang.  I admit I've said most if not all of these things at some point in my life.  So I decided to sit back and make fun of myself and my peers, because REAL TALK, if you can't laugh at yourself who can you laugh at? lol.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My tribute to an amazing talent...Ms. Amy Winehouse

Amy Jade Winehouse would have turned 28 on September 14, 2011. I've always loved her Nancy Wilson meets Etta James voice and her abstract yet personal writing style. Also a Virgo, and being only 5 days younger than Amy, I've always considered her a kindred spirit. So I decided to do a tribute to her on her birthday and sing my rendition of some of her favorite songs.

R.I.P. Ms. Winehouse

The Band
Drums: Donnell
Trumpet: Phil
Guitar: Rufus
Bass: Manu

Video Production and editing by: Ro the Nerd (@rothenerd)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Amy!!!!

Shout out to the birthday girl!  I'm gonna be doing a live stream tribute for her tomorrow night rocking out with some crazy sick musicians. Tune in tomorrow night (Wednesday) to around 10pm as I pay tribute to one of my favorite artists Ms. Amy Winehouse!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I guess it's Chocolate week!  Why you ask?  Well...I'm performing at the Chocolate Bar on Wednesday, August 3rd and Saturday, August 6th!  I'm still a lil under the weather (if you were at any of my July shows then you know I sounded kinda crazy) but I'm still gonna rock out with my non-cock out!  Tmi??  Anywho, I'd love to see you at one or both of the shows so...I'm speaking it into existence...see you this week!!!  
(Click the flyers for more info)