1990′s R&B/Pop superstar Brandy had much to celebrate over the past few weeks achieving milestones many of her contemporaries, past and present, can only dream to become reality. The “Wildest Dreams” entertainer survived 18 years in the music business as a viable act regardless of major setbacks that plagued her within the past decade. Despite her public fall from grace from a chart-topping diva to a tabloid fixture, the public opinion never counted her out during the lowest points of her career. Thus, after 18 years in show business and 10 years without a hit single or album, Brandy achieved a #3 R&B hit, a #3 Pop album and #1 R&B album this year with her new opus Two Eleven and its first single “Put It Down.”
First week sales numbers were in, Brandy’s Two Eleven album managed to sell about 68,000 units. In today’s music world where first week sales have determined whether an album is (or will be) successful or a flop, the number is quite disappointing. Compare her recent week sales to music artists who are currently (or would have been) her rivals such as Rihanna (198K), Beyonce (310K), Alicia Keys (417K), Mary J. Blige (156K), Trey Songz (137K), Chris Brown (135K), Usher (128K), Keyshia Cole (128K) and Jennifer Hudson (165K), Brandy’s achievement seemed quite underwhelming.
Of course, fans and supporters will quickly come up a list of who or what to blame including music downloading, promotion to R&B outlets, live promotional events to predominately Black gay male audiences, four-year music absence, bad first single choice, being on the same label with other superstars (Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Kesha, Chris Brown, R. Kelly) etc.
My biggest concern for Brandy’s new music is that, unlike Beyonce, Keyshia, Alicia and Rihanna, the “So Sick” singer did not deliver a song or two that packs a “wow” factor and that can also crossover to pop while remaining R&B (a la “Have You Ever” or “The Boy Is Mine”). Another concern I have is, that while the album sounds really good sonically, I find Brandy’s lead vocals get lost in the background vocals and production instead of taking each opportunity to ensure that her voice is front and center owning each song to the point one listener cannot imagine another singer slaying a Two Eleven track better than Brandy.
In other words, my consensus is that the low sales number is contributed to Ms. Norwood not bringing all of the swagger back as she had during her Never S-A-Y Never and Full Moon era. While this Brandy era is far better than the Afrodisiac and Human eras, there is still a weakness looming the extremely talented entertainer when comparing her swagger to the dominating R&B and pop divas including Christina, Beyonce, Keyshia, Rihanna and Adele. I believer wholeheartedly that Brandy can do better, and now was that opportunity.
I asked a handful of LGBT personalities to chime on what they determined of Brandy’s Two Eleven first week sales. Was it flop or a success? Here is what they had to say: