25 years ago, Brandy entered the music scene with her self-titled debut album on Sept. 27, 1994. Joining other teen artists Usher and Aaliyah, the vocalist’s arrival was a huge part of the young R&B movement in the mid-1990s. With experienced divas Whitney Houston and Mary J. Blige taking over the genre at the time, these teen artists made room for themselves alongside these stars and established a new generation of music. At only 15 years old, Brandy’s debut album showcases her musical knowledge and maturity while still sounding genuine and youthful.
This introductory album was chiefly produced by Keith Crouch—well-known for his work with Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men and Tevin Campbell—along with other writers and producers including R&B group Somethin’ for the People. The project adds hints of youthful pop, hip-hop soul and contemporary R&B—incorporating aspects of the music Brandy grew up with and a fresh new sound all in one package.
Brandy is often referred to as “The Vocal Bible,” which sums up her seemingly effortless singing ability and the intricacy of her vocal production. This moniker could also refer to her appreciation and knowledge of the vocalists who came before her, which is depicted in the three interludes throughout the album entitled “I Dedicate.” Directly shouting out Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, she acknowledges the influence they’ve had on her life—showing a sense of humbleness that is somewhat rare in the current state of music.
The album starts off with the funk and gospel driven “Movin’ On.” Right off the bat, the song shows off her confident delivery—especially at the end where she implements church-like high notes. Furthering the self-assured performance of the opening track, “Baby” is everything you would want in a single. The single ended up reaching the fourth spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Directed by Hype Williams, the music video features Brandy and a crew of dancers sporting ski suits in Times Square—very of its time.
When people think of classic songs in Brandy’s catalog, “I Wanna Be Down” is most likely on that list. The original version is wonderful on its own, but the 1995 remix featuring MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Yo-Yo elevates the greatness of the track. Not only is it cool to see these already established artists take notice of a young Brandy, the song was instrumental in further popularizing the pop, R&B and hip-hop crossover.
“Brokenhearted” is another example of a song with an excellent remix that has continued to be more relevant than the original. Featuring Boyz II Men lead singer Wanya Morris, the track is the typical somber R&B slow jam, but also depicts the positive side of heartbreak as Brandy sings: “Life’s not over/I can start again.”
Usually with albums from a teen artist, there is an indication that the music within the project will turn out cheesy, but Brandy’s debut is far from that while still being youthful. “Sunny Day” is a cute, feel-good song about a young romance. “Always On My Mind” also refers to a first love in a dreamy, more subtle way—almost being a prelude to her 1995 track “Sittin’ Up In My Room” from the Babyface curated soundtrack for “Waiting To Exhale.”
Reminiscent of the classic R&B ballad, “Love Is On My Side” taps into her inner vocal diva. The track was actually co-written by Robin Thicke and gives listeners an introduction to her love of heavenly background vocals. “Give Me You” has a similar effect, but works a lot better with her sweet, velvety tone—implementing her gospel influences once again.
A debut album for an artist can be characterized as a hit or miss, but Brandy’s is pretty solid with four successful singles along with a few hidden gems. Although later albums “Never Say Never” and “Full Moon” arguably had more impact in terms of influencing the artists we see today, this first record definitely set the tone for more years of wonderful artistry to come.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.