Afrodisiac

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This article is about the album by Brandy. For the 1973 album, see Afrodisiac (Main Ingredient album). For the Fela Kuti album, see Afrodisiac (Fela Kuti album). For the stimulator for sexual desire, see Aphrodisiac.
Afrodisiac
Studio album by Brandy
Released June 28, 2004 (2004-06-28)
Recorded 2003–2004
Genre
Length 61:18
Label Atlantic
Producer
Brandy chronology
Full Moon
(2002)
Afrodisiac
(2004)
The Best of Brandy
(2005)
Singles from Afrodisiac
  1. "Talk About Our Love"
    Released: May 4, 2004
  2. "Who Is She 2 U"
    Released: July 27, 2004
  3. "Afrodisiac"
    Released: September 24, 2004

Afrodisiac is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Brandy, released on June 28, 2004 by Atlantic Records. The album was recorded primarily in Los Angeles between spring 2003 and early 2004, following several major changes in Brandy's personal and professional life. After giving birth to her daughter and the demise of her relationship with the father, Brandy's team was given an overhaul, including changes in production, management, and A&R. The album marked a departure from her previous work, with Brandy collaborating with producer Timbaland and his then-protégés, DJ Walter Millsap III and songwriter Candice Nelson, on the majority of the album's composition. Additional work was contributed by Kanye West, Warryn Campbell, and Cee-Lo Green.

With many of their new relationships being the result of broken ones, Brandy and Timbaland were inspired to experiment with a number of sounds and influences to create a unique, individualized sound that was distinct from other contemporary R&B music. The result was an organic, mellow contemporary R&B album that experimented with the New York-based illbient style, which infuses eccentric hip-hop breakbeats, ambient soundscapes, and unorthodox approaches to sampling. Brandy also continued to experiment with texture, voice layering and vocal arrangements, opting to use more technical applications of counterpoint and multi-track recording. An autobiographical album, the songs feature intimate lyrics which discuss the singer's personal struggles with codependency, monogamy, misplaced loyalty, and professional anxiety. Rappers Kanye West and T.I. were featured guests on the project.

Afrodisiac was promoted during the summer of 2004 with magazine cover stories, television appearances, and various talk show performances. The album debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200, eventually earning a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[1] Internationally, Afrodisiac scored minor success, appearing on the top 40 album charts in the UK, Canada, and Japan. The album spawned the worldwide moderate hit "Talk About Our Love" and the second single "Who Is She 2 U", which only saw minor domestic success. Afrodisiac was nominated for several awards including nominations at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards and the 47th Annual Grammy Awards.[2]

Upon release, the critical response to Afrodisiac was highly positive, eventually garnering critical acclaim for its mature lyrics, Brandy's vocalizing, and its overall experimental sound.[3] The album appeared on numerous music critics lists, many who named it one of the best albums of the year. Despite its critical success, the album was largely seen as a commercial disappointment, due to the less-than-expected performance of its singles and the album.[4] Both Brandy and Timbaland later expressed frustration with the album, citing label interference with the creative process, politics, and mismanagement for the album's performance. After failing to properly secure a joint-headlining tour with Usher, Brandy asked for and received a release for Atlantic Records.[1]

Conception and production[edit]

Following the birth of her daughter Sy'rai in June 2002, Norwood soon entered recording studios to begin work on her then-untitled fourth album with producer Mike City and companion Robert "Big Bert" Smith.[5] As the singer envisioned the longplayer to sound "much rawer" and more "street" than its 2002 predecessor Full Moon, Smith quckily emerged as the album's executive producer and A&R, replacing longtime contributor and mentor Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, who Norwood felt was not going in the same direction creatively after all.[6] About parting ways with Jerkins whose Darkchild team took production credits on her last two albums, Norwood commented that "Darkchild created a sound with me and gave it to everybody. I didn't like that [...] I needed to change my sound and I wanted to explore my versatility, my creativity and my art."[7][8] The couple eventually finished a number of demo recordings and at least four full songs until late November 2002, including "Ryde or Die" and Sy'rai-inspired "Sunshine;"[9] and although Smith expected the album to drop by spring 2003 at one time or another,[6] Norwood and Big Bert ended their relationship in mid-2003, resulting into the album's delay and several personnel changes.[10][11]

Norwood eventually decided to scrap most of the project, and instead enlisted Timbaland, with whom the couple had previously worked on Kiley Dean's unreleased Simple Girl album, as the album's main contributor.[12] Impressed by Timaland's input, Norwood rediscovered the musical affection, she had missed on Full Moon and its technical priority. "I made the change because I needed to evolve. I needed to explore my talent and versatility and see if I had another side to me, another sound," she said about collaborating. "I wanted to do my own thing, and I've always wanted to work with Timbaland [...] and see how my voice would sound over his tracks. It was an edgier Brandy, a sassier sound, but still with a lot of heart and a lot of passion."[7][13] With the help of Timbaland protégés such as Candice Nelson, Steve "Static" Garrett, and co-producer Walter Millsap III the pair worked on what was tentatively titled B-Rocka — a nickname actually given to her by Jerkins — and originally planned for a Christmas 2003 release.[10] Their first collaboration, 1990s tribute "Turn It Up", was leaked onto the internet in autumn 2003, and soon released as a promotional buzz track.[14]

Having concluded additional recording sessions with Warryn Campbell, Theron Feemster and Organized Noise, in November 2003, Atlantic Records announced that Norwood was putting the finishing touches on her still-untitled album, at that time scheduled for a release on March 2, 2004,[15] and she would shoot a music video for the "hyper, bass-heavy" banger "Black Pepper" during the second week of December.[16] However, plans for the single fell through as the Timbaland-produced track was scrapped in favor of a new record: "Talk About Our Love," produced by rapper Kanye West. Both, the single and album cut "Where You Wanna Be," were eleventh-hour additions to the album, commissioned by West's manager Geroid Roberson, one of the executive producers on Afrodisiac, who encouraged Norwood to attempt further studio sessions with West.[14] "Kanye put the finishing touches on the record," Norwood commented on her decision to work with West. "The two tracks we did were just what I needed to tie the whole thing together."[13][17][18]

Music[edit]

Content[edit]

"On Afrodisiac, you really get to know me as a person and I'm not sugarcoating any of the lyrics. My fans will be able to connect to it because they'll know exactly what I've been through."[11]

Brandy Norwood on Afrodisiac.

As with her previous albums thematical prime focus on Afrodisiac is on "relationship with love and life in general."[17] "It's about passion. It's romantic, and that's where I am in my life right now," Norwood noted during promotion touring in 2004, a time when she was engaged to New York Knicks guard Quentin Richardson.[13] "I'm not trying to be edgy, sassy, romantic, vulnerable or whatever emotions come across," she said. "I really am all that."[19] Afrodisiac contains several references to Timbaland and longtime partner Missy Elliott, and alludes to fellow 1990s R&B singers such as Aaliyah and Monica.[7] The album's opening track "Who I Am" discusses her rocky relationship with Robert Smith as well as the progression of her public image, while "I Tried" was heavily inspired by English rock band Coldplay, also incorporating lyrics of their 2000 song "Sparks."[7] The tenth track "Turn It Up" is an homage to the early 1990s with references to Donnie Simpson's Video Soul, Kid n' Play, their 1990 film House Party and Tony! Toni! Toné!'s 1996 studio album House of Music.[7] The line "'Cause I don't wanna sound familiar, want a guaranteed single, not an album filler" levels indirect criticism at former main producer Rodney Jerkins.[10] On ending track "Should I Go," which samples Coldplay's "Clocks," Norwood openly talks about contemplating stepping away from the music business, admitting that she's trying to figure out where she fits in today.[7]

Although Norwood received a sole writing credit on album cut "Finally" only, she noted Afrodisiac the most honest effort of her career yet based on its deeply autobiographical content, commenting: "Everything I do has something to do with what I've gone through in my life [and] I definitely wanted to incorporate that in my art. It makes it more real when you add what's been going on in your life in your music. I've grown and I've gone through some things in my life, and I celebrate that, I honor that."[13][20] Soundwise, her collaboration with Timbaland, recent motherhood, life experiences, and growing affinity toward alternative music such as Coldplay, caused Norwood to shift toward a more matured outlook and raw nature with the album, a venture into the organic sounds of soul blues, ambient music, and the nostalgic street-wise sound of 1990’s hip-hop.[21]

Tracks[edit]

Producer Kanye West (left) and rapper T.I. were two of the featured artists on the album.[22]

Opening track "Who I Am," the album's only contribution by Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell, was an eleventh-hour addition to the album's final track listing.[22] Built around a pirouetting keyboard melody, the song discusses Norwood's rocky relationship with producer Robert "Big Bert" Smith as well as her public image in open letter form.[23] Second track "Afrodisiac," the album's title track and second international single, was generally well received by critics, and enjoyed moderate success throughout Asia and Europe.[24] Depicting a woman's aphrodisiac affection with a man, it combines elements of pop and dance music, incorporating elements of fellow Timbaland-production "Are You That Somebody?" as performed by Aaliyah.[25] Norwood has declared the song her favorite cut on the record.[25] Alongside "Afrodisiac," third track "Who Is She 2 U" was one of the first songs Norwood worked on with Timbaland and his crew. A female anthem with semi-biographical background, it was released to mixed recepction as the album's second single stateside, where it became one of Norwood's lowest-charting singles yet.[26] An unofficial but prominent duet version of the track featuring vocals by fellow R&B singer Usher was released on various mixtapes in late 2004.[27]

Lead single "Talk About Our Love," the result of additional recording sessions with rapper Kanye West and violinist Miri Ben-Ari, was not composed until late into the production of the album and describes the pressures of other people meddling into relationships.[28] Iron Maiden-sampling "I Tried" is a downbeat midtempo track and ode to British alternative rock band Iron Maiden. It talks about the singer listening to Coldplay's song "Sparks" as she regrets playing the fool for an unfaithful ex-lover.[16] Considered to be released as a single at times, it drew comparisons to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" in style and music.[23] "Where You Wanna Be," another West production, features a bridge by rapper T.I. and deals with a woman's lover not getting his priorities in order as she is requesting him to make a decision between his friends, his career choices, and her.[29] Norwood chronicles her ups and downs on mid-tempo track "Focus," the album's seventh track, on which she struggles not to let an old habit back in her life.[29] The "ambient soul" song, which Norwood calls her favorite on the album, consists of stuttering synths and instrumentation from heavy bass and an electric guitar.[16] Eight track "Saddidy" is built around a hand-clap-laden synth beat and one of the few up-tempo tracks on the album. It talks about the singer not being seddity rather than menacing.[29]

Ninth track "Turn It Up" is one of several songs that reference Aaliyah.[30] In the song, Norwood sings Aaliyah's part in Up Jumps Da' Boogie. A 1990s tribute cut that combines elements of old school hip hop with Timbaland's beatboxing instrumentals, the song was the first full length release preceding the album as a promotional buzz track in fall 2003.[31] Although the song was not released commercially, it appeared on several charts, reaching number two on the German Black Charts.[32] The tenth song, "Necessary", written by Cee Lo Green, discusses Brandy's desire for her hard work to matter to loved ones, and features a syncopated, skipping beat.[33] Eleventh track, the soulful and minimalistic "Say You Will" saw a woman ready to settle down, and urging her mate to join her in a domestic life. "How I Feel", a serene, smoky ballad, featured Norwood warning her mate that his busy life was slowly pushing her away. The song was blend of the adult contemporary urban pop of her former albums, and the more ambient, bluesy work she was dabbling with. "Should I Go", based upon Coldplay's song "Clocks", is built on percussive beats, syncopated handclaps and a piano riff. Lyrically, Norwood as the protagonist openly talks about contemplating stepping away from the music business, admitting that she's trying to figure out where she fits in today.[34]

Promotion[edit]

Promotion for Afrodisiac first began with a massive media event in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where the album was previewed to a hand-picked list of journalists at a press launch held in the Royal Pavilion of the Half Moon Hotel.[35] Promotional touring for the album started on May 23, 2004 with a series major national television appearances, highlighted by performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on July 13, 2004; NBC's Today show as part of their outdoor Toyota Concert Series on July 16, 2004 and ABC's The View on July 19, 2004.[36] Norwood also performed on both CBS's The Late Late Show and the syndicated On-Air with Ryan Seacrest on July 14, 2004.[36] Outside the United States, Norwood made appearances on Top of The Pops and Anke Late Night, where she performed a rendition of Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" in the form of a coffee commercial.[37]

Additionally, Norwood was seen in a host of special programming airing on music television networks BET, MTV, VH1, and Fuse. The album's arrival in stores was celebrated with an appearance as a presenter on the 2004 BET Awards, preceded by a special live performance on 106 & Park.[36] On July 1, 2004, Norwood headed to New York for appearances on MTV's TRL and Fuse's Daily Download. In addition, tracks from Afrodisiac were streamed over one million times via MTV.com's The Leak in the week preceding the album's release.[36]

Online, Norwood was introduced as the LAUNCHcast Artist of the Month for July 2004. The promotion included exclusive interviews and performances as well as contests to win live video chats with Norwood.[36] The "Talk About Our Love" online campaign kicked off with an AOL First Listen premiere, and Norwood was AOL's "Artist of the Month" for June 2004. Her Sessions@AOL performance debuted on the service in July 2004.[36]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[3]
Blender 3/5 stars[38]
Entertainment Weekly A−[39]
Los Angeles Times 2.5/4 stars[40]
People 4/4 stars[41]
PopMatters 7/10 stars[40][42]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[43]
Slant 4/5 stars[30]
Stylus Magazine B−[44]
USA Today 3/4 stars[45]
Yahoo! Music UK 6/10 stars[46]

Afrodisiac became her most well received album to date, averaging a 73 out of a 100 among averaged reviews on Metacritic, which uses a normalized rating system.[40] Andy Kellman of Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and praised it as "Brandy's fourth consecutive durable showing, [...] stocked with a number of spectacular — and emotionally resonant — singles that wind up making for her most accomplished set yet."[3] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A- rating, calling it "Brandy's meatiest album to date," and ranked it sixth on his personal year-end top ten list.[47] He found special approval for Timbaland, "who produced most of the disc, turns up the bass, the volume, and the tension whenever he can, bolstering her less-than-commanding, down-pillow-soft voice."[39] Rolling Stone writer James Hunter, like both Kellman and Browne, compared the album to "Janet Jackson at her best: She's a pop star, but she's making the most of her big studio budgets and is following her muse." He described the set as "mainstream soul with eccentric details and shadings" and gave the album four stars out of five.[43]

Vibe writer Laura Checkoway gave Afrodisiac 3.5 out of 5 stars and noted it as "a far cry from the pleasing pubescent fluff of her formative years," and although she felt that "Brandy's sultry alto drowns on some songs," she acknowledged, that "while Brandy's musical liaison with Timbaland is what some people might call a match made in heaven, it's her crazy, sexy, cool revival that's the true bliss of this fourth coming."[16] Steve Jones from USA Today gave the album a three out of four stars rating, and commented: "Timbaland provides her with plenty of funk-infused beats to groove to [and] while a few of the tracks are a bit pedestrian, Brandy is still seductive more often that not."[45] Ben Sisario, who wrote for Blender and gave the album three out of five stars, summed the album as "an episode of her growing-pains TV show Moesha: This week, our honey-voiced heroine sheds her girlishness, sexing up to become 'a woman, a passionate woman'," referring to its lyrical makeover.[38] He called non-Timbaland productions like "Talk About Our Love" and "Say You Will" the highlights of the album.[38] In 2012, amid the released of Norwood's sixth album Two Eleven, Noah Berlatsky of The Atlantic called Afrdoisiac "the best album of Brandy's career and one of the greatest R&B albums of the last 25 years."[48]

Commercial performance[edit]

Norwood performing "Afrodisiac" in July 2004.

Afrodisiac debuted at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 behind Lloyd Banks' solo debut The Hunger for More and Usher's Confessions album, and at number four on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling more than 131,700 copies in its first week.[49] Though sales soon declined and the album fell short off the upper half of the Billboard 200 in its eighth week, it was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for more than 500,000 copies shipped to stores, including 417,000 sold copies.[50] On international music markets, Afrodisiac failed to reach the top thirty on the majority of the charts it appeared on except China, Japan and Switzerland where it managed to debut within the top ten and number twenty-six, respectively.[51] In the United Kingdom, the album was awarded a silver certification by the British Phonographic Industry on September 24, 2004 based on a sales total of 60,000 copies.[52]

Excluding pre-released buzz track "Turn It Up," Afrodisiac produced three official singles.[31] "Talk About Our Love" was released as the album's leading single commercially on March 28, 2004.[53] The song was critically appreciated but achieved mediocre success around the globe, reaching the top ten of the UK Singles Chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Singles Sales charts.[54] In Eurasia and Australia, the album's title track served as the album's second single. Released to greater success than "Talk About Our Love" in almost all the countries it was released to, the track reached number eleven in the United Kingdom and made it to top thirty in France and Ireland.[55] In North America, "Who Is She 2 U" was released as the album's second and final single. Suffering from low airplay, the song never made it out of the lower half of the Billboard Hot 100 and emerged as one of Norwood's lowest-charting singles yet.[56] In March 2005, the song also received limited release in Europe to promote the release of Norwood's first single collection The Best of Brandy (2005), but it failed to chart or sell noticeably, reaching number fifty on the UK Singles Chart only.[56] Plans for a fourth single, including contender "I Tried," failed to materalize.[57]

Accolades and impact[edit]

Afrodisiac was named the fourth best album of 2004 by Slant Magazine. The publication's editor Sal Cinquemani called it "a devastating yet confident break-up album [and] extraordinarily personal, often heart-wrenching R&B record."[58] David Browne from Entertainment Weekly ranked the album sixth on his "Best of 2004 Music" top ten list and remarked that "Brandy remains the queen of the R&B murmur but the producers, especially the ever-inventive Timbaland, compensate with dramatic, rumbly, off-kilter beats and tones that add gravitas to this rueful ex-teen star. Everything — the rhythms, the mopey songs, Brandy's delivery — simmers, but ferociously."[59] The album finished eighth on Nekesa Mumbi Moody's 10 best albums list for Associated Press. She wrote that Afrodisiac "was surely [Brandy's] best. From the tell-all, autobiographical themes to the hypnotic beats, this album captures your attention from the first note and refuses to be ignored."[60] Alex Macpherson and David Drake from Stylus Magazine ranked it 12th and 16th on their individual list of the "Top 40 Albums of 2004" respectively.[61] Rolling Stone listed Afrodisiac within their "Top 50 Records of 2004" list, and dubbed it "not only her best but also the year's outstanding R&B disc."[62] In 2010, Afrodisaic was named the 115th best album of the 2000s decade by Slant Magazine.[63]

For the album, Norwood earned her fourth consecutive Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 47th Grammy Awards.[2] At the 2005 Soul Train Music Awards, Afrodisiac was nominated for Best R&B/Soul Album, Female but lost to Alicia Keys' The Diary of Alicia Keys (2004).[64] "Talk About Our Love" received a Best Collaboration nod at the 2004 MOBO Awards. Its accompanying music video was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video at the 2004 award ceremony.[65]

Serving as an inspiration for other artists, Barbadian singer Rihanna revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that her 2007 multi-platinum album, Good Girl Gone Bad, was primarily influenced by Afrodisiac. In the interview she stated, “Brandy's album really helped to inspire, because that album I listen to all day, all night when I was in the studio [...] I really admired that every song was a great song."[66] Rock musician John Frusciante, former guitarist of legendary rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers, mentioned that Norwood and the album were the “main inspiration” behind the guitar work on the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s 2006 Grammy winning album, Stadium Arcadium.[67] In 2008, singer Beyoncé Knowles selected album cut "Focus" for her personal music playlist on iTunes.[68] R&B singer Nivea interpolated the song "I Tried" on her 2010 single "Love Hurts".[69]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Who I Am"  
3:35
2. "Afrodisiac"  
3:47
3. "Who Is She 2 U"  
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:43
4. "Talk About Our Love" (featuring Kanye West)
  • Kanye West
  • Harold Lilly
  • Carlos Wilson
  • Louis Wilson
  • Ricardo A. Wilson
  • Claude Cave II
  • West
  • Norwood[b]
3:34
5. "I Tried"  
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:45
6. "Where You Wanna Be" (featuring T.I.)
  • West
  • Lilly
  • West
  • Norwood[b]
3:32
7. "Focus"  
  • Millsap
  • Nelson
  • Phillip
  • Mosley
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:07
8. "Sadiddy"  
  • Pratt
  • Pratt
  • Phillip
  • Mosley
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:00
9. "Turn It Up"  
  • Millsap
  • Nelson
  • Mosley
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:13
10. "Necessary"  
3:59
11. "Say You Will"   Theron Feemster
3:50
12. "Come As You Are"  
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
3:44
13. "Finally"  
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
3:53
14. "How I Feel"  
  • Millsap
  • Nelson
  • Erick Walls
  • Millsap
  • Norwood[b]
4:41
15. "Should I Go"  
  • Millsap
  • Nelson
  • Mosley
  • Berryman
  • Buckland
  • Champion
  • Martin
  • Timbaland
  • Norwood[b]
4:56
Notes
  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer
  • ^[b] signifies a vocal producer
Sampling credits
  • "Who Is She 2 U" contains a sample of Jacqueline Hilliard's "Instant Love" (1968)
  • "Talk About Our Love" contains a sample of Mandrill's "Gilly Hines" (1978) from the album New Worlds
  • "I Tried" contains a sample of Iron Maiden's "The Clansman" (1998), and Coldplay's "Sparks" (2000)
  • "Where You Wanna Be" contains a sample of Janis Ian's "Jesse" (1974)
  • "Finally" contains a sample of "Rock House Jail" from The Rock soundtrack (1996)
  • "Should I Go" contains a sample of Coldplay's "Clocks" (2002)
  • "Nodding Off" contains a sample of Sunny Deol & Amrita Singh's "Ek Din Jab Hum Jawaan Hongay" (1983)

Charts and certification[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits are taken from the album's liner notes.[84]

Instruments and performances
Managerial
Technical and production
Visuals and imagery

Release history[edit]

List of release dates, showing country, formats and label
Region Format Date Label
Switzerland[85] Standard edition June 25, 2004 Atlantic Records, Warner Music
Germany[86] June 28, 2004
United Kingdom[87] Atlantic Records
France[88] June 29, 2004 East West Records
Japan[89] Atlantic Records
United States[90]
France[91] Limited reissue October 18, 2004 East West Records

References[edit]

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External links[edit]