Brandy on the set of Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business in 2011
|Born||Brandy Rayana Norwood
February 11, 1979
McComb, Mississippi, U.S.
|Other names||Bran' Nu; B-Rocka|
|Home town||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Relatives||Ray J (brother)
Snoop Dogg (first cousin)
Brandy Rayana Norwood (born February 11, 1979), better known simply as Brandy, is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born into a musical family in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Carson, California, she enrolled in performing arts schools as a child and performed as a backing vocalist for teen groups. From 1993 to 1994, Norwood appeared in a supporting role on the short-lived ABC sitcom Thea and signed with Atlantic Records. The following year, she released her self-titled debut album; singles "I Wanna Be Down" and "Baby" peaked atop the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. Norwood starred in the UPN sitcom Moesha as the title character, which lasted six seasons and resulted in roles in the 1998 horror sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and the TV films Cinderella (1997) and Double Platinum (1999). She resumed her music career in 1998 with the widely successful duet with Monica, "The Boy Is Mine", and her second album, Never Say Never.
Throughout the 2000s, Norwood experienced career and commercial turbulence. In 2002, she starred in the reality series Brandy: Special Delivery. Her third and fourth albums, Full Moon (2002) and Afrodisiac (2004), were released to critical success. She served as a judge on the first season of America's Got Talent before being involved in a widely-publicized car accident in 2006. After several lawsuits stemming from the accident, Norwood's fifth album Human was released in 2008. In 2010, she returned to television as a contestant on the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars and starred in the reality series Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business with younger brother Ray J. In 2011, she began a recurring role on Drop Dead Diva and released her sixth album, Two Eleven, the following year. That same year, she also began playing the role of Chardonnay on the BET series The Game.
Within pop music, Norwood has become known for her distinctive sound, characterized by her peculiar timbre, voice-layering, intricate riffs, and beat-driven R&B. She has since been signed to both Epic Records and RCA Records, where she has acquired a catalogue of hits with singles such as "What About Us?", "Talk About Our Love", and "Put It Down" being her most successful. She has sold over 40 million records worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists Norwood as one of the top selling artists in the United States, with 10.5 million certified albums. Her work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, three American Music Awards, and seven Billboard Music Awards.
- 1 Life and career
- 1.1 1979–94: Early life and career beginnings
- 1.2 1994–96: Brandy and Moesha
- 1.3 1997–2000: Never Say Never and film career
- 1.4 2001–04: Full Moon and motherhood
- 1.5 2004–06: Afrodisiac and America's Got Talent
- 1.6 2006–09: Fatal automobile accident and Human
- 1.7 2010–13: Return to acting and Two Eleven
- 1.8 2014–present: Broadway, Zoe Moon, and upcoming seventh studio album
- 2 Artistry
- 3 Legacy and impact
- 4 Other ventures
- 5 Discography
- 6 Filmography
- 7 Stage Productions
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Life and career
1979–94: Early life and career beginnings
Norwood was born on February 11, 1979, in McComb, Mississippi, the daughter of Willie Norwood, a former gospel singer and choir director, and his wife, Sonja Norwood (née Bates), a former district manager for H&R Block. She is the older sister of entertainer Ray J, as well as a first cousin of rapper Snoop Dogg. Raised in a Christian home, Norwood started singing through her father's work as part of the local church choir, performing her first gospel solo at the age of two. In 1983, her parents relocated to Los Angeles, California, where Norwood was schooled at the Hollywood High Performing Arts Center. Norwood's interest in music and performing increased after becoming a fan of singer Whitney Houston at the age of seven, but at school, she experienced trouble with persuading teachers to send her on auditions as she found no support among the staff. Norwood began entering talent shows by the time she was eleven, and, as part of a youth singing group, performed at several public functions.
In 1990, her talent led to a contract with Teaspoon Productions, headed by Chris Stokes and Earl Harris, who gave her work as a backing vocalist for their R&B boy band Immature, and arranged the production of a demo tape. In 1993, amid ongoing negotiations with East West Records, Norwood's parents organized a recording contract with the Atlantic Recording Corporation after auditioning for the company's director of A&R Darryl Williams. To manage her daughter, Norwood's mother soon resigned from her job, while Norwood herself dropped out of Hollywood High School later, and was tutored privately from tenth grade on. During the early production stages of her debut album, Norwood was selected for a role in the ABC sitcom Thea, portraying the daughter of a single mother played by comedienne Thea Vidale. Broadcast to low ratings, the series ran for only one season, but earned her a Young Artists Award nomination for Outstanding Youth Ensemble alongside her co-stars. Norwood recalled that she appreciated the cancellation of the show as she was unenthusiastic about acting at the time, and the taping caused scheduling conflicts with the recording of her album. She stated, "I felt bad for everybody else but me. It was a good thing, because I could do what I had to do, because I wanted to sing."
1994–96: Brandy and Moesha
Williams hired producer Keith Crouch and R&B group Somethin' for the People to work with Norwood, and within eight months the team crafted Brandy. A collection of street-oriented rhythm-and-blues with a hip hop edge, whose lyrical content embraced her youthful and innocent image in public, Norwood later summed up the songs on the album as young and vulnerable, stating, "I didn’t really know a lot—all I wanted to do was basically sing. You can just tell that it’s a person singing from a genuine place, and also a place of basically no experience. I was singing about being attracted to the opposite sex, but I had no experience behind it." Released in September 1994, the album peaked at number twenty on the U.S. Billboard 200. Critical reaction to Brandy was generally positive, with AllMusic writer Eddie Huffman declaring Brandy "a lower-key Janet Jackson or a more stripped-down Mary J. Blige [...] with good songs and crisp production." Anderson Jones of Entertainment Weekly asserted, "Teen actress Norwood acts her age. A premature effort at best, that seems based on the philosophy 'If Aaliyah can do it, why can't I?'."
Brandy went on to sell over six million copies worldwide, and produced three top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including "I Wanna Be Down" and "Baby", both of which reached the top of the Hot R&B Singles chart and were certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. "Brokenhearted", a duet with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men, became a number-two hit on the charts. The album earned Norwood two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the following year, and won her four Soul Train Music Awards, two Billboard Awards, and the New York Children's Choice Award. In 1995, she finished a two month stint as the opening act on Boyz II Men's national tour, and contributed songs to the soundtracks of the films Batman Forever and Waiting to Exhale, with the single "Sittin' Up in My Room" becoming another top-two success. In 1996, Norwood also collaborated with Tamia, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight on the single "Missing You", released from the soundtrack of the F. Gary Gray film Set It Off. The single won her a third Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.
In 1996, her short-lived engagement on Thea led Norwood to star in her own show, the UPN-produced sitcom Moesha. Appearing alongside William Allen Young and Sheryl Lee Ralph, she played the title role of Moesha Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl coping with a stepmother as well as the pressures and demands of becoming an adult. Originally bought by CBS, the program debuted on UPN in January 1996, and soon became their most-watched show. While the sitcom managed to increase its audience every new season and spawned a spin-off titled The Parkers, the network decided to cancel the show after six seasons on the air, leaving it ending with a cliffhanger for a scrapped seventh season. Norwood was awarded an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress for her performance. In 1997, Brandy, Ray J and their parents, started The Norwood Kids Foundation, which helps disadvantaged, at-risk youths in Los Angeles and Mississippi through the Arts and self -help programs.
Norwood attended Hollywood High Performing Arts Center, but studied with a private tutor from 10th grade on. In 1996, she became a freshman at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. In 1996, she shared a short relationship with Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant, whom she accompanied to his prom at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. She also dated Boyz II Men lead singer Wanya Morris, whom she cited as her "first love." Morris, who was six years older than her, reportedly ended their relationship a month before her nineteenth birthday. Also during their work on the Never Say Never album, she briefly dated rapper Mase.
1997–2000: Never Say Never and film career
In 1997, Norwood was hand-picked by producer Whitney Houston to play the title character in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s television version of Cinderella featuring a multicultural cast that also included Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Houston. The two-hour Wonderful World of Disney special garnered an estimated 60 million viewers, giving the network its highest ratings in the time period in 16 years, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program the following year.
Fledgling producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins was consulted to contribute to Norwood's second album Never Say Never, which was released in June 1998. Norwood co-wrote and produced six songs on the album which yielded her first number-one song on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, "The Boy Is Mine", a duet with singer Monica that has become the most successful song by a female duo in the music industry. Exploiting the media's presumption of a rivalry between the two young singers, the song was one of the most successful records in United States of all time, spending a record-breaking thirteen weeks atop the Billboard charts, and eventually garnering the pair a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album's success was equally widespread, and after extensive radio play of the single overseas, the label released it globally during the summer. Never Say Never eventually became Norwood's biggest-selling album, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. Critics rated the album highly, with AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine praising Norwood and her team for wisely finding "a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige—it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge." Altogether, the album spawned seven singles, including Norwood's second number-one song, the Diane Warren-penned "Have You Ever?"
After backing out of a role in F. Gary Gray's 1996 film Set It Off, Norwood made her big screen debut in the supporting role of Karla Wilson in the slasher film, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The movie outperformed the original with a total of $16.5 million at its opening weekend, but critical reaction to the film was largely disappointing, with film review site Rotten Tomatoes calculating a poor rating of 7% based on 46 reviews. Norwood, however, earned positive reviews for her "bouncy" performance, which garnered her both a Blockbuster Entertainment Award and an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Breakthrough Female Performance. In 1999, she co-starred with Diana Ross in the telefilm drama Double Platinum about an intense, strained relationship between a mother and daughter. Shot in only twenty days in New York City, both Norwood and Ross served as executive producers of the movie which features original songs from their respective albums Never Say Never (1998) and Every Day Is a New Day (1999), as well as previously unreleased duets.
2001–04: Full Moon and motherhood
After a lengthy hiatus following the end of Moesha, and a number of tabloid headlines discussing her long-term battle with dehydration, Norwood returned to music in 2001, when she and brother Ray-J were asked to record a cover version of Phil Collins' 1990 hit "Another Day in Paradise" for the tribute album Urban Renewal: A Tribute to Phil Collins. Released as the album's first single in Europe and Oceania, the song became an instant international success overseas, scoring top-ten entries on the majority of all charts it appeared on.
Full Moon, Norwood's third studio album, was released in February 2002. It was composed of R&B and pop-oriented songs, many of them co-created with Jerkins, Warryn Campbell and Mike City. While its lead single "What About Us?" became a worldwide top-ten hit, the album's title track failed to chart or sell noticeably outside the United States and the United Kingdom, where it managed to enter the Top 20 chart. Media reception was generally lukewarm, with Rolling Stone describing the album as "frantic, faceless, fake-sexy R&B." Within the coming year, Norwood and Robert "Big Bert" Smith began writing and producing for other artists such as Toni Braxton, Kelly Rowland, and Kiley Dean. Norwood's foray into reality television began in 2002 with the MTV series Diary Presents Brandy: Special Delivery; the show documented the final months of Norwood's pregnancy with her daughter Sy'rai.
During the production of the Full Moon album, Norwood became involved romantically with producer Robert "Big Bert" Smith. The couple began a relationship during the summer of 2001, but their relationship did not become known until February 2002, the same month Norwood revealed that she was expecting her first child. However, a year after the birth of their daughter Sy'rai Iman Smith on June 16, 2002—an event tracked by the four-part MTV reality series Brandy: Special Delivery—Norwood and Smith officially announced their separation. It was not until 2004 that Smith revealed that the pair had never been legally wed, but that they had only portrayed the notion of nuptials to preserve Norwood's public image. Norwood later stated that she regarded her relationship with Smith as a "spiritual union and true commitment to each other."
By the following year, Norwood had begun a relationship with NBA guard Quentin Richardson, who was then playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. The couple soon became engaged in July 2004 but Norwood eventually ended their 15-month engagement in October 2005. It was reported that Norwood had to get a tattoo of Richardson's face on her back transformed into a cat. In 2010, she briefly dated rapper Flo Rida, though their mild flirtation did not lead to a romance.
2004–06: Afrodisiac and America's Got Talent
Returning from yet another hiatus, Norwood's fourth album Afrodisiac was released in June 2004, amid the well-publicized termination of her short-lived business relationship with entertainment manager Benny Medina. Norwood ended her contract with his Los Angeles-based Handprint Entertainment after less than a year of representation following controversies surrounding Medina's handling of the lead single "Talk About Our Love", and failed negotiations of a purported co-headlining tour with R&B singer Usher. Despite the negative publicity, Afrodisiac became Norwood's most critically acclaimed album then, with some highlighting the "more consistently mature and challenging" effect of Timbaland on Norwood's music, and others calling it "listenable and emotionally resonant", comparing it to "Janet Jackson at her best." A moderate seller, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, but generally failed to chart or sell noticeably outside the United States. "Talk About Our Love" reached number six in the United Kingdom, but subsequent singles failed to score successfully on the popular music charts. Later that year, she guest-starred as Gladys Knight in the third season premiere of American Dreams, in which she performed "I Heard It Through the Grapevine".
After eleven years with the company, Norwood asked for and received an unconditional release from Atlantic Records at the end of 2004, citing her wish "to move on" as the main reason for her decision. Completing her contract with the label, a compilation album titled The Best of Brandy was released in March 2005. Released without any promotional single, it reached the top 30 in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, where the collection was appreciated by contemporary critics who noted the creativity of Norwood's back catalogue. Andy Kellman of AllMusic expressed, "This set, unlike so many other anthologies from her contemporaries, hardly confirms dwindling creativity or popularity." Thereupon she reportedly began shopping a new record deal under the auspices of Knockout Entertainment, her brother's vanity label.
In February 2006, Norwood began appearing in a recurring role on UPN sitcom One on One, playing the sister to brother Ray J's character D-Mack. In June, she was cast as one of three talent judges on the first season of America's Got Talent, an amateur talent contest on NBC executive-produced by Simon Cowell and hosted by Regis Philbin. The broadcast was one of the most-watched programs of the summer, and concluded on August 17, 2006 with the win of 11-year-old singer Bianca Ryan. Norwood was originally slated to return for a second season in summer 2007, but eventually decided not to, feeling that she "couldn't give the new season the attention and commitment it deserved," following the fatal 2006 car accident in which she was involved. She was replaced by reality TV star Sharon Osbourne.
2006–09: Fatal automobile accident and Human
Driving home on December 30, 2006, Norwood was involved in a fatal automobile accident on Los Angeles' San Diego (405) Freeway. The accident claimed the life of 38-year-old Awatef Aboudihaj, the driver of the Toyota that was struck by Norwood's Range Rover. Aboudihaj died from her injuries at the L.A. Holy Cross Hospital the following day. Norwood was neither arrested nor charged with vehicular manslaughter due to insufficient evidence. Law enforcement officials reported that Norwood was driving her car at 65 miles per hour, and did not notice that vehicles ahead of her had slowed considerably. Her vehicle then collided with rear of Aboudihaj's, causing the Toyota to strike another vehicle before sliding sideways and impacting the center divider. As the Toyota came to a stop, it was hit by yet another vehicle. A well-placed source in the California Highway Patrol, however, later reported that Aboudihaj actually struck the car in front of her and then slammed on her brakes before Norwood made contact. The sudden stop caused Norwood to hit Aboudihaj's car. As confirmed, toxicology reports showed that Aboudihaj had "slight traces" of marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.
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In December 2007, Norwood's attorney Blair Berk stated that "after a more thorough and extensive investigation by authorities, the Los Angeles City Attorney has determined that Brandy Norwood should not be charged with any crime whatsoever relating to the accident back in 2006." She continued, "These past 12 months have posed an extraordinary hardship for Brandy and her family, who have been unfairly forced to live under a cloud of suspicion initially caused by the ill-advised and premature press release sent out by the California Highway Patrol accusing Brandy of wrongdoing before the police investigation was even finished. However, Brandy continues to be mindful that she was so fortunate to be uninjured in this accident and there was a life lost that should be remembered." Meanwhile, speaking in May 2009, Norwood herself stated, "The whole experience did completely change my life, and I can say that I think I'm a better person from it. You know, I still don't understand all of it and why all of it happened, but I definitely have a heart, and my heart goes out to everyone involved. I pray about it every single day, and that's all I can really say on the subject."
Nevertheless, there have been multiple lawsuits filed against Norwood, all of which were ultimately settled out of court by Brandy's civil attorney, Ed McPherson. Aboudihaj's parents filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Norwood. Filed on January 30, 2007, the lawsuit was initially set to go to trial in April 2009, but was eventually canceled as Norwood had settled extrajudicially with Aboudihaj's parents. Aboudihaj's husband also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, suing her for an undisclosed amount of financial relief to cover medical and funeral expenses, as well as legal costs and other damages. He rejected his part of a $1.2 million settlement offer in February 2009, but did settle in November of that year. The couple's two children, who also filed a lawsuit against Norwood, received $300,000 each, according to court documents filed in L.A. County Superior Court on June 2, 2009. Two other drivers who were involved and injured in the accident also filed a lawsuit against Norwood. They settled with Norwood for undisclosed amounts.
Norwood's fifth studio album, Human, was released in December 2008, produced by Toby Gad, Brian Kennedy, and RedOne. Distributed by Koch Records and Sony Music, the album marked Norwood's debut on the Epic Records label, and her reunion with long-time contributor and mentor Rodney Jerkins, who wrote and executive produced most of the album. Generally well received by critics, Human debuted at number fifteen on the U.S. Billboard 200 with opening week sales of 73,000 copies. With a domestic sales total of 214,000 copies, it failed to match the success of its predecessors. While lead-off single "Right Here (Departed)" scored Norwood her biggest chart success since 2002's "Full Moon", the album failed to impact elsewhere, resulting in lackluster sales in general and the end of her contract with the label, following the controversial appointment of Amanda Ghost as president of Epic Records, and Norwood's split with rapper Jay-Z's Roc Nation management.
In December 2009, she officially introduced her rapping alter-ego Bran'Nu with two credits on Timbaland's album Timbaland Presents Shock Value 2, and was cast in the pilot episode for the ABC series This Little Piggy, also starring Rebecca Creskoff and Kevin Rahm, which was recast the following year.
2010–13: Return to acting and Two Eleven
In April 2010, Norwood and Ray J debuted in the VH1 reality series Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business along with their parents. The show chronicled the backstage lives of both siblings, while taking on larger roles in their family's management and production company, R&B Productions. Executive produced by the Norwood family, the season concluded after eleven episodes, and was renewed for a second season, which began broadcasting in fall 2010. A Family Business, a compilation album with previously unreleased content from the entire cast was released on Saguaro Road Records in June 2011. Critics such as The Washington Post declared it an "awkward and adorable and really, really wholesome collection." While the album failed to chart, it produced three promotional singles, including the joint track "Talk to Me".
In fall 2010, Norwood appeared as a contestant on season 11 of the ABC reality show Dancing with the Stars, partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. She ultimately placed fourth in the competition, which was a shock to the judges, viewers, studio audience, and other contestants that considered her one of the show's frontrunners throughout the entire competition. In August 2011, it was confirmed that Norwood had signed a joint record deal with RCA Records and producer Breyon Prescott's Chameleon Records. In September, a new talent show, Majors & Minors, created by musician Evan Bogart, premiered on The Hub. It followed a group of young performers age 10–16 and their chance to be mentored by some established artists such as Norwood, Ryan Tedder and Leona Lewis. Later that same year, Norwood returned to acting roles with recurring appearances on The CW's teen drama series 90210, and in the fourth season of the Lifetime's comedy series Drop Dead Diva, in which she played the role of Elisa Shayne.
In 2012, Norwood joined the cast of the BET comedy series The Game, playing the recurring role of Chardonnay, a bartender. With her role extended, she became a regular cast member by the next season. In February, Norwood reteamed with Monica on "It All Belongs to Me", which was released as a single from the latter's album New Life. Norwood's own comeback single "Put It Down" featuring singer Chris Brown was released later that year. The song reached number three on Billboard 's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming her first top ten entry in ten years. Her sixth album Two Eleven, which was released in October, saw a return to her authentic R&B sound, but with what Norwood described a "progressive edge". A moderate commercial success, it was viewed as a humble comeback from Norwood, reaching number three on the US Billboard 200, and the top of the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Over the holidays 2012, Norwood got engaged to music executive Ryan Press.
In March 2013, Norwood returned to the big screen starring alongside an ensemble cast consisting of Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross and Vanessa L. Williams in Tyler Perry's dramatic film Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. Norwood plays supporting character Melinda, a woman with a few secrets running from her past. The film received generally negative reviews from film critics but became a moderate US box office success. In June 2013, Norwood signed with Creative Artists Agency, a prominent entertainment agency headquartered in Los Angeles.
2014–present: Broadway, Zoe Moon, and upcoming seventh studio album
In April 2014, Norwood called off her engagement with Press following their breakup earlier that year. In July, she was inducted as an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The same month, Norwood released a rerecorded version of Coldplay's song "Magic" to her TwitMusic account. It peaked at number one on Billboard 's Trending 140 chart, less than 24 hours after its premiere. In 2014, Norwood signed a deal with MBK Entertainment, a management company, where CEO Jeff Robinson will executive produce her forth-coming album expected to be released in 2015. So far Brandy has recruited songwriters and producers Kirby Lauryen, Swagg R’Celious, Diane Warren, Andrew “Pop” Wansel, Stacy Barthe, Ronald “Flip” Colson, Steve “Ace” Mostyn, and Warren “Oak” Felder.
In March 2015, it was announced that Norwood will make her Broadway debut in Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre. For an eight-week run, she will play the role of Roxie Hart. In April 2015, BET Network announced that Norwood is set to star in a new original scripted series, Zoe Moon. The romantic comedy will center around Norwood’s character, a newly divorced single mom embarking on her new life and career as a fledgling cosmetics mogul.
Themes and genres
Stylistically, Norwood's music has evolved since she debuted in 1994 at the age of 15. With her mother as manager and stylist, she developed a “good girl” image with a “hip-yet-wholesome” appeal. At the beginning of her career, she often cited Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Mariah Carey as her biggest musical inspirations, with Houston being her most prominent and personal influence. Outside of Houston, she has cited singers Sade, Kim Burrell, Enya, and her father Willie Norwood as being her major vocal influences.
Norwood’s initial sound was contemporary R&B, heavily rooted in gospel and soul music. Her lyrics spoke of various types of love, from casual and friendly love to romantic and spiritual affairs. Influenced by Houston and Carey, she incorporated a ballad-heavy style and an adult contemporary feel into her urban-pop sound for her second studio album Never Say Never. Her third studio album Full Moon saw Norwood abandon her teenage appeal for a more adult and sensual edginess. Along with her image, her voice had gone through a major change, trading her girlish rasp for a now deeper and warmer voice that had acquired a somewhat throatier, smoky edge. The music also reflected the change, as songs like "When You Touch Me" and "Like This" explored more adult, sexual topics, and a sound that blended her previous urban-pop sound with heavy influences of UK garage, glitch, and metallic tones.
In 2004, her recent motherhood, life experiences, and growing affinity for British rock band Coldplay, caused her to shift toward a more introspective outlook with her fourth studio album Afrodisiac, a venture with producer Timbaland into the experimental illbient aesthetic, which fuses ambient, dub, and breakbeat soundscapes with progressive sampling methods. A four-year hiatus and a few life-changing occurrences caused Norwood to return to the music industry in late 2008 with Human, her fifth studio album, which discussed topics of spiritual love, genuine heartache and universal honesty, and musically explored combining her urban pop sound with elements of country and inspirational pop. Experiencing a career and personal rejuvenation, Norwood was eager to scale back her previous pop venture and return to authentic R&B sound on her sixth studio album Two Eleven. The album was a melding of both Norwood's now-classic urban pop template and the bass-heavy trends of post-2000's contemporary hip-hop.
Voice and timbre
Norwood is a contralto with a voice that has often been described as soft, raspy, and husky by music critics and Norwood herself. Music critic and Slant Magazine writer Andrew Chan describes Norwood's vocal tone as having "an unusual mix of warmth and cold, hard edges". He further describes her vocal quality, saying, "Like little else in pop-music singing, Brandy's subtle manipulation of timbre and texture rewards close listening. [...] Her main claim of technical virtuosity has always been her long, cascading riffs, a skill many R&B die-hards revere her for." Norwood is also noted for her use of multitrack recording to create intricate vocal arrangements and layering. Terry Sawyer of Pop Matters Online writes on this skill, remarking, "While it's been said that Brandy's voice isn't exactly a barn burner, it's not mentioned enough that she does more than enough with what she's got. She never leaves her voice hanging in spotlit scarcity, folding its variegated terracing, whispering out the lead track, shouting in the back-up, and piling each song with enough interlocking sounds to create the tightly packed illusion of vocal massiveness."
Legacy and impact
Since her 1994 debut album, Norwood has won over 100 awards as a recording artist and sold over 40 million records worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists Norwood as one of the top selling artists in the United States, with 10.5 million certified albums. Her song The Boy Is Mine is also one of the longest running number one songs in the United States, and is one of the best selling duets of all time. In 1999, Billboard ranked Norwood among the top 20 of the Top Pop Artists of the 1990s. In 2010, Billboard included Norwood in their Top 50 R&B and Hip Hop Artists list of the past 25 years. Norwood was one of the youngest artists nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her second album Never Say Never appeared in the "Top 100 Certified Albums" list by the RIAA.
Norwood's vocal stylings have had a significant impact on the music industry, most notably with contemporary R&B, pop and gospel genres, where she is often subjectively referred to as the "Vocal Bible". Her work has influenced numerous artists, including Jessie J, JoJo, Bridget Kelly, Olivia, Emeli Sandé, Jordin Sparks, Tank, Teyana Taylor, and Elle Varner, while Norwood's vocals have been praised by several of her peers, including Natasha Bedingfield, Missy Elliott, Jennifer Hudson, Syleena Johnson, Lil' Mo, Brian McKnight, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, and Tamia. Additionally, on many occasions, Norwood has been thought of as a talented artist that music producers and songwriters have used to enhance their own artistic and creative energies.
American neo soul singer Erykah Badu noted that her 1997 debut album, Baduizm, was partly influenced by Norwood's debut album, while Barbadian singer Rihanna revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that her 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad was primarily influenced by Norwood, stating, "[Brandy] really helped inspire that album. I listened to [Afrodisiac] every day [while in the studio]." Kelly Rowland cited Norwood, who also wrote and produced for Rowland's debut album, as one of the inspirations for her second studio album Ms. Kelly (2007). Rock musician John Frusciante, former guitarist of rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers cited Norwood as the "main inspiration" behind the guitar work on Red Hot Chili Peppers' 2006 album, Stadium Arcadium.
Brandy has had many endorsements in her career. In 1999, she became a CoverGirl, appearing in a number of commercials. She also represented the brands Candie's in 1998 and DKNY in the Spring of 2000. In the late 1990s Brandy was represented by Wilhelmina Agency, one of the leading modeling agencies in the industry. In 1999, Mattell released the Brandy Doll. The doll featured Brandy in a reddish orange blouse and orange long skirt. Next to this, the Holiday Brandy Doll was released in 2000 along with another "Brandy Doll". Millions of the dolls were sold and they were one of the biggest selling toys for Mattel. In 2005, Brandy became the spokesperson for Ultima, a company for hair weaves and wigs. As of 2014, she no longer represents them.
In 1996, Brandy along with her brother Ray J, created the Norwood Kids Foundation. The goal of NKF is to "To use Performing Arts as a catalyst to shape the youth of today into self-confident, disciplined, responsible, and caring individuals capable of making a positive impact in their communities." In 1999 Brandy was the first international spokesman person for youth by UNICEF. Norwood is also an avid supporter of the Make A Wish Foundation and RAINN. In 2000, Brandy donated $100,000 to 2000 WATTS, an entertainment community center founded by singer Tyrese Gibson in the underprivileged community of Watts, California. Brandy teamed up with Skecher's “Nothing Compares to Family” campaign in 2008. In 2010 Brandy became involved with Get Schooled, a national non-profit mobile phone calls by celebrities to wake up students for school. In 2014, Norwood teamed up with "text4baby", which spreads health and wellness to expecting moms via text message, and became an honorary co-chairman of the 2014 Unstoppable Foundation.
- Brandy (1994)
- Never Say Never (1998)
- Full Moon (2002)
- Afrodisiac (2004)
- Human (2008)
- Two Eleven (2012)
- Chicago (musical) (2015) (Broadway)
- Brandy videography
- List of songs recorded by Brandy
- List of awards and nominations received by Brandy
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brandy Norwood.|
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|Awards and achievements|
Chad Ochocinco & Cheryl Burke
|Dancing with the Stars (US) semi-finalist
Season 11 (Fall 2010 with Maksim Chmerkovskiy)
Ralph Macchio & Karina Smirnoff