Never Say Never (Brandy Norwood album)
|Never Say Never|
|Studio album by Brandy|
|Released||June 9, 1998|
|Recorded||October 1997 – April 1998|
|Singles from Never Say Never|
Never Say Never is the second studio album by American singer Brandy Norwood. Released by Atlantic Records on June 9, 1998 in United States, Norwood's label consulted David Foster and upcoming producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and his team to work with her on the record, the latter of who went on to craft the majority of the album and would evolve as her mentor and head producer on succeeding projects in the 2000s.
Influenced by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, Norwood wanted to present a more mature facet of herself with the album, incorporating a ballad-heavy style and an adult contemporary feel into her urban-pop sound for the album. Upon its release, Never Say Never facilitated Norwood in becoming a viable recording artist with media–crossing appeal. It debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 160,000 copies in its first week, and remained 28 weeks within top 20 of the chart. Worldwide, the album sold 16 million copies.
It became both her highest-charting and highest-selling album to date on most international markets, and won numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "The Boy Is Mine." The album was supported by Brandy's Never Say Never World Tour in 1999, which featured soldout performances in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and Canada. Never Say Never is listed in the Top 100 Best-selling albums in the US.
Production and title
After a lengthy musical break, which saw Norwood establishing a flourishing acting career with her sitcom Moesha, she eventually entered recording studios in October 1997 to begin work on her second studio album. Barely satisfied with the material that was presented to her however, the recording of the album was postponed several times as Norwood felt that many songs wouldn't express what she wanted to tell at this point of her career. "Many of the songs I heard were not 'me'," the singer stated during a promotional interview with Jet in 1999, "And If I can't feel it, then I won't sing it. I'm not the little girl I was when I made my first record. My voice is a strong instrument now; my vocals come from both my heart and my diaphragm. My heart because I matured in the four years since the last album; I'm more emotionally there." One song written for Norwood was "Candy" but she didn't like the song feeling that she was too old for it. The song was later given to pop star Mandy Moore two years later and became an international success. The originally written as "I'll be forever yours Love always, Brandy" but when it was given to Moore, it was changed to "I'll be forever yours Love always, Mandy". In late 1997, Norwood requested Missy Elliott as one of the producers for her album. While Atlantic Records refused the approach to have Norwood work with Missy Elliott, Timbaland and their team on the album, the label consulted David Foster and then-newcomer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins to contribute to the project, the latter of who went on to craft the majority of the album and would evolve as the its executive producer. Norwood credited the chemistry with both producers with her musical growth: "They brought out the best in me, the vocals I didn't know I had," she said.
The album opens with the "Angel in Disguise", a Rodney Jerkins-produced mid-tempo track. The song was released as an airplay-only single in early 1999 and charted within the top twenty of the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart, peaking at number 17. Norwood has noted the song one of her favorite recordings on Never Say Never. Set as the album's lead single, "The Boy Is Mine" was released in May 1998 to good reviews. "The Boy Is Mine" was noted for being "smooth", although it was panned by some critics, with one saying "When Brandy has it out with Monica in the backstabbing The Boy Is Mine, there's none of the soul-baring theatrics we'd get if Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige had gone at it. Instead, the two younger women play second fiddle to the steady-thumping bass, keeping their voices so low you'd think they were afraid a teacher might overhear them." The single was originally intended to be a solo song for Brandy, but due to Monica's success by that time it was released as a duet. It reached number one in the US and spent 13 weeks on the top spot, it outsold the success of its predecessor, lead single "I Wanna Be Down", which reached number six. "The Boy Is Mine" was also the international breakthrough success, peaking on the charts at number one in Japan, Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand and Top Ten in several other states. The single's music video was nominated for two 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, for Best R&B Video, and Video of the Year.
"Learn the Hard Way" is the album's fourth track. It is the third song on the album, and shares similarities with the song "Never Say Never". The Guy Roche-produced "Almost Doesn't Count" is the fifth track. Brandy performed the song in the 1999 film Double Platinum, starring Diana Ross and herself. The international single "Top of the World" is the album's sixth track. It is a collaboration with Mase and the song talks about Brandy as a popstar just trying to be her and not feeling like being in her own world. In the music video, directed by Paul Hunter, Brandy was featured incurring various supernatural phenomena. She spontaneously floated in the air, flipping and somersaulting above random objects; telephone poles and vehicles, as people stopped to stare. These strange phenomena also included balancing herself vertically and horizontally alongside skyscrapers and buildings. The Darkchild-produced "U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)", which is the album's seventh and final single, is noted for its remix version with Shaunta and Da Brat. The remix was released as the lead single to the same-named EP. "Never Say Never", also produced by Rodney Jerkins, is the eighth song of the album. "Never Say Never" was released as a Germany single in 2000.
"Truthfully", a ballad about a broken relationship, was penned by former Boyz II Men member, singer-songwriter Marc Nelson. Recorded in a single take, it took Nelson five different sessions to get Norwood in the recording studio as she felt initially nervous about working with him. Main production on the song was helmed by Harvey Mason, Jr. who received his first major placement as a producer on "Truthfully". Mason was consulted by Jerkins after he had shopped around several tracks for record executives.
The number-one-hit "Have You Ever?" was the tenth track. Brandy states that it was the first time she had been in the studio with a producer like David Foster. Her voice wasn't as developed as it is now and the song required what producers call ‘money notes' – the kind that get you a No. 1 on the charts. She says she was really nervous but it all worked just fine.", "Put That on Everything" a mid-tempo ballad is the albums eleventh track and was written by Brandy Norwood, L. Daniels, Fred Jenkins III, Rodney Jerkins and Joana Tejeda and is produced by Rodney Jerkins. The album's twelfth song is actually a phone conversation in the car between Brandy, Rodney and Fred Jerkins. "Happy", an R&B up-tempo-song, that was featured in the motion picture Double Platinum and received positive critics from The Rolling Stone magazine, was the album's thirteenth song. It also served as the theme song of the 2002 reality TV show Brandy: Special Delivery, which was aired on MTV. "One Voice", the fourteenth track, is the official UNICEF theme song in its 50th anniversary year. Entertainment Weekly describes her voice in the song as soft and smoky and as a gospel-fired ballad that find her effortlessly raising the roof. "Tomorrow", another ballad is the fifteenth track and is with almost 6 minutes the albums longest song. The final song is the Bryan Adams cover "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You". Although lacking video or promotion the song received a top thirty entry on New Zealand singles chart.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Never Say Never received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars and noted it a "better, more adventurous record than her debut," adding: "Brandy wisely decides to find a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige — it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge. [Her] delivery has improved and her subdued vocals can make mediocre material sound convincing. Still, what makes Never Say Never a winning record is the quality songs and production." Daryl Easlea from BBC Music felt that the collection of smooth, mid-paced jams provided a snapshot of commercial R&B from the era. He described Never Say Never "as the epitome of a mixed bag. However, given that a lot of R&B in the late 90s sounds like an ornate musical box revolving, the album is an intelligent brew that deviates sufficiently from that template and plays to Brandy and executive producer Rodney Jerkins's considerable strengths." The Spokesman-Review critic Richard Harrington was positive with the album, writing: "Brandy is co-writer on six of the album's 14 songs and no matter their achievement lyrically, she finds herself grown-up and confident, without taking any false steps."
Rolling Stone magazine was generally positive with the album, giving it three stars out of five stars rating, and wrote: "Brandy exudes more pizazz than the Hanson brothers combined and bursts with enough naive charm to make Jewel look like a jaded sailor. Her second album bubbles with that same effervescence [...]." J. D. Considine, reviewer for Entertainment Weekly, felt that Norwood's voice was lacking passion on the album. Although he indicated that it was "hard to argue with Brandy's deference to the rhythm, especially when she rides one of producer Rodney Jerkins itchily propulsive tracks," he also noted that it was flattening "its emotional range, until the romantic bliss of "Happy," the dogged determination of "Never Say Never," and the conflicted affection of "Angel in Disguise" all end up sounding pretty much the same." He gave the album a B rating. Angela Lewis, writer for The Independent was disappointed with the album, saying: "This is pop R&B without the soul, and could see Brandy without a future in the adult big league. She lacks real command of tracks like "Have You Ever?", showing she's better at playing by the rules than anything else." In his Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau gave the album a two-star honorable mention and picked out its three songs ("The Boy Is Mine", "U Don't Know Me" and "Almost Doesn't Count") while describing Brandy as "America's sweetheart, and why not?"
Never Say Never debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, the official albums chart in the United States, on June 16, 1998. Selling approximately 160,000 units in its first week of release, it opened to Norwood's biggest week sales yet and, as of 2010, still retains the largest first-week seller within her discography. The following week, the album managed to climb up to its peak position on the chart, reaching number two, even though its sales had dipped slightly to 152,000 copies. In the end, Never Say Never spent a total of 72 weeks on the Billboard 200 — 28 of which were in the top 20 — and sold more than 4.6 million copies in the United States. It was eventually certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for more than 5 million shipped units, including 4.4 million sold copies.
On the international front, Never Say Never received the following certifications: quadruple-platinum certification in Canada; platinum in Japan; platinum in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa; and gold in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. To date, the album remains Norwood's biggest-selling effort with worldwide sales in excess of 16 million copies. Never Say Never is the best-selling R&B album in the United States of 1998.
Awards and nominations
Never Say Never was nominated for four 41st Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for "The Boy Is Mine", Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song for "The Boy Is Mine", Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals for "The Boy Is Mine", won the latter one and received generally good reviews.
At the 42nd Grammy Awards, Never Say Never received one Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Almost Doesn't Count". Besides the Grammys Never Say Never received multiple Billboard Music Awards and was nominated for several American Music Awards, MTV Awards and Soul Train Awards.
|2.||"Angel in Disguise" (features background vocals by Joe)||LaShawn Daniels, Traci Hale, Fred Jerkins III, Rodney Jerkins, Nycolia "Tye-V" Turman, Joseph Lewis Thomas||R. Jerkins, Brandy||4:48|
|3.||"The Boy Is Mine" (featuring Monica)||L. Daniels, F. Jerkins, R. Jerkins, B. Norwood, J. Tejeda||R. Jerkins, Dallas Austin, Brandy||4:55|
|4.||"Learn the Hard Way"||L. Daniels, F. Jerkins, R. Jerkins, Sybil Jerkins Cherry, B. Norwood, Rick Williams||R. Jerkins||4:51|
|5.||"Almost Doesn't Count"||Guy Roche, Shelly Peiken||G. Roche, F. Jerkins||3:37|
|6.||"Top of the World" (featuring Ma$e)||Mason Betha, L. Daniels, F. Jerkins, R. Jerkins, Isaac Phillips, N. Turman||R. Jerkins||4:41|
|7.||"U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)"||Sean Bryant, Paris Davis, R. Jerkins, B. Norwood, I. Phillips||R. Jerkins||4:28|
|8.||"Never Say Never"||L. Daniels, R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins, B. Norwood, Japhe Tejeda, Rick Williams||R. Jerkins||5:10|
|9.||"Truthfully"||Harvey Mason Jr., Marc Nelson||Brad Gilderman, R. Jerkins, H. Mason Jr., M. Nelson||4:58|
|10.||"Have You Ever?"||Diane Warren||David Foster||4:32|
|11.||"Put That on Everything"||L. Daniels, R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins, B. Norwood, J. Tejeda||R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins||4:51|
|12.||"In the Car Interlude"||1:10|
|13.||"Happy"||L. Daniels, R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins, B. Norwood, J. Tejeda||R. Jerkins, Brandy||4:06|
|14.||"One Voice"||Phil Gladston, Gordon Chambers||D. Foster||4:08|
|15.||"Tomorrow"||L. Daniels, R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins, B. Norwood, J. Tejeda||R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins, Brandy||5:21|
|16.||"(Everything I Do) I Do It for You"||Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen, Robert John "Mutt" Lange||D. Foster||4:10|
|Limited edition, second disc|
|1.||"Have You Ever" (Soul Skank Remix)||Warren||Foster||3:59|
|2.||"Top of the World" (Boogie Soul Remix Radio Edit) (Edit)||M. Betha, L. Daniels, F. Jerkins, R. Jerkins, Isaac Phillips, N. Turman||R. Jerkins||3:53|
Credits are taken from the album's liner notes.
- Instruments and vocals
- Technical and production
|U.S. Billboard 200||79|
|France||June 4, 1998|
|Europe||June 8, 1998|
|Canada||June 9, 1998|
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