Never Say Never (Brandy album)
|Never Say Never|
|Studio album by|
|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. 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.
The lyrical themes on the album include the singer's personal experiences with love, monogamy, media bias, and maturity. 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. Seven of the fourteen songs were chosen as singles, with "The Boy Is Mine" and "Have You Ever?" both becoming number one hits, "Top of the World" becoming an international hit, "Almost Doesn't Count" becoming a domestic Top 20 hit, and "Angel in Disguise" becoming a Top 20 R&B hit, Norwood's 8th consecutive Top 20 hit. Worldwide, the album sold 16 million copies.
It became both her 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.
Following the release of her multi-platinum eponymous debut album (1994) and several equally successful soundtrack contributions such as "Sittin' Up in My Room" from Waiting to Exhale (1995) and "Missing You" from Set It Off (1996), Norwood took a lengthy musical break in which she graduated from high school and enrolled in college and established a flourishing acting career. In 1995, she was cast in the titular role in the UPN sitcom Moesha, which ran until 2001, and in the following two years, she appeared opposite her idol Whitney Houston in the musical television film Cinderella (1997) and filmed the slasher film sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998). While she enjoyed her acting profile accomplishments, Norwood felt that her transition had caused people to recognize her more as an actress than as a singer, though she was still considering music her career priority. Suffering from what she called "sophomore album jitters" however, it became difficult for Norwood to go in the studio and really produce. Thus, she found herself making excuses to her artists and repertoire guys Paris Davis and Craig Kallman to avoid singing.
Norwood eventually entered recording studios in October 1997 to begin work on her second studio album. Having been barely satisfied with the material that was presented to her beforehand, recording of a second album had been postponed several times, as Norwood found that many songs would not express what she wanted to tell at that 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." Also, after Brandy, she felt in a space of wanting to do something different, while exploring her voice and playing with different sounds. Elaborating on her desire for progression and a more mature sound, Norwood added, that "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."
Later that year, Norwood requested rapper–songwriter Missy Elliott as one of the producers for her album. However, Atlantic Records refused the approach to have Norwood work with Elliott and her regular co-producer Timbaland following their work with label mate and fellow teen R&B singer Aaliyah on her second studio One in a Million, released the year before. Instead, the record company consulted Canadian pop producer David Foster and then-newcomer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and his team to contribute to the project, the latter of who went on to craft the majority of the album and would evolve as 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. Nevertheless, after Brandy's commercial success, she was heavily pressured, stating: "It's very important to me that my music connects with the general public.
The album's opening track "Angel in Disguise" is a Rodney Jerkins-produced mid-tempo track that features backing vocals by fellow R&B singer Joe. Set as the album's lead single, "The Boy Is Mine" was originally intended to be a solo song for Brandy, but due to Monica's success by that time it was conceived as a duet.
"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 was not 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.
Promotion for Never Say Never began with Brandy's appearance on music magazine Vibe's April cover, followed by a massive print campaign, including cover shoots for Teen People and Ebony as well as coverage in fanzines. The co-marketing venture between Vibe and Atlantic Records resulted in a number of joint projects, such as a Vibe/Brandy website, a college marketing tour, and several retail and radio promotions. With television channel MTV, Brandy hosted the network's spring break shows in Jamaica on March 13–15. In June Brandy performed "Top of the World" alongside Mase at the 7th annual MTV Movie Awards. On June 13 MTV aired a special that focused on Brandy presenting a video countdown that consisted of her favorite music videos. The following day on June 14 MTV produced a 30-minute Ultra Sound segment special that focused on her . On August 28 Brandy performed "The Boy is Mine" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno without Monica. According to Yahoo Music Monica "admitted that she was upset when Brandy performed the song solo on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno". On September 3 Brandy performed the remix version of "Top of the World" alongside rappers Big Pun and Fat Joe at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. Also in September Brandy and Monica performed "The Boy Is Mine" live for the first time together at the 15th Annual MTV Video Music Awards. On September 26 Brandy performed at the Hip-Hop Unity Festival which was held in Los Angeles at the Memorial Coliseum. On October 11 Brandy performed at the 4th annual International Achievement in Arts Awards.
On January 11, 1999 Brandy and actress Melissa Joan Hart hosted the 26th annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. During the award ceremony she performed her song "Have You Ever?".  Later on in the month on January 31 Brandy and Rapper LL Cool J Hosted Miami radio station WEDR's Super Bowl concert. This concert was a festivity that surrounded the 33rd annual Super Bowl. In March 1999 Brandy joined former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno at the National Museum of Women in the Arts to recognize six young women selected for the second annual Volunteerism Awards. On April 13 Brandy performed alongside Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain at VH1 Divas Live '99 concert. By May 1999 Brandy embarked on a world tour with shows in France, Germany, Holland, and Japan. In June Brandy returned to America for the North American Leg of her tour which was originally from June 18 to August 2. The tour eventually was cut short because Brandy was obligated to film the upcoming 5th season of her UPN sitcom Moesha.
At retail, a Brandy standee was provided to merchants, while the album was made part of "price and positing" programs at all major national accounts and urban indie accounts nationally upon its release. Other marketing items for Never Say Never included a partnering with DC Comics, which created a Brandy comic book in September 1998 for junior high and high school students. Atlantic also discussed plans with Disney for a cross-promotion between the home video version of Cinderella (1997) and the album as well as the production of a major TV special, involving corporate sponsors.
"The Boy Is Mine", a duet with singer Monica, was the first song to be lifted from Never Say Never in May 1998. Released to generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics, it became the first number-one pop record for both artists, both stateside and internationally. In the United States, "The Boy Is Mine" became the best-selling song of the year, spending 13 weeks on top of the US Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of 1998. It was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and ranked eighth on Billboard's decade-end chart. Internationally, the single also achieved a strong charting, peaking at number-one in Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, while reaching the top five on most of the other charts on which it appeared. "Top of the World" featuring rapper Mase served as the album's second single. The uptempo song was less successful around the world, but reached number two on the UK Singles Chart. It was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on October 23, 1998.
"Have You Ever?" was released as the album's third single throughout fall 1998. It became the second song from Never Say Never to reach the top position on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the New Zealand Singles Chart, while reaching the top twenty in most English-speaking countries. The ballad garnered a generally mixed reception from critics and was ranked 14th on Billboard's 1999 year-end chart. Midtempo track "Angel in Disguise" featuring prominent backing vocals by singer Joe, was released as a radio single on January 21, 1999 in the United States only. It reached the top twenty on the Billboard's Hot R&B Singles & Tracks chart based on airplay alone. "Almost Doesn't Count" was released in the second quarter of 1999, serving as the album's fifth single. The ballad reached the top 20 on the majority of all charts it appeared on was promoted by a performance in the 1999 film Double Platinum, starring Diana Ross and Brandy herself.
"U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)" was selected the album's sixth single and marked the final single to be released from Never Say Never in North America. A minor commercial success, the uptempo track reached number 79 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top thirty on the Hot R&B Singles & Tracks chart. In support of the single, a remix version of the track featuring female rappers Shaunta and Da Brat was released, accompanied by a remix EP entitled U Don't Know Me... Like U Used to – The Remix EP. In German-speaking Europe, "U Don't Know Me" appeared as a b-side on the single "Never Say Never". It failed to chart however. In Oceania, the Bryan Adams cover "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" was released as the album's sixth single instead. It reached number 28 on the 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 2016, 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. By its 14th week on the charts Never Say Never had sold 1.4 million copies The album sold 2.9 million copies in the US in by the end of the year. Never Say Never is the best-selling R&B album in the United States of 1998. 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 as of 2012 has sold more than 4.6 million copies in the United States according Nielsen Soundscan. The album also sold an additional 665,000 copies through BMG Music Club, bringing total sales of over 5.2 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,
Never Say Never debuted at number 21 on the UK Albums Chart on June 14. In its tenth week, the album climbed to a new peak of number 19. It was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI, denoting shipments of 300,000 copies. In other international regions, Never Say Never received the following certifications: quadruple-platinum certification in Canada; platinum in Japan; platinum in Australia, Gold in New Zealand, and in France. By May 1999 Never say Never had sold 7 million copies worldwide. To date, the album remains Norwood's biggest-selling effort with worldwide sales in excess of 16 million copies.
Impact and legacy
Never Say Never was nominated for four Grammy Awards at the 1999 ceremony including Best R&B Album and Record of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals for "The Boy Is Mine", winning the latter one. At the 2000 ceremony, it received another Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Almost Doesn't Count". At the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, the album was nominated for Video of the Year and Best R&B Video for "The Boy Is Mine". The following year, "Have You Ever?" earned a Best R&B Video nomination at the 1999 ceremony. "The Boy Is Mine" won in the categories for Dance Maxi Sales Single of the Year, Hot 100 Sales Single of Year, and R&B Sales Single of the Year at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards. Never Say Never was nominated for Best Female R&B/Soul Album at the 1999 Soul Train Music Awards, while "The Boy Is Mine" while earned a nod in the Best R&B/Soul Single, Group, Band or Duo category. Internationally, it received a nomination in the Best-selling Album by an International Newcomer category at the 1999 Echo Awards in Germany.
In Britney Spears' very first interview in 1998, she referred to Brandy and her album Never Say Never, as one of her influences. Producer of Christina Aguilera's debut album revealed that the album also inspired Aguilera during her recording sessions for Christina Aguilera. In 2018, Vibe magazine called Never Say Never "Brandy's magnum opus", referring to the career-defining character of the album, and noted that it "allowed her to transcend genres by transforming her style of R&B into pop music" while "taking her music, career and image to the next level."
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Never Say Never.
|2.||"Angel in Disguise"||R. Jerkins||4:48|
|3.||"The Boy Is Mine" (duet with Monica)||4:55|
|4.||"Learn the Hard Way"||4:51|
|5.||"Almost Doesn't Count"||3:37|
|6.||"Top of the World" (featuring Ma$e)||4:41|
|7.||"U Don't Know Me (Like U Used To)"||4:28|
|8.||"Never Say Never"||5:10|
|10.||"Have You Ever?"||Foster||4:32|
|11.||"Put That on Everything"||4:51|
|12.||"In the Car Interlude"||R. Jerkins||1:10|
|16.||"(Everything I Do) I Do It for You"||Foster||4:10|
|Limited edition, second disc|
|1.||"Have You Ever" (Soul Skank Remix)||Warren||3:59|
|2.||"Top of the World" (Boogie Soul Remix Radio Edit)||3:53|
Notes ^[A] denotes additional producer
Credits are taken from the album's liner notes.
Musicians and vocalists
Technical and production
|Canada (Music Canada)||4× Platinum||400,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||7,500^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||5× Platinum||4,600,000|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
|France||June 4, 1998||Standard||Atlantic Records|
|Europe||June 8, 1998|
|Canada||June 9, 1998|
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