Brandy has had one roller coaster of a year so far. After reuniting with her "Boy Is Mine" co-star, Monica, for the single "It All Belongs to Me," she suffered the devastating loss of her longtime friend and mentor, Whitney Houston.
The singer has spoken at length about the impact Houston had on her life, both as a child and as an entertainer in her own right. And her connection to Whitney lives on, in part, through the title of her upcoming album, Two Eleven, which commemorates both Brandy's birthday and the day that Houston died.
While she honors the past, at this point in her career, Brandy's looking to break new ground. She recently put out her new Bangladesh-produced single, "Put It Down." The song is a trunk-rattling plea for respect and chivalry, which is quite the contrast from much of the material on the radio today, which seems singularly focused on getting sloppily drunk (in the club, of course), taking a warm body home or twerking on a pole for dollar bills.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Brandy and she gave us the latest on her upcoming album, her feelings about her Behind the Music special and the possibility of a tour with Monica.
Bark + Bite: Tell us about the new single. How's the reception been for "Put It Down"?
Brandy: Oh my god, the reception has been amazing. The core fans are loving it, they can't believe how different it is for me. And I love taking risks in music and it's great to challenge yourself to be different. That's what I love about the song. I can't wait till it really hits the radio waves and we do the video for it and it really takes off.
Bark + Bite: It's interesting that you mentioned specifically trying something different. The trendy thing for you to do would've been to hook up with a European DJ and try your hand at a dance-pop single, as so many other R&B and hip-hop artists are doing now. What made you want to link up with Bangladesh instead?
Brandy: I try to follow my spirit and my intuition when it comes to music because intuition never leads you down the wrong path and I haven't been following it for a very long time. Bangladesh was someone that I've always admired, someone I was always a fan of and I remember before I even signed to Chameleon or RCA, I just went to the studio and hung out with him. I just listened to what he was doing and I could hear myself singing over those knockin', hard-ass beats. And I just felt it.
It organically happened, the connection with Sean Garrett and I, because Sean Garrett is one of the few writers that can write to a Bangladesh beat. So it all was in sync, and that's how I knew it was the right thing. Because it happened naturally.
Bark + Bite: So is Bangladesh doing the bulk of the album or just a few tracks?
Brandy: He definitely set the foundation for the sound of the album, but I took a chance with this album because usually I work with one producer and kind of go out a little bit just to do the fill-ins or the ballads. But I really ventured out and worked with a lot of different people this album. Rico Love is a big part of the album, Ester Dean...just different people.
Bark + Bite: Is there any chance of a reunion with Timbaland for this album?
Brandy: We're working on that. I was supposed to record with Timbaland a couple of weeks ago, but you know sometimes when you're that much of a genius, sometimes your schedule kind of goes four or five different ways so we're trying to lock him down to stay in one place so I can actually go and work with him. But I definitely don't want to let this album go out without us at least trying to let the magic happen.
Bark + Bite: You've already worked with Frank Ocean in the past, but you're said to have completed work with him for the new album, right?
Brandy: Yeah, I love Frank Ocean. I tease him all the time that I knew before everyone else knew how special he was. It's always great to work with him, he's such a young genius just coming into his own.
He gave me a great song called "Scared of Beautiful" and I think the meaning of that record is just so huge. It could be taken in so many different ways and there are so many double entendres going on in that song. Just people who are afraid to succeed, people who are afraid to love, people who are afraid of being the best version of who they are. That's how it can relate to everyone. I really hope that it makes the album, I really hope it does.
Bark + Bite: Your VH1 Behind the Music recently aired. It was a pretty emotional special. What was it like for you to watch it?
Brandy: I actually have never seen it. I lived it and I was definitely open in talking about it, so there's no need for me to watch it. It felt like a weight was lifted and I appreciate VH1 wanting to do a Behind the Music with me because it was so needed for me just personally and emotionally.
Just being able to tell my story and be very transparent with the people that loved me for so long and also, to reach the people that were confused about the things that happened or were judgmental or whatever the case may be. I was able to confront that.
And taking responsibility always relieves you in so many ways. So it was very liberating for me, and I was so glad I did that because now I don't have to talk about any of that anymore. It can really be about going forward and what my music represents and what my life is and my purpose.
Bark + Bite: The really interesting thing was that after the special aired, Never Say Never shot up the iTunes R&B charts. It shows that there's still a connection with your fans to your story. How did it feel seeing that reception to one of your old works and did that motivate you to strengthen that connection with your new album Two Eleven?
Brandy: It definitely was scary, because it was like, "WOW! Should we have the album come out right now?! What's going on?"
I'm very pleased with how people responded to the old music and how they related the music to what I was going through in my life at the time. But definitely, I've always tried to be honest in my music. It just doesn't work for me otherwise. I can't sing songs I don't feel. I can't get a good vocal out of those songs. But yeah, I look forward to seeing what people have to say about the new album and hopefully they'll love it as much as I do.
Bark + Bite: So you mentioned you're prepping to roll out the single, the video. What's the timeline looking like for the project?
Brandy: The timeline for the single is now. We're just working out all the dates for the director, myself and Chris. You know, Chris is a superstar, so we're just trying to lock that whole thing down.
I'm making sure we have the right video because one of the things that I feel has been missing for a very long time with me is visuals. So we just wanna make sure we have the right visual and I really believe everything is in divine time.
We're looking at the end of summer for the album and we just wanna make sure everything is right. This is the shot to get it right. Everybody is falling back in love with what they're seeing and we just don't wanna eff it up!
So we're patient, but we don't wanna be too laid back with it where we don't give the fans what they want, when they want it. But greatness takes time and we wanna make sure this project is as great as it can be. And we appreciate everybody being patient, especially the core fans.
Bark + Bite: There was talk of you possibly hitting the road with Monica for a joint tour. Is that still in the works?
Brandy: Um, honestly, we haven't really talked about it since we stopped promoting "It All Belongs to Me." I just honestly think Monica and I are in different places in our music. And my vibe is a little bit different this time around so I don't know. I kind of wanna do my own thing. I definitely feel like the fans would want a tour from us, but I don't know, I just feel like I'm being pulled in a different direction. I'm definitely still open to it, but right now I'm looking in a different way right now for me.