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Brandy is back after rediscovering herself

The singer discusses releasing her seventh studio album, the responsibility an artist has in society and overcoming adversity

Singer Brandy Norwood’s musical output in the ’90s was unmatched. There’s no denying that the Grammy-winning songstress ushered in a signature sound. The impact of her sound is still woven throughout the R&B landscape. Artists such as Jazmine Sullivan, Jhené Aiko, Solange and more have expressed the influence that the singer had on their evolutions.

B7 is her first full-length release since 2012’s Two Eleven, and the inspiration for this album served as a 15-track confessional with themes of self-love, motherhood, heartbreak and artistic growth. It reflects both her progression as a person and as an artist, and it is a true testament to her resiliency throughout the years. “I’ve evolved. It’s been eight years since my last release, so much has happened since then. I’ve rediscovered myself and different parts of who I am,” she said.

She was reluctant to release new material in the middle of a global pandemic, nationwide protests and racial justice movements. However, music’s healing power can be therapeutic, create a safe space and provide a voice when words fail.

“I was a bit nervous because I recorded this album before the pandemic. So, I struggled with that. Then I thought about how people need music, and it [music] has a way of helping people get through the day, change their moods and can help people escape. That’s what made me feel better about putting this project out. I felt, ‘Well, maybe this is something that I’m supposed to do,’ because people right now need it more than probably ever.”

She went from starring on a sitcom to becoming the first Black singer to be the face of CoverGirl and portraying the first Black Cinderella. The Undefeated spoke with the multifaceted talent about releasing her seventh studio album, the responsibility an artist has in society and overcoming adversity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What personal attributes are important to sustaining a long career?

You have to love what you do, have passion and purpose. I feel like I’m here for a reason, and I’m better connected to the vessel. It’s not about me. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘You saved my life.’ Once you put things into perspective, you can look back and say, ‘Wow. It’s really about being a vessel.’ It’s good to reach as many people as possible, but if you reach two to three people or even one person, you’ve done your job.

It’s been eight years since your last release. What is unique about B7?

I did a lot more writing and more producing on this album. Of course, I had an amazing team behind me, but I’m just different. With life comes change. I’ve been through many ups and downs with love, heartbreak, life in general and raising my daughter.

Your song, “Baby Mama,” featuring Chance the Rapper, was the lead single as an ode to raising your daughter and a larger anthem to all mothers.

We don’t do it all by ourselves. That song was a very special song to my unconditional love for my daughter, mothers in general and single moms who don’t really have it as easy. ‘Baby mama’ always comes with a negative connotation, and I tried to change that with this song.

How do you define success?

My definition of success is to be the best version of myself in whatever I do, to give it 100% of everything that I have. That’s all I can control. With this new album, I put everything into it. I put my heart and soul in every lyric, melody and harmony that I could think of, and that’s success to me. But most importantly, making my parents and my daughter proud is also a huge part of my definition of success.

Resilience has been a common theme throughout your life.

I don’t have a choice, because I have to be a shero for me so I can be a shero for her. I have a blessing, and my baby is looking to me to be the shero with my own story.

If your entire life was a song title?

‘Angel in Disguise,’ because my daughter once told me when she was 7: ‘Mom, you’re an angel. We should change your name from Mom to angel.’ I will never forget that.

I now know what an angel in disguise is, and my daughter taught me a true angel can come in many forms.

That song was from the album Never Say Never.

Never Say Never taught me to step outside of my comfort zone as an artist. I was very brave and strong on that album, and that was a time when I was really trying to hone in on my craft. When I met LaShawn Daniels and Rodney Jerkins, they pushed me to try different things with my voice because my voice was changing. I was singing about some of the things that I had been through that really disturbed me, so I wanted to write about it.

Who is someone who inspires you outside of the music industry?

I love Viola Davis. Beyond talent, she’s the epitome of a Black woman, and she embodies everything. She’s real and regal and makes you feel like whatever you have going for yourself is possible. She doesn’t make you feel like [anything is] impossible.

Do you have a responsibility as an artist?

When I make music that’s not authentic to who I am, then I’m not being responsible as an artist.

Dontaira Terrell is a writer for The Undefeated. She is an Ohio native, Florida A&M University graduate and a lover of all things music and pop culture.