Two years ago, singer Monica staged a respectable chart comeback with her Gold-selling Still Standing album. The soulful songstress gave fans what they wanted, producing the same kind of radio-friendly urban grooves that made her a superstar in the ’90s, and it worked like a charm. But things haven’t been quite as simple for Monica’s “The Boy is Mine” collaborator Brandy, because unlike Mo’, Brandy has never been as easy to pigeonhole. She’s never been a typical R&B singer or a typical vocalist, leaving her in a hard place as she searches for her sound in 2012.
She already tried getting contemporary again by hooking up with Chris Brown and Bangladesh on the sexy booty banger “Put It Down”, but judging by the song’s chart position, it looks like audiences prefer shaking their backsides to Beyonce, not Brandy. Now Brandy’s taken a different approach, and gone right back to basics on her follow-up single “Wildest Dreams”.
The midtempo cut, penned by Sean Garrett and produced by The Bizness (Chris Brown’s “No Bullshit”), plays like The Complete Guide to the Music of Brandy Norwood. It’s got the eccentric, dreamy sensuality of the Afrodisiac album, the entrancing groove of “Full Moon”, the vulnerability of Human, and the old-school ’90s knock of her early albums. There’s also a strong hip-hop influence, but The Bizness softens the aggressiveness that’s usually synonymous with the genre by weaving piano and flute into the production, giving “Wildest Dreams” both a feminine and masculine energy that works beautifully side-by-side.
“Never in my wildest dreams, did I think someone could care about me,” Brandy soulfully croons, carefully making sure not to over-sing like so many of her female contemporaries. B-Rocka never needs to wail or belt to show her vocal prowess. For her, it’s all in the small things, like her sultry tone or the little ad-libs that flutter past in the background.
There’s no big chorus on “Wildest Dreams”, with Brandy opting to go for the subtle approach instead. A hookless song can often be the kiss of death, but with the rise of minimalist R&B like Drake, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd, “Wildest Dreams” feels more hip and current than it would have if Brandy had gone for something more showy and catchy. It’s a modern record at its core, it’s just been done completely old-school Brandy style.
“Wildest Dreams” taps into the same ’90s R&B nostalgia that Monica’s comeback did, but in a distinctly Brandy kind of way. It’s definitely one for serious fans of classic R&B and hip-hop, but it’s also rich enough to appeal to the contemporary alt-urban crowd. It’s undoubtedly Brandy’s best single since the Afrodisiac era, and the logical next step after “Put It Down”.
Welcome back, B!