Wednesday, March 20, 2002
Credit producer Rodney Jerkins as one of the great career resuscitators. His work on Michael Jackson's latest made it interesting if not, as the title boasted, "Invincible." Jerkins' new project is Brandy, the teen star of choice five years ago, when Britney Spears was still trying to score a record contract. The product is "Full Moon" (Atlantic Records).
It's been four years since Brandy's last album, "Never Say Never," a period of time in which her TV sitcom "Moesha" was dropped and movie roles like "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" and the TV remake of "Cinderella" began to dry up. She's kept to herself in that time, so that she got married a year ago to producer Robert Smith (Jerkins' cousin) and managed to keep it secret until recently. Now 23, she's also pregnant with her first child.
Four years is a lifetime in a field where fickle audiences are perfectly willing to pick up and drop whole rafts of new stars in the meantime.
By now, it's hard to remember even what Brandy's voice sounded like on hit singles like "Sittin' Up in My Room" or "Baby." Under Jerkins' wing, she sounds quite at home in the range of mid-tempo Michael Jackson balladry on the title song. On dreamier love songs such as "When You Touch Me," the choruses resemble the Jimmy Jam-Terry Lewis work on Janet Jackson albums. But on tough, bouncy dance tracks, Brandy's rougher, grown-up voice more resembles Mary J. Blige. Largely, Brandy sounds up to date and grown up, without resorting to the vulgarity that would alienate young audiences.
More than anything, "Full Moon" is a record built around the sure-fire hit single. Snippets of the Top 10 hit "What About Us?" are first heard in the brief album intro and reprised more than once later.
With 17 cuts and 72 minutes, "Full Moon" is way too full of songs, and by the end she's moving toward the kind of forgettable love songs best left to her teen pop inheritors.