The mere mention of this artist can take you back to a moment in time – when a background singer from McComb, Mississippi debuted a self-titled album, and captured the hearts of music lovers worldwide. Here’s the scene: the year was 1994, music videos were in heavy rotation, and movie scores were riddled with the infectious sound of ‘The New Jack Swing’. R&B audiences had already embraced the likes of Usher, Aaliyah, and famed boy-bands New Edition, and Immature … but, something was missing (or shall we say, ‘someone’ was missing). With a micro-braid hairstyle cascading the shoulders of an unknown 14-year-old powerhouse, the emergence of Atlantic Records’ newest female sensation – would soon take the world of music by storm. Her sound was fresh, her lyrics were mature, and her name was Brandy Norwood.
Mononymously known by her first name, American singer-songwriter ‘Brandy Rayana Norwood’ – would reveal the perfect blend of drive and innocence in a whirlwind sprint to attain super stardom. Now, if we can just hang out in the 90’s together for a few more moments, we can reminisce on the pride we all felt in seeing our girl ‘B’ come into her own. As adoring fans – attempting to pinpoint the timing of her moves within the music industry … Norwood eliminated the guess work, by knocking on the door of network television, and boldly stepping inside.
As a cast member on the hit television series “Thea” (named for singer-writer ‘Thea Vidale’), Brandy took hold of the acting ring and held it far above the freshman speculation and criticisms being hurled at her. The sheer excitement of watching Norwood take charge of her career (with rapid fire) was noteworthy enough, or so we thought; however, following her introduction to network programming, she scored the opportunity to star in her very own television series, titled ‘MOESHA’. This UPN series ran from 1996-2001 (a brilliantly penned family drama, putting our girl ‘Bran’Nu’ on the entertainment radar as one of the most explosive triple threats to be reckoned with).
Now, two decades after her stint on the hit television series ‘Moesha’, we take a moment to celebrate this young pioneer. Considering she has the world in the palm of her hand, we’ll do something fun – by chanting the backdrop of the soulful theme-song from the hit series. But first, we need to each put a little bounce in our shoulders for nostalgia’s sake; and repeat the final verse of that never-ending hook – with the same intensity and she-swag Brandy managed to deliver. She’s likely to read this editorial, so let’s do this with style; here we go … Moe-To-Thahh’ … ‘E-To-Thahh’ … Moe-To-Thahh’ … ‘E-To-Thahh’! Yes, just like that! Now, don’t tell me it didn’t feel good to go back to a simpler time and connect with something we can all appreciate. Of course, this song will now be locked in our heads for weeks on end, but as long as it’s a ‘Brandy’ tune, it’s all good.
Seemingly, no sooner than we grew familiar with the household dynamics of UPN’s beloved ‘Mitchell’ family, Brandy got busy and shifted her attention toward loftier goals (scores that would set the coordinates for a career race straight to the top). She transitioned from the comforts of television, to become the co-star in a major motion picture alongside mentors ‘Whitney Houston’, ‘Whoopi Goldberg’ and ‘Bernadette Peters’ (Roger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, 1997), complete with a multicultural cast – starring ‘Norwood’ as Disney’s first African-American Princess.
As if being under the tutelage of ‘Whitney Houston’ wasn’t enough to solidify her presence as an A-list celebrity, Brandy later landed a role in the made for television musical drama titled “Double Platinum” (1997). She was cast as the outspoken daughter of Motown sensation ‘Diana Ross’ – in an emotional role she was able to execute to perfection.
Between her love for music, television, and film – she found time to bless fans with some of the most memorable musical scores of her career. Without a doubt, we should all remember the popular R&B hits: “I Wanna Be Down”, “Have You Ever”, “Sitting Up In My Room”, and arguably the best teen ballad of all time – “I’m Yours”. These sultry ballads and up-tempo grooves struck a chord with fans during the 90’s, in much the same way they speak to us today. And, these were not just contracted installments for a record label to turn a profit; no, these were classic jams that evoked a global head-nod most reputable media outlets may have never chronicled, until now.
In appreciation of the signature sound that captured us physically and emotionally, we honor ‘Brandy Norwood’ – a timeless artist, who gave us more than chart-topping hits that lit up the dance floor. Our girl ‘B’ has depth and substance that far surpasses her years, and it’s prominently displayed in each of her projects. Some may consider it a gift, while others refer to it as a calling; but whatever ‘it’ is, she has ‘it’, she owns ‘it’, and we love ‘it’.
Brandy’s music has style, distinction, innocence, and yes … authority. Anytime you hear one of her records (regardless the era), you get a dose of originality and honesty – which can be difficult to find in the current pool of artistic talent treading her footsteps. Norwood, in our opinion is iconic. She performs with the heart of a woman who knows her worth, and owns her truth. And, if anyone argues to the contrary, check out her latest single titled “Beggin and Pleading” @4everbrandy.com, (TJ Speaks sighs and drops mic).
To date, Norwood boasts a phenomenal career with record sales exceeding 40 million units; a coveted Grammy Award conferred by The Recording Academy (41st Grammy Awards -1999 … “The Boy Is Mine” – Collaborative recording with singer ‘Monica’), box office credits, television runs, and an impressive theatrical stint that teaches us there’s no limit to what she can do [“Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business” (VH1 reality series, 2010), “The Game” (BET sitcom, 2012-2015); Broadway production of the legendary 1920’s musical “Chicago” (2015), starring Norwood as the first African-American to lead the production as ‘Roxie Hart’; “The Perfect Match” (motion picture, 2016); “Zoe Ever After” (BET series, 2016)].
This wide-eyed songbird is obviously a woman who dares to dream big. She’s someone who understands the art of grinding, growing and giving it her all; and for this, we spotlight her hard work and commitment to excellence. With hot new projects on the horizon, Norwood continues to paint a portrait of truth that sends a message to fans, critics and aspiring artists – she’s nowhere close to slowing down.
Her real life trek from BACKUP to BROADWAY … and BEYOND’, makes Brandy a motivational force who gives us something real to draw inspiration from. So, in solidarity with her growing legion of adoring fans, theTZelement Magazine makes a pledge to tag along for the host of new milestones Ms. Norwood will inevitably experience and share (but, truth is … ‘B’, you’re already there).