Brandy Rayana Norwood (born February 11, 1979 in McComb, Mississippi), known professionally as Brandy, is an American rnb singer-songwriter, record producer, actress, television entertainer, film producer and as of 2010 rapper, Bran'Nu.
The RIAA ranks Norwood as one of the best-selling female artists in American music history, having sold over 8.5 million copies of her five studio albums in the United States and over 30 million records worldwide, to date. Additionally, she has won over 100 awards as a recording artist. In 1999, Billboard ranked Norwood among the top 20 of the top pop artists of the 1990s.
During the early production stages of her debut album, Norwood was selected for a role in the ABC sitcom Thea, portraying the twelve-year-old daughter of a single working mother, played by Thea Vidale. Broadcasted to mediocre ratings, the series ended only eight months after its premiere, but garnered her a Young Artist Award nomination for Outstanding Youth Ensemble alongside her co-stars. Norwood recalled that she appreciated the cancellation of the show as she was unenthusiastic about acting at the time and the taping caused scheduling conflicts with the recording of her album, stating: "I felt bad for everybody else but me. It was a good thing, because I could do what I had to do, because I wanted to sing."
Williams hired producer Keith Crouch and R&B band Somethin' for the People to work with Norwood, and within eight months, the team crafted her debut album, Brandy. A collection of street-oriented rhythm-and-blues with a hip-hop edge, whose lyrical content embraced her youthful and innocent image in public, Norwood later summed the songs on the album as young and vulnerable, stating: "I didn’t really know a lot — all I wanted to do was basically sing. You can just tell that it’s a person singing from a genuine place, and also a place of basically no experience. I was singing about being attracted to the opposite sex, but I had no experience behind it." Released in September 1994, the album peaked at number twenty on the U.S. Billboard 200. Critical reaction to Brandy was generally positive, with Allmusic writer Eddie Huffman declaring Brandy "a lower-key Janet Jackson or a more stripped-down Mary J. Blige with good songs and crisp production." Anderson Jones of Entertainment Weekly asserted, "Teen actress Norwood acts her age. A premature effort at best, that seems based on the philosophy 'If Aaliyah can do it, why can't I?'."
Brandy went on to sell over six million units worldwide, and produced three top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including I Wanna Be Down and Baby both of which reached the top of the Hot R&B Singles chart and were certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Brokenhearted a duet with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men became a number-two hit on the charts. The album earned Norwood two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the following year and won her four Soul Train Music Awards, two Billboard Awards, and the New York Children's Choice Award. In 1995, she finished a two-month stint as the opening act on Boyz II Men's national tour, and contributed songs to the soundtracks of the films Batman Forever and Waiting to Exhale, with single Sittin' Up in My Room becoming another top two success. In 1996, Norwood also collaborated with Tamia, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight on the single Missing You released from the Set It Off soundtrack. The single won her a third Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.
Beginning producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins was consulted to contribute to Norwood's second album Never Say Never, which was released in June 1998. Brandy co-wrote and produced six songs on the album which yielded her first number-one rated song on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, The Boy Is Mine, a duet with singer Monica that has become the most successful song by a female duo in music history. Exploiting the media's presumption of a rivalry between the two young singers, the song was one of the most successful records in United States of all time, spending record-breaking thirteen weeks on top of the Billboard charts, and eventually garnered the pair a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal". The album's success was equally widespread, and after extensive radio play of the single overseas, the label released it globally during the summer. Never Say Never eventually became Brandy’s biggest-selling album, selling over sixteen million copies worldwide; and critics rated the album highly, with Allmusic`s Stephen Thomas Erlewine praising Brandy and her team for wisely finding "a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige — it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge". Altogether the album spawned seven airplay and CD singles respectively, including Norwood's second number-one song, the Diane Warren-penned Have You Ever?.
Full Moon, Norwood's third studio album, was released in February 2002. It once again comprised a row of R&B and pop-oriented songs with adult contemporary, many of them co-created with Jerkins, Warryn Campbell and Mike City. While its lead single What About Us? became a worldwide top ten hit, the album's title track failed to chart or sell noticeably outside the United States and the United Kingdom, where it managed to enter the Top 20 of charts. Media reception was generally lukewarm, with Rolling Stone describing the album as "frantic, faceless, fake-sexy R&B." Within the coming year, Norwood and Robert "Big Bert" Smith began writing and producing for other artists such as Toni Braxton, Kelly Rowland, Tarralyn Ramsey, and Kiley Dean.
Returning from yet another hiatus, Brandy's fourth album Afrodisiac was released on June 29, 2004 in North America, amidst the well-publicized termination of her short-lived business relationship with entertainment manager Benny Medina. Norwood ended her contract with his Los Angeles-based Handprint Entertainment after less than a year of representation following controversies surrounding Medina's handling of the lead single Talk About Our Love, and failed negotiations of a purported co-headlining tour with R&B singer Usher. Upon parting Norwood admitted her switch to Medina made her appreciate what she had with her mother, stating that "it was such a drastic change that it didn't work for me. Nobody out there can match her passion for me." Despite the negative publicity, Afrodisiac became Brandy's most critically acclaimed album to date, with some highlighting the "more consistently mature and challenging" effect of Timbaland on Brandy's music, and others calling it "listenable and emotionally resonant," comparing it to "Janet Jackson at her best". Norwood described the CD as her most mature and versatile effort by then: "I just wanted to sing my heart out and connect with people. I wasn’t old enough or mature enough before to get into people’s hearts. Now I am." Nevertheless Afrodisiac became a moderate seller: While the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling only 416,000 copies to date, it generally failed to chart or sell noticeably outside the United States. Talk About Our Love reached number six in the United Kingdom but later singles failed to score successfully on the popular music charts.
Norwood's fifth studio album Human was released in December 2008, involving production by Toby Gad, Brian Kennedy, and RedOne. Distributed by Koch Records and Sony Music, the album marked Brandy's debut on the Epic Records label, and her reunion with long-time contributor and mentor Rodney Jerkins, who wrote and executive produced most of the album. Generally well-received by critics, Human debuted at number fifteen on the U.S. Billboard 200 with opening week sales of 73,000 copies. With a domestic sales total of 196,000 copies, it widely failed to revive the success of its predecessors and became the singer's lowest-selling effort to date. While leading single Right Here (Departed) scored Brandy her biggest chart success since 2002's Full Moon, the album failed to impact elsewhere, resulting into lackluster sales in general and the end of her contract with the label, following the appointment of Amanda Ghost at Epic Records and her split with rapper Jay-Z's Roc Nation management. In December 2009, she officially introduced her rapping alter-ego Bran'Nu with two credits on Timbaland's album Timbaland Presents Shock Value 2.