When we last left Norwood, she was recovering from a range of ills and a record that saw her stumble creatively and commercially. On Human, her fifth album overall, and first for Epic Records, Norwood establishes that her music is built for longevity only.
Of the two songs penned by Norwood herself, the title track is the driving feeling behind the concept of this album. Thematically assembled around the celebration of the "human experience," Norwood's vocals are an important ingredient to the chemistry here. Visits with withered patience ("Long Distance"), universal affirmation ("Right Here (Departed)"), and the isolation music cures ("Piano Man") aren't easy to carry. Yet, the glow of sincerity in Norwood's voice has only gotten stronger and breathes life into the music. So, when Brandy begins quietly on "Long Distance" before the climatic chorus shift, soars throughout "Right Here (Departed)," and paints in lonely textures on "Piano Man," easily Human is her vocal champion.
"Right Here (Departed)"
Directed By: Little X
Bringing it back to the production, the grooves (sometimes) veer close toward poppier elements and that isn't a bad thing. The expansion of Norwood's sound is just that, an expansion, the urban root is still active. Human benefits from various musical influences that compliment, not cover, her R&B as heard on the acoustic reflection of "Torn Down." Nothing on Human courts the dance of Full Moon (2002) or Afrodisiac (2004), but there are uptempo rewards to be had. "1st & Love," has Norwood singing through bombastic sonics, literally. "The Definition" can be tagged as "classic Brandy" with its tight, metallic beats.
A record like Human will keep her core fans satisfied and may (or may not) pull new listeners. The latter is dependent on what they want to hear from a contemporary R&B record concerned with actually connecting with its audience. Like some of my favorite soul interpreters before her, Norwood brings her own experience home to this LP. Five out of five stars.-QH
[Editor's Note: Human is available in physical and online stores, check it out. For more information on Brandy, please visit http://www.foreverbrandy.com-QH]