Brandy spends much of her new album, Afrodisiac, standing up for herself in the wake of emotional chaos. Behind her, Timbaland, who produced most of the disc, turns up the bass, the volume, and the tension whenever he can, bolstering her less-than-commanding, down-pillow-soft voice. In ”I Tried,” Brandy sulks over her cheating beau — she’d prefer to stay inside and listen to Coldplay’s ”Sparks,” which she even breaks into at one point ? as Timbaland backs her with rainy-night strings, sonic-boom beats, hand claps, and a vampy organ solo.
Brandy’s meatiest album to date also sports samples, from Iron Maiden to Mandrill, and a few superior dance numbers (notably ”Turn It Up,” which should have Janet Jackson second-guessing her last album), but the songs that anchor the record aren’t its party-down moments. Brandy’s Coldplay fixation reaches critical mass in ”Should I Go,” which samples the cascading piano of ”Clocks” as she murmurs about her career concerns (”I’m standing on the edge of the industry/Wondering if it’s all that important to me to get my records back out there on the street, again”). She’s being disingenuous, of course: You don’t sample the most popular alt-pop hymnal of the past year and not expect to get renewed attention. Yet the results are still pretty striking, almost theatrical. The song, along with most of ”Afrodisiac,” reminds you that a dose of over-the-top melodrama can be good for pop, R&B, or any genre. Brandy, Timbaland, and her other producers clearly know that the ”B” in R&B refers to ”blues.”