December 03, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B

Brandy, where were you a few months back? At that time, the Top 40 fans among us were so finished kissing a girl and were besieged by some Pussycat Doll atrocity. A frothy confection of pop like this one would have been manna. Unfortunately, it’s a few months later, and Human will be the third holiday buy for mainstream-music fans, behind Beyoncé’s and Pink’s superior, more original albums. Rightly so, since by comparison, Brandy isn’t offering much of ? a rallying cry: ”If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it” seriously dusts Brandy’s ”I’m only human — forgive me.”

Unsurprisingly (if you’ve read a tabloid over the past five years), contrition is Human‘s major theme. She’s sorry. She’s learned from her mistakes. She’s more mature…except where her voice is concerned. The huskiness that defined Brandy’s prior work has been replaced by wispier and higher tones. The result is pleasant but far less ambitious than her last CD, 2004’s Afrodisiac. Longtime collaborator Rodney Jerkins has crafted some standouts, like ”Piano Man” (thankfully not ? a remake), that are hooky enough to combat Early-’90s Midtempo R&B Malaise. (Not recognized by the American Medical Association, but it should be.) First single ”Right Here (Departed)” is fun but has a touch of that condition — or it did before DJs Bobby Blanco and Miki Moto recently made a kickin’ disco remix of it. Sadly, their version isn’t included here. Release that and apology accepted. B

Download This: Listen to songs from the new album on the singer’s MySpace

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