Growing up in public ain’t easy for artists who achieve fame at a young age. Yet Brandy Norwood has done more than just weather the challenges that inevitably follow the sort of success she experienced with her 1994 multi-platinum debut, Brandy, and 1998’s Never Say Never, both recorded before the Mississippi-born, California-raised singer and actress turned 20. The former teen sensation known simply as Brandy has matured into one of modern R&B’s most polished yet adventurous artists, gradually gaining the recognition she’s due as a pioneer of neo-soul and a trailblazer for the genre’s alternative wing. Though “I Wanna Be Down” and “Baby” cast her as TLC’s spunky kid sister, she was all poise by the time she faced off with Monica and rode Rodney Jerkins’ plush beats on “The Boy Is Mine,” her first No. 1 single. And while her dextrous vocal delivery recalls early mentor Whitney Houston, Brandy’s ability to shift between engaging warmth and cool restraint made her a model for alt-divas like Erykah Badu, Rihanna, and Solange. The slick, sultry, and forward-thinking R&B on Afrodisiac—her 2004 collaboration with Timbaland—showed just how eager she was to push herself as part of her grown-up identity, which she also explored in the roles that followed her time as TV’s Moesha. Later efforts like 2012’s Two Eleven and 2020’s B7 boasted the same sophistication along with some welcome flashes of the girl that first charmed audiences all those years ago.
BORNFebruary 11, 1979