‘Dear Culture’: What exactly makes Brandy the ‘Vocal Bible,’ with journalist Dai Poole

OPINION: On this last episode of our Black Music Month episode series, we break down Brandy’s catalog and why she has been given such a landmark honorific for her vocals.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

If you’re like me, you probably watched the last Verzuz, billed as a matchup between Omarion and Mario (Mario snatched that win early on), but the real show happened before they took the stage. Ray J, Bobby Valentino, Pleasure P and Sammie went head to head (to head to head) in a battle of folks without enough songs for a proper Verzuz battle. It was a joyfully entertaining watch if not cringey and painful at times. One of the more painful moments was probably one of the most anticipated: Ray J singing “One Wish,” easily one of the best R&B songs that ever existed. 

Ray isn’t a vocalist by any stretch and that was on display. So much so that his sister, Brandy, who IS a vocalist, had all kinds of negative words for him via social media after the show, which has to suck if you’re Ray. You come from a family of folks who can sing a lil’ bit and here you go stepping on stage embarrassing the whole lot with your sister sitting in the wings.

Now it might be unfair to compare the two: Brandy is a person deemed the “Vocal Bible” and Ray J…isn’t. But what does that even mean? What makes Brandy good enough to be entirely embarrassed by Ray (in that moment)? Well, Brandy has a catalog of hits that showcase her tremendous ad-libbing ability, her insane runs and her innovative vocal stylings on song after song. She’s an influence to artists far and wide, and you can hear it in many artists on the charts today.

But I’ve always been curious about that honorific…what is a “Vocal Bible”? It seems like such a high honor and how exactly did Brandy come to that point? Were there other contenders? What does she do that places her in a category all her own? Interestingly enough, one day I was bored on the internet and searched for the term “Brandy Vocal Bible” and came across an article written by journalist Dai Poole explaining just that very thing. So I did what anybody with a podcast does when you find a person who specifically wrote about that thing you’re interested in: I invited him onto the show and #wallahmagic, we have an episode.

On this latest episode of Dear Culture, Dai breaks down why Brandy is so special and why the title suits her and we also talk shop about her career, her risk-taking and her legacy in music. 

Trust me, you wanna be down with this episode and I know you saw what I did there. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.