Dear Culture, is Brandy really the “vocal bible?” Yes, our beloved Brandy Norwood has been called that several times, but I’m not really sure if I’m sold on this idea. That’s why I, Panama Jackson, will be chatting with journalist Dai Poole, so he can help me unpack why Brandy has been given this high esteem.
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Dai Poole I definitely believe that she will be remembered by the tone of her voice and how unique it was. You can’t discuss nineties music, not just R&B nineties music without talking about Brandy, because what she, along with Aaliyah and Monica did was truly unprecedented the level of success they had at such an early age.
Panama Jackson What’s going on and welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by, and about Black Culture, The Blackness, All Black Everything here on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. I’m your host Panama Jackson and I’m excited today to have a conversation that’s been on my mind, heart and soul for quite some time. And it’s a conversation about one of my favorite artists and a person for whom a very lofty statement, a very high expectation bar has been set due to apparently her immense and tremendous skill set. She is considered an innovator. She is considered a one of one. I suppose that’s kind of the point of this conversation. She is, I mean, she’s Brandy.
Panama Jackson And we’re going to have a conversation today. With a journalist and writer named Dai Poole, who’s going to talk to us and break down for me and for us and for the culture, for the Blackness. Why Brandy is considered to be the vocal Bible, which is a statement I would never want attached to my name. Not if I’m an artist do I hear making music. But you know what? Sometimes you just are what you are. I’m excited to have this conversation today. Let me tell you also a little reason why I’ve been a Brandy fan for. I mean, I guess since I was 14 or 15, I’m I am 42. That means me and Brandy basically grew up together now. My growth in life was a little bit different. She grew up rich and famous, and I didn’t. But we are still brought together here today because I want to have a conversation about her being termed the vocal Bible, which is one of the more interesting statements I’ve heard about a singer like period. And to do this, I am joined by journalist, writer, music head, food writer. Interestingly enough, food writer like yo yo. Your intersections are amazing, bro, Dai Poole. How are you doing, bro?
Dai Poole I am doing well. Super grateful to be here.
Panama Jackson I mean, we are glad to have you. Let me introduce you properly. And I have because I want to talk about this food thing very briefly just because it blew my mind. Like I read all these articles. You wrote this thing about like Eggo, like like like waffles that are like tiramisu flavored. And I was like, wait, what? Anyway, so Dai Poole is a graduate of Virginia Tech who majored with degrees in psychology and music, which is a very interesting combination. But also, I actually think is the kind of thing that helps you be a good music writer in a very interesting way. Like, I feel like that intersection helps you be a good music writer, self-proclaimed dessert connoisseur or “connaswar” as I like to say
Dai Poole I love it.
Panama Jackson All things seafood. Clearly, a music music head is written for Mashed, In the Kitchen, This is R&B. Enjoys live music. I mean, you’re just you’re all encompassing in all these different spaces. And you recently dropped. Which makes us coincidental and perhaps ironic. You helped scripts or you scripted a video about this very topic about Brandy as the Bible. Tell me how that came to be.
Dai Poole To be completely honest, I always just say when God blesses you with you never know what things people are watching that you do. I had written an article. My first or second published article was actually ten songs that justify why Brandy should be the vocal Bible. For This is R&B. It was like second publication and PBS’s Sound Field. The producers there found that article and they asked me to help them script an upcoming series focused on her. It was the first time they were specifically focusing on an artist.
Dai Poole And so it came at like the worst time of my life. But I was like, I can’t miss this opportunity. So it was super, super amazing.
Panama Jackson Well, that’s how we found you as well. Honestly, like I was lookin up “Brandy Vocal Bible” and your article popped up and I read it. It’s the ten songs that you think that you say I think justify her being the vocal Bible. And I read this and I was like, This is interesting because I’ve heard this statement before. This statement is the reason why a couple of my friends and I got to a huge argument. Like, it was like a four hour argument we had on the phone about whether or not Brandy was the actual vocal Bible. One of my boys was like, absolutely. The other one was like, Absolutely not. I was in the middle, kind of like, you know, like, I’m interested in hearing the idea.
Dai Poole Mm hmm.
Panama Jackson So that’s that’s how you got. That’s how we found you as well. I saw that article. I mean, I saw the video that you scripted recently, and I’m like, man, I look at God like, this is right on time. I watched the whole thing. Good job. Very good job. Thank you. So let’s hop right into this discussion. Like, what does it mean to be a vocal Bible like that is such an interesting statement in and of itself, but what does that even mean?
Dai Poole Yes. So I think it’s first important, if you don’t mind, to give the context from which that that moniker came. So songwriter Stacy Barthe, I remember Brandy was working on a song called “I Don’t Care” with her and I believe the guy his name was Corey, and the writing team. And she said, Brandy is the vocal Bible. And everyone kind of went with that statement.
Panama Jackson I was trying to get where they came from. Okay. All right.
Dai Poole Yeah, they were working on that. I think it was the family business show on VH1, the reality show. And they were she was doing a song called I Don’t Care. And that’s when we first heard that title. And I think. Which we’ll probably get into more about her own feelings about accepting that moniker. For me, it’s similar to the idea of being the vocal blueprint. But I think that using the term a biblical term almost adds a level of reverence and respect to. What she does because of the magnitude at which she does it. Like. I love the biblical story about the five, the many talents. And I always say, you know, with Brandy. She’s the perfect example of if you’re faithful over a few things, I’ll make you rule over many because she does it while she’s not. She has her faults as a vocalist. She has her opportunities. I’ll say as a vocalist, there are things that. Aren’t necessarily her skill set. Case in point, like Brandy is not a very loud singer. God didn’t give her the gift of just volume that he gave maybe other people. However, with the things that he did give her give her, she chose to dove deeper and deeper and deeper into those gifts and expand them and stretch them to their fullest potential. And I think that’s where the concept of the vocal Bible originated.
Panama Jackson That’s so interesting because. So for one, it’s a more recent, I guess the family business album was like 2011 ish or something like that or whatever.
Dai Poole Yeah, it was really early 2010.
Panama JacksonYeah. Yeah. So it was. Okay, so this idea of Brandy in that like somebody like Stacey drops that term and it’s such a good term that it’s bound to travel, right? Like that’s the kind of thing that people are going to run with. Like, Oh, we got to talk about this. And I like what you know, Brandy. It’s interesting that you mention, like, what she doesn’t do well, like she’s not a volume singer. Like, she’s not Patty, right? Like, she ain’t got that like, you know, like you you hear Patty before you see her kind of thing, like she ate. You know, Brandy’s not like Janet where there’s kind of like, whisper singing kind of thing. Like, you’re right. She lives very strongly in her mid register. She’s very like she knows how to use it. She has a really solid like like low, like low register to like that’s there’s like this a cappella song I think you actually included in your list. I’m like, you know, the fact that she can, like, hit those lower registers and do it in a way that, like, still fills up the sound, the cone of sound kind of thing, like. Mm hmm. I can appreciate that. So here’s the question. Was there any. Do you think this could have applied to anybody else before Brandy gets labeled this or is it? I mean, I kept mentioning her like a one of one in the intro, and I think that’s probably why, because I don’t I’ve never heard that statement before. And it’s only ever been associated with Brandy with her. Like, Are there other artists that you feel like even that came before her that could kind of. Have held such a weighty title because when I think of like and this is going to lead to another quote we’re going to get to a little bit later, it’s going to be a reversal. But like, I think some of the great singer, obviously the Arethas like the Minnie Riperton, you know, the people who have this ability to literally run the whole scale and, you know, all this stuff like. You know, are there any other people considering Brandy as this that could possibly fit on a Mount Rushmore with Brandy in this in this way?
Dai Poole [I don’t know if I would give someone the same title. I think maybe I’d give them different titles, but I definitely think that there are other vocalists who are exceptionally talented. Every generation has their gamut of vocalists who set a standard from which all other vocalists can aspire or reach, do something about what they did, like Aretha’s ability to who’s in whose soul into a song in a way that honestly prior to her like, you know, you have your Diana Ross’s you have the the Motown sound, which was not in a disrespectful way, lacking in soul for the intention of reaching a broader audience. Aretha really, there were people like her, Ray Charles, Little Richard. They took that raw, churchy tent revival energy and channeled it into secular music and made it revolutionary in a way. And so even looking at Brandy’s contemporaries, I think if, you know, if you if we are going to go under the assumption that artists like her or Monica kind of come from that school of Whitney Houston, who was also a nice Whitney was a bridge between, you know, your Barbra Streisand’s and your Aretha Franklin’s is perfect balance. I think what Monica got from Whitney was a lot of that confidence, vocal confidence, as well as the volume that Brandy doesn’t possess. And then Brandy was able to really borrow a lot of the the isms and the nuances found in Whitney’s tone. But I think what made Brandy unique and why she’s gotten the title that she’s gotten is for. A current generation of singers, especially around Never say never in the full moon era. What we started realizing is that Brandy’s style of recording in and of itself was becoming so unique and distinct in R&B that now it’s commonplace. Like, you’re not even thinking, Oh, this was a style that Brandy was really working or revolutionizing. And then when you started adding her newer influences, like Kim Burrell and Mariah Carey, you start hearing how complex the runs became or how the vocal stacks, whether there was counterpoint like Janet Jackson’s backgrounds with some of the best, along with Mariah Carey and Faith Evans on the female side. But Brandy was adding nuance and new layers to what they had already done.
Dai Poole So that might be why I think Brandy’s statue is here, and then other people do great things that they could. You know, beyond the things we’re like. I mean, you could call Aretha the vocal architect, I guess, like she really revolutionized the way of singing for secular music. No.
Panama Jackson So that’s okay. And let’s go ahead and just kind of hop into this, because I think one of the things that makes Brandy so unique is that vocal stacking, right? So, you know, and you mentioned how influential she is and this is kind of like a Solange point. And we’re going to get to Solange at some point because, you know, salons sort of whole thing about this from some years ago that is always stayed with me because I thought it was so fascinating. It’s kind of, I think, kind of peaked my whole Brandy as we’re going to get into this who like underrated because I don’t think she ever she doesn’t really get her due in the space but. So if Brandy’s like this vocal backbone I think part of it my my in. My idea on that is largely because of her runs, her adlibs, her runs, the way she stacks her vocal was like, I don’t I. The more I started listening to that, and then the more I started trying to hear that in other places. Like, I don’t know how many people are able to stack vocals in the way that she does it because she has such a unique tone, right? So her tone is one that is so like, like, you know, it’s Brandy immediately. Like, there’s no there’s no and you know, when people are trying to sound like Brandy because there’s a there’s I was listening to an artist and this is no shade. I was it’s Kehlani. And I can’t even think of the name of the song, but like it’s the opening song in the album. The album cover has like standing on a ladder by like a backyard fence, kind of.
Dai Poole Oh, It Was Right Until It Wasn’t that album
Panama Jackson The first song that comes on. My first thought was, “Oh, this is Brandy all day.” Like, it’s almost like she was trying to channel Brandy, like, 100%, like, everything about the way she was. And I guess, I guess you’re right. Like, the way that I hear a lot of artists now, the things that they are doing is something that I suppose Brandy has been doing, but I don’t know if Brandy gets enough credit for that.
Dai Poole And Kehlani is a self-professed Brandy fan, so it’s like she’s not even hiding clear. She yeah, she’s hot because I listen to her new album. The new album has a song up that thing. It’s up at night with the one with Justin Bieber. And I heard it and I was like, Ooh, these vocal stacks are very reminiscent of Brandy, but I know that she admires her, even her own destruction.
Panama Jackson So what, what specifically before we get to like some of the bigger broad scale questions, like I’m saying in my head when I heard that statement vocal Bible, it must be because of her tone the way she stacks it like it’s the kind of thing that you would want sonically on any album that you have, because it gives so much like atmosphere, it gives so much emotion, so much soul. It’s like all these things into it. But that’s just me listening, but still kind of trying to understand the idea. But as somebody who spent time genuinely thinking about this enough to write about it and be part of other projects about like what makes her specifically the vocal Bible, like what does she do that, that earned her this title?
Dai Poole Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a bunch of things. I think we’ll go with the joking. I don’t I’m a church kid, so I grew up with different little acronyms for the Bible. So one was “basic instructions before leaving Earth”, and I think that that might be the most applicable for Brandy. And I say that because the way that she goes about recording a record or a song or an album. It’s so distinct that it lays this blueprint going back to that word for other artists to go to and whether that simply be the vocal stacking, how she stacks out vocals you know it’s a Brandy record in your stacks of vocals, Shady stacks, her vocals, but they’re not the same as when Brandy stacks out of what it was.
Dai Poole Maybe part of that is due to her tone and her ability to double duplicate herself so accurately that, I mean, LaShawn Daniels spoke about when she used to do it back in the day, people thought it was like a plug in or some extra effect. And it wasn’t. It’s just that her voice was so closely linked in those takes that it created this interesting sound. I think it’s the fact that Brandy. What I always say is what makes it really different personally is the fact that every album that she goes through, she finds a new dimension of her voice to explore. And so many artists, they get to the point where they’re like, I’m a great singer already, so they’re not really trying to reinvent what they do or go deeper into their skill set. Brandy is consistently challenging herself as a vocalist, and I don’t even think she does it with the intent of other people. Now do this. It’s simply she’s so curious as an artist. She doesn’t approach her music like a singer. She approaches it depending on what she’s doing it. She approaches it like an instrumentalist. She approaches approaches as a vocalist. She approaches it as as a painter. There’s all these different aspects of how she does everything where you’re just sitting back. And I agree with you, the casual listener is probably not even taking in everything that she’s doing, but that doesn’t diminish how she approaches her art. And I think the reason that she gets the moniker Bible is because what she’s doing, kind of, you know, playing around with this large area is so sacred. And it’s just like this is such a Black expression of art. This is such a. Level of vulnerability. I think one thing that separates brand is you can always tell when brand is not actually plugged in to a song because Brandy’s gift is being able to take. And this is something I would give her credit, you know, with the Whitney thing is being able to connect to the words of a song and the emotion and display that through the voice. Not everybody can do that. I think Jazmine Sullivan is another great example.
Dai Poole But like there’s not many people who connect the way that Brandy does. And so the fact that her voice allows, if Brandy wants to say the bleeding wind, I’m making up something. The wind made me feel the blood on my shirt. She would sing it in such a way that the W in wind would actually produce a sound that you felt the wind hit you. That’s just the way I think they call the text painting. She does that in a way that’s always believable and just there’s just a level of nuance that most artists aren’t really doing. And I think the funny thing about Brandy is I don’t even know how much of it is intentional. It’s simply that it’s innate in her God given gift that she’s chosen to craft and be a good steward of throughout the years.
Panama Jackson So that, you know, you said you said a bunch of stuff that I could go in all these different directions.
Dai Poole I love talking about that.
Panama Jackson I mean, but listen, it’s it’s. It’s true. One thing you said to me that really stood out to me was like this idea of like. Her using her voice as just kind of another instrument, like she kind of approaches her music instrumentally, right? So like D’Angelo does that as far as ideas, I think uses his voice whenever we get a project, much just like an instrument. You know what I mean? Like, it’s it’s what he’s saying almost isn’t as important as how he’s getting across. He’s a pure he’s a vocalist. Like, literally, it’s a the singing is kind of part of it, but how it’s delivered is almost more important. And I think Brandy can sing. So that’s not even that’s not there’s not a question at all. But but singing saying it as. But saying it as she approaches it like a vocalist puts her more squarely in the artist camp than it does like the singer camp. Right. Like it really seems like she is she’s as involved in the creative process, in the creation of these things, like taking those words and turning them into like these fuller, less ideas. And that’s interesting to me because I don’t know that I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of Brandy. In the way of life. Like, I never I don’t view her as like. Like Michael Jackson was one of those artists. Right? Like, you’re like literally what you’re saying is the things that Mike is known for. Mike would go in there and completely create an entire soundbite version of what he’s trying to do. And then you kind of build around it like, you know, the vocal stacking, the layering, all that stuff. That’s what Mike did all the time. I mean, that’s why his his vocal was like just listening to the pure vocals. It’s like, I don’t think we appreciate Michael Jackson enough for the things that he was doing musically. But I think now the more that I think about your problem, I can probably make that same statement about somebody like Brandy who? Innately maybe just goes in the studio like, you know what, I kind of hear it this way. Let me try to do this. Why do you think and maybe I’m wrong, so let me go ahead and couch this with this. Maybe I’m wrong about this. Why do why don’t more people view Brandy as the artist that perhaps she should be viewed as? If that makes sense.
Dai Poole No, it does. This is a question that I think I wrestle with a lot, and I’ve kind of stumbled upon these these few ideas on it. So what I think that her peers actually do respect her as the vocalist that she I’m thinking and or something.
Panama Jackson We’re going to talk about the musicians because it seems like every musician is like Brandy. Like everybody’s like Brandy is good about that life, I think from the commercial end of it though, like critically I don’t think that we give her the flowers critical like is the Brady might actually be an underrated artist. I think that’s what I’m curious about like.
Dai Poole Yeah no that’s that’s the distinction I want to make is that it’s always it’s never her peers. It’s it’s the public at large or maybe so in critics or commercially. And I think it’s a it’s a multi tier thing because. Her personal journey and her journey as an artist can’t be separated from the decline. I hate to say the decline, but it’s factual, the decline in commercial success. There were some missteps, I think, career wise, that impacted her commercial success. But I think now when it comes to just artists in general or the general fanbase at large, one thing for Brandy is that I would say that maybe she could. I hate saying this about artists because it sounds like I’m telling them to dumb down things. But I think just generally as music has progressed deeper and deeper and there’s been the merge of rap and R&B and singing as an art form has it’s kind of gone from I listen to singers. So for them to do impressive things, I can’t do two more. So I want to be able to sing what the artist is doing so the artists aren’t doing things that are that impressive anymore. I think for an artist like Brandy, that’s challenging because I think at the peak of her creative or commercial success, Brandy’s style of singing was almost conversational, and then it added all the great things. But as she has this pressure of the idea of being the vocal Bible and her voice just naturally matured, she started doing even more aggressive or impressive things that maybe she couldn’t do when she was younger. But now the times have changed. It’s almost like the opposite. Brandy now sings closer sometimes as a nineties singer, because back in the nineties it was “How much can you do?” How much can you add into one song? And Brandy was an anomaly because that wasn’t her style. She chose a different approach similar to the way Aaliyah did. But then, as Brandy has gotten older, now she can do the squawking and the bigger voice things and adding all these things. But unfortunately, the average listener is actually used to way a much more simplified and vocal take, which is why I think songs like Put It Down were common— besides Chris Brown being one, it was a hit for her because it was simple.
Dai Poole [Just a simple, easy to follow melody.
Panama Jackson [A hit, by the way. Of course.
Dai Poole [Of course. But like even the hook. Yeah, the way Sean Garrett wrote that hook, though it’s similar to, like when Mariah’s in her best and new age Mariah. It’s like an easily singalong hook, something that people can sing along to. It’s it’s it gets stuck in your head and it’s not complex. And I always say when Brandy finds that balance, I think sometimes the vocal Bible moniker can be a detriment because you feel like every song you have to attack. Like, give them everything I can. Instead of. Is this a good song? First and foremost, because Brandy can make the itsy bitsy spider sound like a Grammy Award winning hit. And then it turns into, how can I convey what’s necessary for this song, but do it in a way that the average person can walk away appreciating it. And that’s hard for I think it’s hard for a person who thinks like Brandy because of the musical conversation she’s having. Is that an elevated level? Not in saying this in a condescending way. It’s just that the way that she studies or listens to music is just on a different level, probably from most everyday, casual listeners, especially as when the things we listen on the radio are more and more simplified. So you find that that challenge of be the artist or be the commercial success. And that’s a hard place to be in, I think, as an artist.
Panama Jackson [Yeah. And we’re going to talk specifically about it. We’re going to take a quick break and we’re going to come back. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that. Specifically, I want to talk about the critical successes. And actually, while you were talking, I had an idea about why I think maybe if there is a decline in interest in some ways, perhaps why I think that might be so. Let’s take a quick break. We’ll be right back here on Dear Culture to talk more about Brandy as the vocal Bible.
Panama Jackson All right, we’re back here. Dear Culture, talking about Brandy as the vocal Bible with journalist writer music, Foody, All Things Considered Dai Poole, who’s been giving us some tremendous insights about Brandy, why she’s the vocal Bible, what it is she does great, and how how influential she’s been. And we talked briefly before the break about this idea of what it means to be handed such a lofty title. And, you know, I mentioned that I wouldn’t want the pressure of being called a Bible of anything because, you know, a Bible is it’s like. Is the Bible like the most read book on the planet as far as. As far as I know, everybody’s familiar. So everybody gives it a certain reverence. So
Panama Jackson I read somewhere like I read, I read an article about Brandy being hesitant about accepting that title early on. And that makes sense to me. So. What do you think it was like the pressure? Like, how is that how has that pressure impacted the way Brandy delivers her music in her art? Like. How does Brandy work with being the vocal Bible?
Dai Poole Yeah. I wish that I’d personally spoken to her about this, but I can definitely piece things from what she said and make my own inferences. But once she has publicly stated, she struggled with understanding why people would call her that. Struggling with coping with having it. I think she said the late her late vocal producer, one of the great greatest. LaShawn Daniels really was the person to help her understand. Why people refer to her that way. And, you know, her understanding it’s beyond just her tone. It’s not what Brandy does, it’s how she does it. There’s just a unique stamp that’s on anything that other people might do. The same thing, like you said before, and it just doesn’t translate the same. But I think for Brandy going through the pressures, I do think, you know, I would love to hear her thoughts that sometimes subconsciously that bipolar type of pressure can seep into the way that you go about approaching your music. And sometimes you feel the need to live up to a moniker repeatedly, even when it’s like, well, you don’t have to do. And I’m not saying she does this consistently, but it’s like sometimes I’m like, you can make this simpler. Like this actually could be more straightforward. Monica I don’t know if you remember the verses that they did.
Dai Poole One of my favorite parts was okay yet one of my favorite parts when Monica and Brandy were discussing how they record music. Monica says, I just do a top down. Like she goes, He sings through the song once or twice, and that’s it. The raw emotion. Capture it and that’s it. And it’s actually a point that I thought Brandy could benefit from, only because Brandy is such a perfectionist. She’s spoken about how, like as a Brandy fan, there’s like 50 versions of different songs sometimes. And I’m like, You know what I think Brandy could benefit from? Just trust your instinctual performance and don’t go back and make it perfect. Because I think the Bible Monica brings brings a need to make it perfect. When sometimes I hear a song Broken Hearted, which she recorded in like one take most of it because she wanted to go to like Six Flags or something. You felt that pain. You felt the rawness and the imperfection in the vocal performance. And I think she could benefit from knowing that, hey, when you actually do a take or two of a song, that’s your true feeling. Don’t don’t feel the need to perfect that. Because we actually as listeners feel that and that feel that impact.
Panama Jackson You know, that’s interesting, too, because I’ve always I think you can tell artists that like, one, take things and do that. Like a lot of times like listening to Brandy, it’s clear she’s punching in things where they need to be. Like, it’s clear that’s not a knock or anything. Like, there’s just no way to tell. She has the. But beside the layering, just the phrasing, the way that these these like songs like live on, I mean, the lyrics live on top of each set. Like it’s I don’t know how in the world she do some of that stuff in one take but you bring up a good point. It’d be interesting to hear some of these songs as one take versions of themselves, right? Like how how you just go the whole way through it. You just knock that thing out. I. You said something earlier about how. Brandy like vocally was trying everything. And I almost wonder if that’s part of her artistry too, because so for instance, I think Full Moon is probably regarded as her best album. I think. Yeah, I think, I think so. Like it’s, it’s easily the album that I enjoyed the most. So I’m going to just assume that I’m the person that matters the most. This is a full moon is the best album.
Dai Poole It’s the album that gave her the moniker. I would agree that that’s the one that people
Panama Jackson Say, Yeah, that’s where I was going with this. Like that’s where it came from, like the stuff she was doing on an album. And it’s also, I think, Brandy as an artist, which is really interesting because she said she’s considered such a commercial success because she is she doesn’t get to live in that. Indie artists like Lane, where I think she belongs sometimes with a lot of the things that she tries, because I feel like a lot of her music, she takes risks and they don’t always work right? Like this is like musically, the sound she’s going for, I think. Was it? What about us? Or I think what about when she felt like this song was going be, like, innovative, like it could have changed the game kind of thing.
Panama Jackson That song is amazing, but every song isn’t going to be that way. Right. And I wonder if the way that she approaches vocals is also kind of the way she approaches the sound she’s hearing. Like, you know, some artists just believe, like, I have these. She wanted to be a rapper, right? She thought she was going to change the game as a B. Rocka Is a thing and I wish she would have Gabe rock it back, but she really believed in it for a while. You know what I mean?
Panama Jackson I guess I wonder if maybe because I don’t think people really talk about Brandy’s albums the same way that they talk about classic albums, R&B albums outside of it. I think for me to never say never probably get close, absolutely. But the rest of the is like, I’ve listened to all of them, Afrodisiac, Human, B7, all of these things. And I never really walk away with them feeling like this is. I’m not gonna say these are the best version because they’re good albums are fine. But, you know, I feel like Brandy is one of those artists who was so big. You would think that almost all of her albums kind of have that. Like her albums or events, but they’re also because they’re as good. And I wonder if her creativity. Vocally bleeds into the creativity musically, which doesn’t always work. It works vocally almost all the time. But I think musically, maybe not. I’ve said a lot here no more.
Dai Poole I think there’s the argument there. I definitely think there’s a there’s a there’s a valid argument or critique which could be made and we could get into that about does it always work? I think one of the album I look at the trifecta, the Holy Trinity of her albums as Never Say Never, Full Moon, An Aphrodisiac. That’s the Trinity for. And I say that because I think aphrodisiac, unfortunately, was clouded by a lot of personal turmoil. You know, that was when the situation with the marriage or, you know, it wasn’t real and all of those different things, just negative media attention and then some label choices and single choices. But like when you listen to that body of work, to me it’s like almost like the Rated R of Rihanna’s catalog. Like it’s a it’s own slap snapshot of Brandy at her most raw Brandy, emoting in a way that 16, 14 year old, 18 year old, 20 year old Brandy could have never done. That’s the Brandy that had wear and tear on her voice so you could feel what she was saying. It wasn’t over polished the way that Full Moon was, and lyrically it was mature songs like Necessary that Cee Lo Green did or songs like Say You Will.
Dai Poole That this had a level of maturity that should have actually transitioned her in adulthood. I believe it would have had it reach the heights that it should have. But then I think bringing up your argument with Human, I thought Human was beautiful in its spiritual undertones and her ability to. Tap into her upper register and to play around with that. But I could see an argument where you say production wise and songwriting wise, it went so pop and it didn’t feel risk taking in terms of just subject matter or production where it was kind of. Yes, she was risking by singing higher.
Dai Poole But that was all that there was. I could see an argument for that. I love the album, but I can find validity in and I think Two 11 kind of found this cool icy. Almost hip hop driven style. Like she found this way to like add some of the overproduction of like full moon with some of the rawness of aphrodisiac. It was an interesting mix. In current time, I don’t think they knew how to market it the way that they should have. And then you have albums like B7 where it’s just, I believe seven is in the year like 2050 because song structure wise, one of my favorite commentators and vocal instructors like, O’Neil Gerald, he really talks about a lot of the songs and I was like, This is not like, Oh, just play it in the car and listen to it casually album. It’s a very like, besides maybe like two songs you need to be listening because she’s doing stuff that I mean I would expect Bjork to be doing side of this, some of this type of stuff. But Brandy’s not, like you said, an indie artist. She’s looked at as a commercial entity, you know.
Dai Poole Even her brand stock now that she’s acting again, she’s doing stuff that she was doing in the nineties. So people are looking at her. But I think the music is still somewhat approach indie like if that makes sense, where it’s just so creative, it’s like, let’s rein it in and make it packaged it so it’s palatable for an everyday audience.
Panama Jackson That is such an interesting way to look at it, too, because she’s almost too big to get to allow her music to be viewed perhaps the way it should. Like, I think Beyoncé also deals with this, right? Like.
Dai Poole Mm hmm.
Panama Jackson Lemonade was a very indie album to me. Like, it just it felt a lot more personal, like, like smaller in some ways than like these big lush productions that are supposed to be like stadium fillers and stuff like that. But because she’s Beyonce, it gets viewed in the can she sell 10 million lines as opposed to the is the music leaning the way that it should kind of stuff? And I think Brandy probably lives a lot in that space and I never really thought about that until recently. I mean, it’s been more recently thinking about her as an artist that it’s like, huh? Well mean that piece of it opens up like like a straight up, like, indie album like that. That first song, like, I remember this is that like, yo, this is this is crazy. Like, whatever instrumentation we got here. Chopped up samples with some stuff was like, this is this can never happen.
Dai Poole And the references. But see, I think you brought up a good point with Beyonce’s Lemonade album, for example, or even the self-titled album. The difference is and of course, there’s differences in funding and backing and like you said, just having that. The is an artist that if she drops it, people are going to pay attention, love it or hate it. Right. But I think Beyonce’s packaging and presentation of lemonade through a visual medium made it much like people can’t separate the two now. So it’s like even if you love or hate the album Lemonade, most people would say that the film was a masterpiece.
Dai Poole And because she’s smart and yes, she’s smart enough to know that if I present it in a way that people intrinsically think about the album and the visual, it’ll make the two things synonymous in most people’s minds. And Brandy does it often because and I say this respectfully, Brandy, in my opinion, never was a visual artist in the way that she should have been. And so she only has the music. So as the music gets more and more indie, I like using the word indie for this. I don’t know. I like how you’d use that. It actually became more and more challenging because she doesn’t have the other component. And a lot of indie artists today like Dawn Rashad’s or, you know, Iyla or Moses Sumney, they’re all very visual artists tomorrow. Like all these different people make cool music, innovative music, but they also have a visual component to make it accessible and digestible.
Panama Jackson [We’re going to take a final break here and come back and finish talking about Brandy as a vocal Bible. I have one I think one final question. They kind of wrap this up and then we’re going to do some we’re going to close it out with some Blackfessions and some Blackammendations because their culture, we were all about the Black. So stay tuned. Join us after the break. All right, we’re back here, Dear Culture. And we are finishing up this conversation with Dai Poole about Brandy the vocal Bible and. What do you think Brandy’s ultimate musical legacy will end up being like? I think the vocal Bible thing and outlook, she’s she’s a people say she’s like your favorite artist. Favorite artist. I think that bears out. I you can find quote unquote, some days from artists that we know and love who are like, I love Brandy, the Luke James of the world, the industries of the world like this all. And it runs the gamut of the type of artists like everybody loves Brandy as an artist. But I feel like there’s that, you know, kind of a bit like the commercial side versus the artist side versus what kind of music she’s about. Like. So Brandy is she has a legacy. It’s set in stone. She is brand she’s on one name status. Right. You she got there. What do you think her musical legacy is going to be?
Dai Poole This is tough because.
Panama Jackson I know that’s a heavy question. I wanted to lay the whole thing. Tell us the secrets, the answers of life.
Dai Poole I definitely believe that she will be remembered by the tone of her voice and how unique it was. You can’t discuss nineties music, not just R&B nineties music without talking about Brandy, because what she, along with Aaliyahand Monica did was truly unprecedented the level of success they had at such an early age. But I think. Brandy as a full on entertainer. I don’t think her best days are behind her. I think as we see her transitioning into acting more. I don’t know what the musical side will look like moving forward, but I definitely think as a talent. She’s definitely going to be remembered as a renaissance woman, as someone who who did it all and did it all in a way that was uniquely her. And I think the more that she taps into accepting her authentic self and not wanting to be anybody else other than that, the more that people will resonate with her work. And I pray that people look back at albums like Full Moon, Never Say Never Aphrodisiac and her debut and look and think this really set the groundwork for 21st century R&B music. You wouldn’t have the same thing with the Frank Ocean’s.
Panama Jackson I love Frank Ocean. That is that is a whole separate, interesting conversation and I would love. I would love to see Brandy go like the Frank Ocean route. Like Blond is probably like my favorite album of the past decade. Like, I, I can listen every single day. I would love something super minimal, but, like, super, like, punchy and, like, powerful. Like, I mean, Frank Ocean is a gift unto himself, just his phrasing in the way that he puts things together. Like I and I’ve worked together before, like the minimalism on that album. Listen, Frank, need to go ahead and run him over Brandy. I’ll just like, let me let me start at the top.
Dai Poole Let’s do this. I think he was one of our first places. Love it. Yeah, I think. Yeah. Like he worked with our on human and then on to 11 so I would cosign that. Times ten, get back together.
Panama Jackson Listen, I want to hear Blonder. The Brandy version and that’s what I want to hear. This has been a great conversation. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. You gave a lot of great insights and ideas. And, you know, we said this off camera, but like thinking of Brandy as an indie artist, I mean, frames her whole career. And I think all of us start trying to do that. I’m just I’m trying to listen to her album, same lens, like, because I do think. With the with the commercial end of it, you know, because he’s a selling artist. He’s a selling artist. You know what I mean? Like people. I think it’s easy to lose her influence just from a critical standpoint, because people view these big artists as just like they only view like the the influence in terms of. I don’t think the musical influence gets enough credit when you start looking at artists that are as big as I like. We’re going to be talking about like Beyonce is so big, like people are going to be trying to figure out exactly how she influenced things, aside from just being the biggest artist ever, like the ability to level things up like Michael Jackson, I think you have to be more intricate about thinking about how they influenced music and what they did and how that like that. You know, those breadcrumbs are sprinkled through everything. So, you know, I’m gonna start trying to think and do more of my own work with Brandy and that in that sense and you know, shout out to Brandy told Norwood family as my people. True story I want to write Ray J’s biography. That’s my goal in life to be the person that writes Ray J’s biography. So, you know, hopefully they listen to this and yes.
Dai Poole I speak in that into existence.
Panama Jackson Thank you. Thank you. So we’re going to move into this is one of my favorite things to do here, because, you know, we all have this statement where we say Black people are not a monolith. We are all individuals. We do things and well, we do this thing here called a Blackfession. And this is our opportunity to prove it every single time. Blackfessions being a confession of sorts of your Blackness, something that most Black people that we think anyway would all kind of share in common or think similarly. But as it turns out, it’s not always the case. You have a Blackfession for us.
Dai Poole I have never seen Love Jones, Love and Basketball or Friday. You actually wrote an article about New Jack City. And I was like, Actually, I’ve never seen that either. So, yeah.
Panama Jackson So, you know, I want to be upset about this. I really do. But you know what I’m learning? The more we do stuff like this is how many Black movies Black folks haven’t seen. Like Friday comes up all the time among people. People all of you I’ve never seen. Friday like Love Jones is surprising, but not surprising when you consider how little money it actually made, like at the box office or like in, you know, like it just it’s it’s like a indie film, darling, that everybody loves and references. Like, everybody knows what happens to Love Jones Even if you’ve never seen it. Right. I think it kind of ascended to that. You have no idea. Okay okay. All right. Got me cussin on a Tuesday. All right. So you haven’t seen Love Jones, Love and Basketball. That’s so interesting.
Dai Poole This is what I tell people.
Panama Jackson Because at this point it’s yeah.
Dai Poole So at this point, I almost. Is it a part of my identity to just keep being this anomaly in the model in the, in the, in the Black community? Like because I did eventually watch The Color Purple. So like I have broken some ones that I hadn’t seen. But I always argue this. I was like, I was raised in the 2000s like I had no business watching any of those movies as a young kid in the nineties. So it’s like when I was the age to watch it. I had my own stuff to watch, you know, like we had our own movies and things that we would want to watch. So I just never made it back to watching it. But, you know, it’s nothing against them personally.
Panama Jackson You know, having a curiosity about like even Love Jones or, you know, Love and Basketball. I mean, Friday. But Love Jones is like. Love Jones.
Dai Poole I think I have so much admiration and respect for all the actors in that film. It’s just never been something that I was. I let me go on and see what Love Jones is about. It’s just never been. Maybe I’m also not the biggest romance drama movie person. I’m pretty cynical a lot of times when it comes to romantic love, but, you know, maybe one day it’ll come out. Like when I would watch cable. That’s how I would. That’s how I saw the sequels to Friday, because they would come on VH1 or something like that. So maybe one day if I’m sitting at home.
Panama Jackson So you’ve seen Next Friday.
Dai Poole One of those. I don’t know which one, but and because everyone kept calling it because my nickname is Day Day and there’s a character named Day Day. So I watched that just because I had to understand the reference to why everyone kept saying that to me.
Panama Jackson All right. Well, that is. What? At one point in my life I would consider that to be an alarming Blackfession but it turns out I’m not even sure that’s a Blackfession anymore. I have to tell people, listen, if you’re just going to tell me you ain’t seen Friday or Love Jones. You got to come with something else. At this point, I’m starting to think nobody’s actually seen the movies except me, my friends. But to counter this travesty, potential travesty in your Blackness, we also do something called a Black commendation, which is where we ask people to share something in Blackness that’s before for about Black culture or Black people that they like and they really enjoy. So what is your Blackacommendation?
Dai Poole Yeah. So, like, I’m a political junkie. I enjoy being engaged and informed as possible when it comes to the political space. I need to add that as a writer like to get into writing about it, but there is an incredible political commentator. She was actually the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders campaign, Briahna Joy Gray. She does an incredible podcast called Bad Faith. So that is like an episode every Thursday for free. And then Monday she does premium episodes for people on her Patreon. I recommend checking it out. I think as a Black woman, that voice and that lens is often underrepresented and she does a great job of discussing not just the racial angle of things, but more importantly, the class angle and infusing the two. So I definitely recommend checking out her work. She’s incredible. I love hearing her viewpoint on things.
Panama Jackson Well, look, thank you for this conversation. Thank you for joining us here. Where can people find your work? Where is Dai Poole?
Dai Poole Thank you so much.
Panama Jackson And I didn’t bring up the Tiramisu. Yeah. You wrote about Tiramisu, like waffles.
Dai Poole Believe it or not, my biggest article so far, I think, for that publication was actually about the proper way to open up ketchup packages, which is the funniest thing to me because I wrote that in like 15 minutes. I thought it was a joke.
Panama Jackson So yeah, life hacks, man, people love it.
Dai Poole But I’m on Instagram. That’s like my preferred social media platform at dai_tyme. That’s Dai Tyme. It does have my website in the bio or you can check out my articles for the kitchen. Mashed.com. Yeah, adding This is R&B. I’m trying to add some more publications as well, so I appreciate it if you check it out.
Panama Jackson Look, I appreciate the convo. You have a lot of great things to say, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing reading a ton more from you on all manner of things because you know you got us and we found you. I saw it was like, we need to get this. We need to get this chap here to talk about this Brandy thing. And listen, we appreciate the conversation that’s going to do it for this episode of Dear Culture this week. Thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast. Check us out. Hang out with the folks. You know what I’m saying? We talk about the Blackness in all things Black, all Black, everything. Please. Email. All suggestions, emails, scams. Gift cards, but digital gift cards, compliments, suggestions, ideas, but make them very short. We’re not going to take them. So, you know, I have my own two podcast at theGrio.com. Dear Culture is an original production brought to you by theGrio Black Podcast Network. Our show is produced by myself, Panama Jackson and Crystal Grant and edited by Cameron Blackwell. And Regina Griffin is our Managing Editor of Podcasts here TheGrio Podcast Network. So thanks for sleepwalking. Thanks for checking us out. Have a Black One. Next week on Dear Culture: Anthony Anderson.
Anthony Anderson While the Obamas were in office, I took the USO trip to to Afghanistan. And we flew over on Air Force Two, which was, I believe, the first lady’s plane.
Panama Jackson Didn’t even know that existed, by the way.
Anthony Anderson Yeah. Air Force Two. And I was going through cabinet, and this is when I knew that we had a Black first family. There was packets of grape Kool-Aid in the cabinet.