1998 score: 9/10
2020 score: 7/10
The world seems like a pretty shitty place lately; so much cumulative pain and collective anger. So, this looks like the perfect opportunity to bring attention to yet another aspect in which the Black community has been disregarded for the work they’ve done. Western music has almost completely benefitted from Black history and most fail to put this together. The ripples caused by Black artists playing blues, jazz, and gospel have directly impacted the development of nearly all western music. I want to pay homage to these ancestors of the soul by remembering the ripple Brandy created with her second studio album Never Say Never.
Brandy was 19 when Never Say Never was released, and was at the front of the ‘urban pop’ development, which also included artists like Monica and Usher. It’s also been known that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are said to be influenced by Brandy as well as her effect on the music world at the time, so you can see the rippling effect I’m talking about. If Britney is the almighty queen, her inspirations are truly where we’ve got to be paying attention.
I remember my mom giving me this record, and playing it a million times, always singing to everything I could hear, including the background voices. Sixteen tracks of soft groovy bumping, with moments of the genres that inspired the album like rap, hip-hop, and R&B. Raised on my mom’s serious taste for anything remotely close to Black culture (the woman has some serious soul for a South-American Armenian) it felt familiar and absolutely easy to love. I couldn’t get over how beautiful Brandy was on the album cover, and how beautiful she sounded too. Her honey-smooth voice lulled me at any time and place, and she was a staple in my Walkman on the daily. Her lyrics spoke loudly about preaching girl power, love, relationships, feeling good about oneself, and definitely not taking shit from men who break your heart.
As folk of the western music community, we owe close to EVERYTHING to Black history. Our livelihoods would surely not be the way they are today without these pioneers of sound and feel. Even those who made the smallest of domino effects are apparent in our reality now. If you’re thinking “Yeah I’m not entirely sure about that…” it’s probably a good idea for you to conduct a little Google search so that in the future, you don’t sound like so much of an ignorant twit.
Our very comfortable and happy lives today would not so much as exist if those before us didn’t pave the way, and it is especially pressing to remind ourselves that this pioneering took place in times of great suffering. A suffering that has no place in our world today.
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Written by Talia Plante
*Edited by Dominic Abate