Sweet Brandy She may be young, but Brandy Norwood’s sophisticated voice is taking her where her dreams are leading By Roger Catlin
The Hartford Courant I
t’s been a big year for 15-year-olds on the charts.
But what sets Brandy apart from singlenamed colleagues Aaliyah and Da Brat is that she sounds so grown-up.
Not that she sings a lot about “adult matters.”
“My mom and dad and the record company all take a look at the material,” Brandy Norwood said over the phone from her record company in New York. “If it’s too grown-up for me, it’s a no.”
Rather, her voice has a sophistication and suppleness beyond her years.
She gets her chance to show off her talents live as the opening act on the Boyz II Men and Babyface tour.
“I feel very excited and motivated to be on tour,” Brandy says. “It’s like a dream to even be on a stage with Boyz II Men.”
Although she has done some promotional tours for her debut album, which has gone gold and hit the Top 10 on the R&B; charts, her record company had its doubts, she said.
“They thought the vocals were nice on the record, but everybody was biting their fingernails about a concert. Nobody knew if I could sing like I did on the album.”
She set up a personal performance for her record executives. “I was so nervous that night. But I was in such good voice, I knew I could do it.”
Brandy has been working hard to keep up her confidence since she was much younger.
“I’ve been trying since I was 11,” she said. “I was always trying to get somewhere.”
Born in McComb, Miss., and raised in Los Angeles, she had the backing and encouragement of her parents, who took her to record companies and all manner of auditions. Once, she even got a part - for a TV sitcom. She played Denesha on the shortlived series, “Thea.”
“I wasn’t looking to ever be in a sitcom, but I had an acting agent and I would go out on these auditions and I landed that part,” she said.
But mostly she’s concentrating on her vocals, which earned her a gold single for “I Wanna Be Down.”
“Baby” is due out this month as a follow-up single. But “I Wanna Be Down” continues to ride high on the strength of a remix video featuring such artists as MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Yo Yo. When “I Wanna Be Down” first came out, Brandy thought it was a flop when two weeks went by and she never heard it on the radio.
“I would cry every day because it would be added to the playlists at radio stations, but it would be on once, late at night, and nobody would be hearing it. I kept wondering, ‘Why, why, why?’ Then, a week later, I heard it on one of the major stations in L.A. in prime, day time. Then they kept playing and playing and playing it. And when that song blew up, I was shocked. I was so wrong about it.”
Brandy said she first knew she wanted to be a singer in 1983, at age 4. Then, at age 6, she heard the song that would be her theme song, on the flip side of Whitney Houston’s first single.
“She’s my mentor all the way,” Brandy said in “I Dedicate (Part One),” a track on the debut album.
And “The Greatest Love of All” became Brandy’s signature song.
“I’d sing that everywhere I went,” Brandy said.
She even got to talk to her hero once. “She told me she thought I had a wonderful voice and she heard the single and she liked it.”
Working someday with Houston, “that’s my dream,” Brandy said, stopping to add: “I mean, that’s one of my dreams.”
Suddenly on tour with her other vocal heroes, Boyz II Men, Brandy is taking one dream at a time.