Brandy Norwood, television’s talented African American teen idol, boasts a successful singing and acting resume that many an entertainment veteran could envy. With a flash of her broad, contagious smile, and a toss of her signature mane of glossy braids, the award-winning singer turned her focus to acting and captured a television audience as star of the UPN sitcom Moesha, causing Entertainment Weekly to note, “She’s one of the few pop-music stars who can act even better than she can sing.”
Brandy’s parents, Willie and Sonia Norwood, recognized stand-out talent in both their children—Brandy’s younger brother Willie, Jr., called Ray-J, is also a singer—and launched a non-stop business plan aimed at early careers in the entertainment industry. They moved the family from Mississippi to Los Angeles when Brandy was four Ray-J was two, and started their vocal training in a church youth choir. “My brother and I were always in the front as featured singers because our dad was the choir director,” Brandy explained to Rolling Stone. “Then I started being directress of younger choirs, and, well, I was just really hot in the church.”
Church was Brandy’s first stage. Willie handles the kids’ musical grooming, while Sonia serves as business manager/chaperon. Brandy calls her “Momager,” and Sonia takes the job to heart. Mom must okay clothing, costume, diet, social, and career choices. ‘I’m going to be as big as Whitney [Houston],’” Sonia told TV Guide. “It’s our job to go out there and help get her there.”
At age 11, Brandy won second place in a talent contest and was singing at local events; at 12, she earned a spot singing backup for an R&B group named Immature. In 1993, when she was 14, Brandy signed her first recording contract with Atlantic. Several months later she landed a role on the ABC sitcom Thea as 12-year-old Daneesha, daughter of the title character. The show didn’t last long, which suited Brandy fine. “I’m always smiling and happy,” she told People, “Other people on the set weren’t. I was miserable. I couldn’t wait for it to go off the air.”
Brandy used the extra time to polish and launch her debut R&B album, simply titled Brandy. The recording was a wild success, rocketing to the top of musical charts with triple platinum sales, producing best-selling singles “Baby” and “I Wanna Be Down,” and two videos featured prominently on MTV. Jeremy Helliger in People remarked, “Brandy’s well-groomed blend of gently lilting hip hop and pop-soul has a more timeless appeal. With the poise and sassy confidence of a diva twice her age, Brandy mixes her love songs with tributes to her little
Born Brandy Norwood, February 11, 1979, in McComb, MS; daughter of Willie (a choir director), and Sonia (Brandy’s manager) Norwood; one brother, Willie, Jr. Education: Enrolled at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California campus.
Co-starred on ABC sitcom Thea, 1993; recorded album triple platinum debut album entitled Brandy, 1994; embarked on 13-city solo tour and spent two months opening for Boyz II Men; star of United Paramount Network’s (UPN) sitcom Moesha, 1995—; contributed songs to Waiting to Exhale and Batman Forever soundtracks.
Awards: Grammy Award; American Music Award, favorite new artist, 1996.
brother (“Best Friend”), God (“Give Me You”), the perfect man (“Baby”) and older crooners like Aretha and Whitney (“I Dedicate”). While this isn’t groundbreaking stuff, Brandy has the pipes to become more than the latest teenage next-big-thing.”
Brandy embarked on her first 13-city tour of U.S. high schools and a two-month stint as opening act for Boyz II Men’s national tour. Her credits include songs on two major motion picture soundtracks, “up in My Room” from Waiting to Exhale, and “Where Are You Now?” from Batman Forever. Winning a Grammy award and being named “Favorite New Artist” at the 1996 American Music Awards legitimized her musical talent on a national level.
Brandy followed up with another high-profile career move. Nabbing the star role in the United Paramount Network (UPN) hit sitcom Moesha has elevated her status to prime time. The highly-rated comedy series focuses on the everyday life of the Mitchells, a middle class black family living in south-central Los Angeles. Brandy plays Moesha Mitchell, the bright, 16-year-old daughter who copes with the normal pressures and complications of teen life with the help of best friends and well-meaning family members. She has a mischievous little brother, hard-working car salesman father, and a new stepmother who teaches at her high school.
When Brandy initially read the script for the show, she was struck by the similarities between the lead character and herself. “Brandy kind of matched Moesha,” the actress explained to TV Guide. “Her attitude is the same. She’s interested in boys, but something else comes first—her schoolwork, her family. She hangs out with her friends. She’s very nice.” Clarifying her position about the show in Jet, Brandy said of her character, “She’s responsible and listens to her dad. Her friends are wild, but she isn’t. Most of the black shows on TV now are so unreal. There’s no moral. There is a moral on Moesha. ”
Moesha, deemed “one of TV’s most winning sitcoms— and a fresh alternative to its tire competitors” by Entertainment Weekly, is hailed by critics for the normalcy of the Mitchell family’s life. Story lines deal with happy and sad moments, sibling rivalry, teen temptations, and parent pressures. For instance, the 1996-97 season introduced a street-smart rapper to the set as Brandy’s love interest. Brandy, afraid of her father’s reaction to her dating someone so different from his expectations for her, struggles with the issue of telling her father the truth. These types of issues are proving to be important to Moesha’s fan base. Show co-creator Ralph Farquhar commented in Jet, “Teenagers are aspiring to be adults. It’s interesting to see teenagers finding out who they are and how they interact with parents.” But Farquhar is pleased that the show is not just a hit with teens. “I get a lot of calls from parents saying Thank you. Finally a show I can sit down and watch with my children, ’” Farquhar told Jet, “We like to say stuff, but we’re not preachy about it.”
Brandy leads a large and talented cast. For the time being, she relies on instinct, help from an acting coach, and advice from fellow performers for her new role. Her life is crowded with television rehearsals and tapings, school—Sonia insists on three-hour tutoring sessions daily—and continued work time spent in the recording studio. The schedule leaves little time for dating or down time with peers. She still tries to fit in phone calls and trips to the mall with friends—although now she takes a body guard along.
Brandy is not finished spreading her wings. Brandy’s first love is still music, and she considers herself more a singer than actress. In fact, she sings the Moesha’s theme song, though Moesha, the character, does not sing on the program. Future plans include a second album for which she hopes to help write songs and contribute to production. A four-day television work week leaves little time for school, but Brandy earned a high school diploma with independent studies and tutoring. She continues her studies at Pepperdine University, Malibu campus, and hopes to earn a degree with an emphasis on entertainment law.
Fame and fortune has not made Brandy sidestep family influence or forget her religious roots. She still counts on her parents for reality checks and her faith for stability. “I think it’s because of God that I am where I am today,” she told jet. “And I thinks he’s the cause of all of us being here. I don’t ever want to forget about him.”
Brandy, Atlantic, 1994.
Batman Forever (soundtrack), Atlantic, 1995.
Waiting to Exhale (soundtrack), Arista, 1995.
Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 1996, p. 56.
Jet, February 26, 1996, pp. 59-61; November 25, 1996, pp. 56-59.
Newsweek, March 25, 1996, p. 69.
New York Times, April 2, 1995, (Section 2) p. 43.
People, October 24, 1994, p. 20; November 21, 1994, p. 99; July 31, 1995, p. 23; May 6, 1996, p. 140.
Rolling Stone, April 6, 1995, p. 32.
Seventeen, April 1995, pp. 158-161.
TV Guide, April 6, 1996, pp. 30-32.
USA Today, July 26, 1996, p. 2D.
The name brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning "burnt wine." The name is apt as most brandies are made by applying heat, originally from open flames, to wine. The heat drives out and concentrates the alcohol naturally present in the wine. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point (172°F, 78°C) than water (212'F, 100°C), it can be boiled off while the water portion of the wine remains in the still. Heating a liquid to separate components with different boiling points is called heat distillation. While brandies are usually made from wine or other fermented fruit juices, it can be distilled from any liquid that contains sugar. All that is required is that the liquid be allowed to ferment and that the resulting mildly-alcoholic product not be heated past the boiling point of water. The low-boiling point liquids distilled from wine include almost all of the alcohol, a small amount of water, and many of the wine's organic chemicals. It is these chemicals that give brandy its taste and aroma.
Almost every people have their own national brandy, many of which are not made from wine: grappa in Italy is made from grape skins, slivivitz in Poland is made from plums, shochu in Japan is made from rice, and bourbon in the United States is made from corn. Beer brandy is better known as Scotch whiskey. It is universally acknowledged that the finest brandies are the French cognacs that are distilled from wine.
Brandies are easy to manufacture. A fermented liquid is boiled at a temperature between the boiling point of ethyl alcohol and the boiling point of water. The resulting vapors are collected and cooled. The cooled vapors contain most of the alcohol from the original liquid along with some of its water. To drive out more of the water, always saving the alcohol, the distillation process can be repeated several times depending on the alcohol content desired. This process is used to produce both fine and mass-produced brandy, though the final products are dramatically different.
It is unknown when people discovered that food could be converted to alcohol through fermentation. It appears that the discovery of fermentation occurred simultaneously with the rise of the first civilizations, which may not be a coincidence. At about the same time that people in Europe discovered that apple and grape juice—both containing fructose—would ferment into hard cider and wine, people in the Middle East discovered that grains—which contain maltose—would naturally ferment into beer, and people in Asia discovered that horse milk—containing lactose—would naturally ferment into airag. The first distilled liquor may in fact have been horse milk brandy, with the alcohol separated from fermented horses' milk by freezing out the water during the harsh Mongolian winter.
It is also not known when it was discovered that the alcohol in fermented liquids could be concentrated by heat distillation. Distilled spirits were made in India as long ago as 800 b.c. The Arabic scientist Jabir ibn Hayyan, known as Geber in the West, described distillation in detail in the eighth century. Regardless of its origin, alcohol was immensely important in the ancient world. In Latin, brandy is known as aqua vitae, which translates as "water of life." The French still refer to brandy as eau de vie meaning exactly the same thing. The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic phrase uisge beatha also meaning water of life. People in the Middle Ages attributed magical, medicinal properties to distilled spirits, recommending it as a cure for almost every health problem.
The raw materials used in brandy production are liquids that contain any form of sugar. French brandies are made from the wine of the St. Émillion, Colombard (or Folle Blanche) grapes. However, anything that will ferment can be distilled and turned into a brandy. Grapes, apples, blackberries, sugar cane, honey, milk, rice, wheat, corn, potatoes, and rye are all commonly fermented and distilled. In a time of shortage, desperate people will substitute anything to have access to alcohol. During World War II, people in London made wine out of cabbage leaves and carrot peels, which they subsequently distilled to produce what must have been a truly vile form of brandy.
Heat, used to warm the stills, is the other main raw material required for brandy production. In France, the stills are usually heated with natural gas. During the Middle Ages it would have required about 20 ft4 of wood (0.6 m4) to produce 25 gal (100 l) of brandy.
The fine brandy maker's objective is to capture the alcohol and agreeable aromas of the underlying fruit, and leave all of the off-tastes and bitter chemicals behind in the waste water. Making fine brandy is an art that balances the requirement to remove the undesirable flavors with the necessity of preserving the character of the underlying fruit. Mass-produced brandies can be made out of anything as the intent of the people is to remove all of the flavors, both good or bad, and produce nothing but alcohol—taste is added later. Fine brandies are required to retain the concentrated flavor of the underlying fruit.
The Eighteenth Amendment made it a crime to make, sell, transport, import, or export liquor. It is the only amendment to be repealed by another (the Twenty-first). The Prohibition era (1920-1933) had been a long time in coming. From the mid-nineteenth century through the beginning of World War I, a growing movement demanded a prohibition on alcohol. When members of Congress finally bowed to pressure from prohibition supporters and passed a constitutional amendment, many did so under the belief that it would not be endorsed by the states. In fact, a clause was added to make it more likely not be sanctioned: if three-quarters of the states did not ratify the amendment before seven years had expired, it would be deemed inoperative.
The amendment was passed by Congress in December 1917 and ratified by three-quarters of the states by January 1919. The popularity of the amendment disappeared soon after it was put into effect. The Volstead Act of 1919 banned beer and wine, something few people had anticipated, and in the minds of many Prohibition became a mistake. Crime rose as gangsters took advantage of the ban on alcohol by making huge profits in bootlegging and smuggling. When Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned for president in 1932, he called for the repeal of Prohibition. His opponent, President Herbert Hoover, called it "an experiment noble in motive." Roosevelt won the election and his Democratic party won control of the government. Within months the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed.
- The first step in making fine brandies is to allow the fruit juice (typically grape) to ferment. This usually means placing the juice, or must as it is known in the distilling trade, in a large vat at 68-77°F (20-25°C) and leaving it for five days. During this period, natural yeast present in the distillery environment will ferment the sugar present in the must into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The white wine grapes used for most fine brandy usually ferment to an alcohol content of around 10%.
- Fine brandies are always made in small batches using pot stills. A pot still is simply a large pot, usually made out of copper, with a bulbous top.
- The pot still is heated to the point where the fermented liquid reaches the boiling point of alcohol. The alcohol vapors, which contain a large amount of water vapor, rise in the still into the bulbous top.
- The vapors are funneled from the pot still through a bent pipe to a condenser where the vapors are chilled, condensing the vapors back to a liquid with a much higher alcohol content. The purpose of the bulbous top and bent pipe is to allow undesirable compounds to condense and fall back into the still. Thus, these elements do not end up in the final product.
- Most fine brandy makers double distill their brandy, meaning they concentrate the alcohol twice. It takes about 9 gal (34 1) of wine to make I gal (3.8 1) of brandy. After the first distillation, which takes about eight hours, 3,500 gal (13,249 1) of wine have been converted to about 1,200 gal (4,542 1) of concentrated liquid (not yet brandy) with an alcohol content of 26-32%. The French limit the second distillation (la bonne chauffe) to batches of 660 gal (2,498 1). The product of the second distillation has an alcohol content of around 72%. The higher the alcohol content the more neutral (tasteless) the brandy will be. The lower the alcohol content, the more of the underlying flavors will remain in the brandy, but there is a much greater chance that off flavors will also make their way into the final product.
- The brandy is not yet ready to drink after the second distillation. It must first be placed in oak casks and allowed to age, an important step in the production process. Most brandy consumed today, even fine brandy, is less than six years old. However, some fine brandies are more than 50 years old. As the brandy ages, it absorbs flavors from the oak while its own structure softens, becoming less astringent. Through evaporation, brandy will lose about 1% of its alcohol per year for the first 50 years or so it is "on oak."
- Fine brandy can be ready for bottling after two years, some after six years, and some not for decades. Some French cognacs are alleged to be from the time of Napoleon. However, these claims are unlikely to be true. A ploy used by the cognac makers is to continually remove 90% of the cognac from an old barrel and then refill it with younger brandy. It does not take many repetitions of this tactic to dilute any trace of the Napoleonic-age brandy.
- Fine brandies are usually blended from many different barrels over a number of vintages. Some cognacs can contain brandy from up to a 100 different barrels. Because most brandies have not spent 50 years in the barrel, which would naturally reduce their alcohol contents to the traditional 40%, the blends are diluted with distilled water until they reach the proper alcohol content. Sugar, to simulate age in young brandies, is added along with a little caramel to obtain a uniform color consistency across the entire production run. The resulting product can cost anywhere from $25 to $500 or even more for very rare brandy.
- Mass-produced brandy, other than having the same alcohol content, has very little in common with fine brandy. Both start with wine, though the mass-produced brandies are likely to be made from table grape varieties like the Thompson Seedless rather than from fine wine grapes. Instead of the painstaking double distillation in small batches, mass-produced brandies are made via fractional distillation in column stills. Column stills are sometimes called continuous stills as raw material is continuously poured into the top while the final product and wastes continuously come out of the side and bottom.
- A column still is about 30-ft (9-m) high and contains a series of horizontal, hollow baffles that are interconnected. Hot wine is poured into the top of the column while steam is run through the hollow baffles; the steam and wine do not mix directly. The alcohol and other low boiling point liquids in the wine evaporate. The vapors rise while the non-alcoholic liquids fall. As the still is cooler at the top, the rising vapors eventually get to a part of the still where they will condense, each type of vapor at a temperature just above its own boiling point.
- Once they have recondensed, the liquids begin to move downward in the still. As they fall, they boil again. This process of boiling and condensing, rising and falling, happens over and over again in the column. The various components of the wine fraction and collect in the column where the temperature is just below the boiling point of that component. This allows the ethyl alcohol condensate to be bled out of the column at the height where it collects. The resulting product is a pure spirit, colorless, odorless, and tasteless, with an alcohol content of about 96.5%. At 96.5% alcohol, it can be used to fuel automobiles. It can be diluted and called vodka or diluted and flavored with juniper berries and called gin.
- Mass-produced brandies are also aged in oak casks and pick up some flavors from them. Like its fine counterpart, the brandies are blended, diluted to around 40% alcohol, and bottled.
The quality control process for fine brandies involves trained tasters with years of experience sampling brandy. A large cognac house might have 10,000 barrels of brandy in its cellars, each of which must be tasted annually. Hence, most of the brandy "tasting" involves only smelling, as tasting several hundred barrels of brandy in a day would result in alcohol poisoning. The tasters usually "taste" each of the barrels at least once a year to assess how it is aging and to evaluate it for its blending qualities. Brandies that pick up off-flavors during distillation are discarded.
As mass-produced brandies are manufactured to be odorless and tasteless, the only real quality control required is to check their alcohol content. Because alcohol is less dense than water, the alcohol content of brandy can be checked with a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a glass float with a rod sticking out the top of it. The rod is calibrated so that a line on the rod will be exactly at the liquid surface if the hydrometer is floating in water. As alcohol is less dense than water, the hydrometer will sink deeper in alcohol than it will in water. By calibrating the rod scale with different blends of known alcohol content, it can be used to determine the percentage of alcohol in a water/alcohol mixture.
The waste products from brandy production include the solids from the wine production and the liquids left over from the still. The solids from brandy production can be used for animal feed or be composted. The liquid wastes are usually allowed to evaporate in shallow ponds. This allows the residual alcohol in the waste to go into the atmosphere, but the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not consider this to be a major pollutant source.
For the foreseeable future, the vast bulk of all the brandies will be produced in column stills. However, there is an increasing interest in luxury goods throughout the world. Not just fine brandies, but Calvados (fine apple brandy) and slivovitz (fine plum brandy) are getting increasing amounts of attention from collectors and ordinary citizens.
Where to Learn More
Faith, Nicholas. Cognac. Boston: David R. Godine Publisher, 1987.
Harper, William. Origins and Rise of the British Distillery. Lewiston, U.K.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999.
Kummer, Corby. "Don't Call It Cognac." Atlantic Magazine (December 1995).
United States Environmental Protection Agency. Emission Factor Documentation for AP-42, Section 9.12.2, Wines and Brandy. (October 1995).
Brandy Norwood, television's talented African-American teen idol, boasts a successful singing and acting resume that many an entertainment veteran could envy. With a flash of her broad, contagious smile and a toss of her signature mane of glossy braids, the award-winning singer turned her focus to acting and captured a television audience as star of the UPN sitcom Moesha, causing Entertainment Weekly to note, "She's one of the few pop-music stars who can act even better than she can sing."
Brandy's parents, Willie and Sonia Norwood, recognized stand-out talent in both Brandy and their son, Brandy's younger brother Willie Jr., called Ray-J. They launched a non-stop business plan aimed at early careers for their children in the entertainment industry. They moved the family from Mississippi to Los Angeles when Brandy was four and Ray-J was two, and started their vocal training in a church youth choir. "My brother and I were always in the front as featured singers because our dad was the choir director," Brandy explained to Rolling Stone. "Then I started being directress of younger choirs, and, well, I was just really hot in the church."
The church was Brandy's first stage. Her father handled the kids' musical grooming, while her mother served as business manager/chaperone. Brandy called her mother "Momager," and Sonia took the job to heart. Sonia had to approve clothing, costume, diet, and social and career choices.
At age eleven, Brandy won second place in a talent contest and began singing at local events; at 12, she earned a spot singing backup for an R&B group named Immature. In 1993, when she was 14, Brandy signed her first recording contract with Atlantic. Several months later she landed a role on the ABC sitcom Thea, playing 12-year-old Daneesha, daughter of the title character. The show didn't last long, which suited Brandy fine. She used the extra time to polish and launch her debut R&B album, simply titled Brandy. The recording was a wild success, rocketing to the top of musical charts with triple platinum sales, and producing the best-selling singles "Baby" and "I Wanna Be Down," and two videos that featured prominently on MTV. Jeremy Helliger in People remarked, "Brandy's well-groomed blend of gently lilting hip hop and pop-soul has a more timeless appeal…. While this isn't groundbreaking stuff, Brandy has the pipes to become more than the latest teenage next-big-thing."
Brandy embarked on her first 13-city tour of U.S. high schools and did a two-month stint as the opening act for Boyz II Men's national tour. Her credits include songs on two major motion picture soundtracks, "Sittin' up in My Room" from Waiting to Exhale, and "Where Are You Now?" from Batman Forever. Winning a Grammy Award and being named Favorite New Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards legitimized her musical talent on a national level.
Brandy followed up with another high-profile career move. Nabbing the star role in the United Paramount Network (UPN) hit sitcom Moesha elevated her status to prime time. The highly rated comedy series focuses on the everyday life of the Mitchells, a middle class black family living in South Central Los Angeles. Brandy plays Moesha Mitchell, the bright 16-year-old daughter who copes with the normal pressures and complications of teen life with the help of best friends and well-meaning family members. She has a mischievous little brother, hard-working car salesman father, and a new stepmother who teaches at her high school. Brandy headed a large and talented cast. She relied on instinct, help from an acting coach, and advice from fellow performers for her new role. Her life was crowded with television rehearsals and tapings, daily tutoring sessions that her mother insisted on, and continued work time spent in the recording studio. The schedule left little time for dating or down time with peers. She still tried to fit in phone calls and trips to the mall with friends, although now she took a body guard along.
Brandy continued to spread her wings with her 1998 sophomore album Never Say Never. Some fans and critics were worried that the length of time since her breakout first album, as well as her budding acting career, might severely impact the quality of her second album. Those fears were quickly put to rest as the first single, "The Boy Is Mine," a duet with R&B singer Monica, hit the top ten Billboard charts in the first few weeks of release and was one of the best selling R&B singles ever. But Brandy's acting career refused to take a backseat to her singing career. She broke into films with a starring role in the 1998 movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, playing the sassy Karla. Brandy told Entertainment Weekly, "The movie is going to shock people, but they need to realize I can play more than the teenager next door or the perfect Cinderella." While the movie did not break any box office records, it introduced Brandy to a new audience.
During 1999 and 2000 she continued working on Moesha, and pursued studies at Pepperdine University, attempting to earn a degree with an emphasis on entertainment law. But this breakneck pace soon took a toll on the young star. She had what she explained to Oprah Winfrey, quoted in Jet, as "an emotional, physical and spiritual breakdown." She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a two-day hospital stay. Brandy stated on Winfrey's show that she had not been taking care of herself and was under a lot of pressure, both professionally and personally. In 2001, at the end of its sixth season, UPN decided to cancel Moesha.
Brandy concentrated on her third album, Full Moon, and toured the country to promote it. In early 2002 she revealed to the public that she had secretly married her producer, Robert Smith, in the summer of 2001. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that she was pregnant and due to have her first child in July. Full Moon hit stores in spring of 2002, again to rave reviews, and Brandy began juggling her music and acting careers with parenting. Her daughter, Sy'rai, was born on June 16, 2002. In 2003 her relationship with Smith fell apart.
For the Record …
Born Brandy Rayana Norwood on February 11, 1979, in McComb, MS; daughter of Willie (a choir director), and Sonia (Brandy's manager) Norwood; one child, Sy'rai. Education: Pepperdine University, B.A. degree.
Co-starred on ABC sitcom Thea, 1993; recorded multi-platinum debut album titled Brandy, 1994; embarked on 13-city solo tour and spent two months opening for Boyz II Men; star of United Paramount Network's (UPN) sitcom Moesha, 1995–2001; contributed songs to soundtrack for Waiting To Exhale, 1995, and Batman Forever, 1995; appeared in title role of Cinderella, 1997; released sophomore album Never Say Never, 1998; appeared in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 1998; appeared in Divas Live '99, 1999; appeared in Double Platinum, 1999; Osmosis Jones (voice only), 2001; released third album, Full Moon, 2002; and fourth album, Afrodisiac, 2004; released The Best of Brandy, 2005.
Awards: Billboard Music Awards, Best New Rhythm and Blues Artist, 1995; and Best Rhythm and Blues Female, 1995; MTV Best Video Music Award, Best Song from a Movie, for "Sittin' Up in My Room," 1996; American Music Award, favorite new artist, 1996; Grammy Award (with Monica) for Best R&B by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for "The Boy is Mine," 1998.
Addresses: Record company—Atlantic Recordings, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10104; Website—Brandy Official Website: http://www. foreverbrandy.com.
In July of 2004 Brandy announced her engagement to NBA basketball star Quentin Richardson. Shortly thereafter, Robert Smith announced that he and Brandy had not ever been officially married, and that the marriage had been fabricated in order to maintain Brandy's wholesome image with the media. Brandy publicly admitted to the sham, but stated that it had been a "spiritual union."
In August, her album Afrodisiac went gold. "I didn't set out to make this type of an album. It was unexpected, that's how I know it's real," she stated in the Liverpool Echo. "The only thing that was already set was the feeling I had behind it, the energy and the vibe. It all came into play. I was feeling so much passion. I just wanted so badly to sing. I wanted people to hear the romantic side of me, the sensual side."
The Best of Brandy was released in 2005, and included 18 of her greatest hits. While it may seem unusual to release a greatest hits album at age 25, Brandy had already produced a decade of hits.
Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th Edition, Gale Group, 2001.
Billboard, June 20, 1998, p. 28.
Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 1996, p. 56; November 13, 1998, p. 28-30.
Jet, February 26, 1996, pp. 59-61; November 25, 1996, pp. 56-59; May 3, 1999, p. 58; June 4, 2001, p. 34.
Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), June 25, 2004.
Newsweek, March 25, 1996, p. 69.
New York Times, April 2, 1995, p. 43.
People, October 24, 1994, p. 20; November 21, 1994, p. 99; July 31, 1995, p. 23; May 6, 1996, p. 140; March 11, 2002, p. 152.
Rolling Stone, April 6, 1995, p. 32; July 22, 2004.
Seventeen, April 1995, pp. 158-161.
Time, May 17, 1999, pp. 84-86.
TV Guide, April 6, 1996, pp. 30-32.
USA Today, July 26, 1996, p. 2D.
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (August 9, 2005).
Born: Brandy Rayana Norwood; McComb, Mississippi, 11 February 1979
Genre: R&B, Pop
Best-selling album since 1990: Full Moon (2002)
Hit songs since 1990: "I Wanna Be Down," "Have You Ever?," "The Boy Is Mine"
Arhythm and blues performer with a wholesome, girl-next-door image, Brandy gained stardom in the mid-1990s with a series of well-crafted hits that emphasized her youthful, win-some voice. More than a singer, Brandy became an all-around media celebrity, starring on television in the hit series Moesha, which she also helped produce. Leaving the business at the peak of her fame in 2000, she returned to music two years later with a more mature, adventurous sound.
Born in the small Mississippi town of McComb, Brandy began singing in her family's church at the age of two. Two years later she moved with her parents to Carson, California, where her father worked as a church music director. Influenced by the dramatic vocal style of pop star Whitney Houston, Brandy began entering local talent contests during the late 1980s. In 1993 she was cast in the short-lived television series Thea, but her real breakthrough came the next year, when an audition led to a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
Her self-titled debut album appeared in 1994 and featured four rhythm and blues hits, including "I Wanna Be Down" and "Baby." While lacking the vocal power of her idol Houston, Brandy has a sweet voice with an attractive, smoky lower register. On the album's best tracks, such as "I Wanna Be Down," her singing combines a girlish quality with the assertiveness of an adult. Riding the song's steady hip-hop beat Brandy is completely at home, skirting her way around the rhythms with ease. On the album's ballads, however, she often sounds tentative, unable to summon the vocal or emotional variety to make the material interesting. Unlike Houston, who possesses the vocal reserves to meld herself into any type of material or style, Brandy requires a carefully built and controlled production, one that highlights her voice's strengths.
In 1995 Brandy was cast in Moesha, a sitcom that became television network UPN's most-watched program. She spent the next several years out of the recording spotlight, focusing her energies on the show and other television projects, such as a 1997 version of the classic television musical Cinderella, in which she performed opposite Houston. Brandy's second album, Never Say Never, appeared in 1998 and features the smooth, driving hit "The Boy Is Mine," a duet with fellow vocalist Monica. With its tough beat and catchy melody, the song is Brandy's most successful recording to date, selling over 3 million copies and becoming the best-selling female duet in pop history. Elsewhere on Never Say Never Brandy shows signs of artistic growth, sounding more assured and confident than on her debut. The album marks her first collaboration with hot R&B producer Rodney Jerkins, who brings to Brandy's music a new street-wise toughness, although her respectable, sweet-tempered image remains unchanged. By 2000, however, there were signs of cracks beneath the upbeat façade: Weighing only 105 pounds, she was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion after walking off the set of Moesha. In addition, rumors swirled of an ongoing feud with co-star Countess Vaughn. As a result, aside from a few modeling and television appearances, Brandy largely fell out of sight during the next two years.
By the time she returned to the scene in 2002 Brandy was a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions in music and life. Discussing her self-imposed sabbatical on the television program 20/20, she admitted that during the grueling filming of Moesha she had suffered from an eating disorder as well as an abusive romantic relationship. In a bold move she severed her professional relationship with her mother, who had managed her career from its beginning. Tellingly, Brandy's first album after her newfound independence, Full Moon (2002), emerged as her strongest, most compelling work to date. Although her voice continues to have shortcomings, including a tendency to become thin in its upper register, it is well served by the production genius of Rodney Jerkins. On the excellent single "What About Us?" he buoys the singer with an array of unusual sonic devices, including a stomping beat that resembles the hammering sound of a pickaxe. Surprisingly the single's glossy ornamentation, featuring an array of electronic blips and scratches, never gets in the way of its underlying groove; it manages to sound elaborate and minimalist at the same time. With their slightly off-kilter sensibility, "What About Us?" and similarly styled tracks such as "I Thought" incorporate the kind of synthesized, electronic sound associated with 1980s new wave music. Infusing this sound with a modern sense of groove, Brandy and Jerkins create a bold style of R&B that looks to the future. In keeping with her upbeat state of mind, Brandy during this period studied metaphysics, became a vegetarian, and married record producer Robert Smith, with whom she gave birth to a daughter, Sy'rai, in 2002.
Beginning her music career at the age of fifteen, Brandy quickly forged her own identity as a well-rounded entertainer, achieving remarkable success as a singer and actress. As she matured from shy teenager into confident woman, her music took on a new sophistication and depth, reflecting her ability to select producers who understood and amplified her vocal strengths.
Brandy (Atlantic, 1994); Never Say Never (Atlantic, 1998); Full Moon (Atlantic, 2002).
The age of brandy is generally designated as 3‐star (3–5 years old before bottling); VSOP (very special old pale, aged 4–10 or more years, the name indicating that it has not been heavily coloured with caramel); Napoleon (premium blend aged 6–20 years); XO, Extraordinary Old (Extra or Grand Reserve, possibly 50 years old). Cognac and Armagnac are brandies made in defined regions of France.
Fruit brandies are either distilled from fruit wines (e.g. plum and apple brandies) or are prepared by soaking fruit in brandy (e.g. cherry and apricot brandies). See also eau de vie; marc.
bran·dy / ˈbrandē/ • n. (pl. -dies) a strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice. ORIGIN: mid 17th cent.: from earlier brandwine, brandewine, from Dutch brandewijn, from branden ‘burn, distill’ + wijn ‘wine.’