The three-digit number 211 is referenced a lot in popular music, mostly owing to the fact that it is the section of the California penal code that covers robbery, as well as the name of a tasty, affordable malt beverage. But L.A. singer Brandy had neither of these things in mind when she decided to call her sixth studio album “Two Eleven.” The former star of both scripted and reality television was born on Feb. 11, so the album title is a reference to her birth — as well as her creative rebirth.
Although commercial R&B is deep in the throes of a love affair with dance-pop, Brandy returns to the sort of sweet, earnest R&B she put out when she was barely a teenager. There are a few tracks that work as up-tempo radio singles, including the fizzy, burbling Chris Brown collaboration “Put It Down,” and the Bangladesh-produced “Let Me Go,” which samples Swedish singer Lykke Li, but most of the album is a showcase for Brandy’s powerful, gusty voice.
“Wildest Dreams” is an ode to answered prayers, while “No Such Thing as Too Late” is inspirational balladry at its best. “Without You” is a desperate love song that finds Brandy putting in some of her best vocal work in recent memory. The singer has said one of the reasons she chose to title this album “Two Eleven” is because Feb. 11 is not only her birthday, but the date that marks the death of her friend and mentor, Whitney Houston. The album serves as a fine tribute, in part because it is a testament to the fact that, despite whatever trends are happening in popular music right now, a good voice always shines through.
“Wildest Dreams,” “Without You”