Wednesday, August 5, 2020

"Borderline" by Brandy (2020)

The cover art to Brandy's new single, Borderline.
For a moment in time (i.e. the late 1990s), Brandy was arguably the top female R&B artist in the entire world.  Her second album, Never Say Never (1998), peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200.  Around that same time she established herself as one of the premiere Black actresses in Hollywood, most notably starring on the sitcom Moesha from 1996 to 2001.

Brandy's Never Say Never (1998), arguably her
signature musical project.
However it's safe to say that since then she has fallen off a bit or at least is no longer a trending artist in the music industry.  And yes, such tends to happen naturally to musicians who, like herself, have been in the game for decades.

But as someone who bore witness to her rise and fall, I attribute Brandy's particular case more to her being unable to keep up with the changes in the music industry as a whole.  Or stated more plainly, around the turn of the century R&B music, as well as the artists who dominated the genre, became a lot more sexualized.  Meanwhile back in 2002 Brandy gave birth to her first child, and this was back in the day whereas it was still kinda like if you're a mother you don't get down in certain ways.

This image is of Brandy's 2012 project Two Eleven, which to
date is the sexiest she has ever appeared on an album cover.
She's from the generation of R&B artists such as TLC and
Aaliyah who didn't rely as much on sexual images to sell records
as is standard these days.
And this is not to imply that Brandy has never played the sexuality card.  But let's just say that after becoming a mother she kinda lost her A list status, even though the album she dropped that same year, Full Moon (2002), just fell short of topping the Billboard 200.

But as for me, I'll always be a Brandy fan.  Indeed in my opinion her best album actually came via 2004's Afrodisiac.  So of course I was excited when I surprisingly learned that she dropped a new project just last week, her seventh-stuido album actually, entitled B7.  And concurrently she also released its second single, which is entitled Borderline.


The song is cool and an able addition to Brandy's impressive catalog.  However at the moment the music video to the track is making headlines moreso than the audio itself.  Said video can be deemed a work of art and does feature, albeit sparsely, the type of beautiful imagery which are standard in Miss Norwood's videos.  But for the most part, what it actually does is depicts her as a troubled inmate in a mental institution.

In fact overall, the clip is intended to be somewhat of a public service announcement in regards to the prevalence of mental disease in the United States.  And accordingly it concludes with the contact information for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).


And where the video may be cool, you'd never know by watching it why the singer is in such a wrecked state in the first place.  You see despite the fact that Brandy is alone throughout the clip, Borderline is in fact a track about a romance and in a roundabout way you can even say a love song.  That is to say that in the lyrics she is addressing her significant other and basically telling him, in her own unique way, how much he means to her.

The chorus of the song is a bit incoherent, most likely by design.
So perhaps another reason she portrays a mad woman in the clip is because the wording of the song itself is a bit "schizo".  In other words they don't seem to be presented in a precisely-logical manner.  Rather the listener can ascertain that the singer's relationship with the addressee indeed has the potential to 'tear her apart'.  Or stated differently, Brandy comes off as someone who is verily stressed out by her lover.  And as you know such people can sometimes be incoherent, for lack of a better word.

But all things considered, the way the situation reads is that she may be the victim of an unreciprocated love.  Or during the third verse at least, it appears that her partner is unfaithful.  So the title of the song actually alludes to her mental health in light of the entire scenario.  Or put more plainly, her sweetheart seems to be driving her crazy.

However where the logical confusion comes in is that some of the lyrics read as if he has already done her dirty, while in others she is warning him not to ever "cheat" on nor "lie" to her.  So I guess ultimately it can be said that the singer is letting her partner know that if he ever does anything to hurt her in a romantic sense, it will indeed have a devastating effect on her emotionally.

And it has been put forth that this song is actually a reflection of Brandy's personal life.  However there is no evidence to support that theory at the moment.  Indeed according to the songstress herself, she recorded this tune primarily because she was really digging it.


Brandy co-wrote and co-produced Borderline, as did DJ Camper.  The other co-producer is LaShawn Daniels, and the other cowriters are Kaydence, Al Sherrod Lambert and Charlie McAlister.

This track came out on 31 July 2020.  The labels behind it are eOne Music and Brand Nu.  The latter is an entity which was founded by Brandy herself.  And B7 overall marks the first time she released a musical project independently.

The aforementioned music video was formally directed by Derek Blanks, with additional creative contributions from Frank Gatson.

The cover art to Brandy's new album B7.

Despite her youthful looks Brandy is in fact a well-tenured artist, having dropped her first album almost 30 years ago.  Accordingly she seems to have developed certain formulas in terms of the style of her music.  So whereas it does not look like B7 is going to be a smash success chart-wise, established fans of Miss Norwood, such as myself, will still likely be pleased with the overall project.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Movie Review: "Guava Island" (2019)

I recently watched a 2019-released movie called Guava Island.  My wife picked up the DVD, and I don't want to use the word sneakily, but without notice she simply put it on.

Without any pretext or foreknowledge, I immediately decided right then and there that I was emphatically not going to watch a movie starring Rihanna and Donald Glover.  Because all I could imagine it to be was some 'chick flick' scenario where they are bickering throughout and ultimately get into situations that bring them closer together, to eventually have the film evolve into some canoodling, highly-saccharined, mushy love story, which at that particular moment in time I was not interested in - nor would likely be in the near future.  So after some brief deliberation about whether I was going to join her in viewing something I felt was a 'trap', I decided to give the film about a 5 to 10 minute look before deciding if it was worth my time.

Now let me be clear.  I consider myself to be a fairly-moderate fan of both RiRi and Donald Glover.  And I've been familiar with their musical and acting efforts throughout the years.

Rihanna, who burst upon the scene in the mid to late 2000s with her smash hit Umbrella (2007) caught my attention years ago with her seductive style and distinct melodious voice.  She would go on to make a string of other hip-hop and R&B anthems for her highly-devoted fans to enjoy to their hearts' content.  Commonly known as Jay-Z's talent discovery, Rihanna banged out hit after hit following Umbrella, increasing her visibility and broadening her audience year after year.

Until recently, Rihanna has enjoyed a solid 10+ year run as arguably the most-popular female musician in the world, with some of my personal favorites being Diamonds (2012) and a not as well-known tune, Man Down (2011), which has a very-interesting music video where she is shown being stalked by one of her fans in Jamaica.

Donald Glover, on the other hand, didn't exactly have a fresh-out-the-box hit like Rihanna enjoyed early on.  However, if you have ever looked closely at his career, he did not appear out of nowhere.

For me, my first experience in getting to know Glover came in the form of a TV show he was a part of called Community.  Admittedly I didn't watch many episodes.  But I distinctly recall the only one I did watch in full featured Donald, in a breakroom scene, awkwardly sitting across from LeVar Burton, appearing to not believe that he is actually sitting alone, face-to-face alone with the esteemed actor - aka Kunta KinteStar Trek's Geordi La Forge"butterfly in the sky"Reading Rainbow Burton.

In the scene, a speechless Glover (aka Troy Barnes) never seems comfortable in meeting LeVar, although there is a sense that deep down somewhere he admires him in an I'm-not-worthy-to-be-meeting-you kind of way, maybe?  Anyway it was a very-funny moment, and since then I started seeing Donald popup here and there, eventually changing his name to his equally well-known hip-hop moniker, Childish Gambino.

So with that being established, even though I was familiar with the two main actors of Guava Island, still I was not really interested in seeing them both on screen, because frankly the combination of them acting together didn't immediately appeal to me.  Yet in spite of my prejudiced feelings about the flick I attempted to watch it, hoping that I was not setting myself up for tremendous disappointment or a reaction that would ruin my impression of these two artists.  And here's what I thought upon actually viewing it.

First of all, it does not start off like an ordinary film. The first scene and credits' sequence is actually animated, which simultaneously gives pretext to what the movie is about and how the two main characters are connected.  Guava Island itself is a fictional setting, although clearly the locale is in the Caribbean.  And it is not a far-fetched to deduce that it may even be set on a small island off the coast of West Africa.

In any case we have a story about a musician, Deni Maroon (played by Glover), who lucked out on a big hit song that all of the children and other people on the island adore him for.  He is truly the musical champion of the country, whom the residents tune into on their fuzzy, scratchy transistor radios, just to catch a brief moment of enjoyment via their favorite musician during the day.

Rihanna, who portrays Kofi Novia, takes on a supporting actor role to Glover.  The couple are lovebirds, and her relationship with him makes her the envy of all of her girlfriends at work at a seamstress factory.  And although Deni is considered a superstar on the tiny island, he is still very poor and must work a factory job to make ends meet. 

The crux of the story is structured around the suspense of a decision Glover must make in terms of playing a concert for the island under the repressive rule of the nation's business magnate, Red Cargo.  Said character is portrayed very well by a British actor named Nonso Anozie, who I have never heard of before this.

Red Cargo does not want the concert to take place because it is scheduled for a Saturday night.  And in his mind, if the event is held the people will be too exuberant and exhausted to report to work the following Sunday.  So Deni is given stern warnings that if he defiantly holds the performance anyway, there will be swift consequences.

In the interest of not giving too much of the story away, I will end there by saying that overall this is a good movie to watch and was highly-entertaining, to my surprise.  There is a lot of music woven throughout, almost classifying it as a musical, although I would  not go as far as listing it as such.

There is much to be said for the costumes and other wardrobe worn that add to the flick's appeal.  I was also impressed with the way Rihanna played her role as being devoted to Glover, even though she got stepped to by Red Cargo himself.

The only negative thing I have to say about Guava Island is that up until one crucial scene in particular, it could be considered a movie for kids.  And because of that one horrifyingly-violent moment close to the end, I'd have to say that the movie should not be viewed by children or at the very least that particular section should be fast-forwarded if they are watching it.

But conclusively, Guava Island is an art film that is likely to be cherished and critiqued for years to come.