Brandy’s Label Struggle
One of the most public contract disputes in the music business these days is Kesha's drawn-out legal battle to escape her Sony contract. Elsewhere, dissatisfaction led Sisters With Voices (SWV) to use their reality show, SWV Reunited, as a platform for airing grievances. In both cases, contracts and the persons associated with them were put on public blast, as a statement of control and to solicit support from fans. But comparably quieter is the struggle now faced by Brandy, who for the most part has refrained from broadcasting her contractual situation.
Recently, the R&B artist filed a lawsuit against Chameleon Entertainment and its CEO, Breyon Prescott, for being prevented from recording a new album unless she signs a contract she’s opposed to. Prescott, as well as managing Chameleon Entertainment, is head of urban A&R (Artists and Repertoire) at Epic Records, and Brandy argues he is seeking to benefit under both with a deal she believes is motivated by greed. Her original contract granted Chameleon Entertainment rights to release her sixth work, Two Eleven, along with four additional albums, but Brandy claims they are refusing to follow through on agreed-upon terms that would facilitate the production of a new album, hence why we haven't received one from her since Two Eleven in 2012.
I've often said that Brandy needs better management, due to bypassed singles and overdue recognition.
The wake of a terminated arrangement has left her recording status uncertain. So when earlier this year Brandy released “Beggin’ and Pleadin’” — a significant departure with its Southern blues sound — it was done on her own terms, independent of Epic Records. Lackluster album promotion and commercial performance were not the basis for the contract’s termination, but there were label-related issues during the Two Eleven era that, if not dissuading Brandy from the partnership, certainly contributed to the album underperforming.
“Put It Down,” a flirty, production-light hip-hop song for the urban audience, and the subtle-throwback-yet-fresh-sounding “Wildest Dreams” served as Two Eleven’s only two singles. While the former became one of Brandy's most successful singles to date, momentum seemed to plummet with the follow-up. What's crazy is that the Mike Will Made-It-produced “Do You Know What You Have?” was prime single material: it channeled Brandy’s signature, layered vocals in a way that differed from the traditional, with chill beats and slick, pseudo-futuristic keyboard production. Given how fans responded to her live renditions with loud cheers, the artist sees it as a lost single opportunity that was out of her hands.
More baffling is that the album was slated to get a third single in “Without You.” Brandy delivered a stunning performance of the song at the 2013 edition of The BET Honors — even earning a standing ovation — and although labeled as a single, the release never materialized for unknown reasons. A shame, as the song would have been a strong vocal showcase.
I've often said that Brandy needs better management, due to bypassed singles and overdue recognition. And while her unpleasant contract dilemma will lengthen the wait for her next body of work, some good may come out of the whole ordeal, especially with renewed confidence positioning her for further risk-taking.