While Aaliyah died tragically young and became an R&B legend, another former teen dream with similarly modest vocal gifts -- Brandy -- remains on Earth, where her work must still be judged on its own merits. But hip-hop super-producer Timbaland helped Aaliyah emerge on her final album as a woman and an artistic force to be reckoned with, so Brandy -- who enlisted him to oversee much of her fourth outing -- obviously hopes he can pull off the same trick for her.
Unfortunately, that involves the same clichéd revelations about "sexuality" that the entire pop world mistakenly believes are synonymous with growth. "Talk About Our Love" is a mature, Kanye West-produced soul subtlety made for a vocalist with the presence to bring it to life; Alicia Keys, maybe, but not Brandy. Yet Afrodisiac ultimately accomplishes its mission with a series of confident club jams that meet a still-developing performer more than halfway. The title track and the heavy-breathing drone of "Come as You Are" only require Brandy to hop on and hang in; when she does more, rising to the challenge of the alt-rock-flavored confessional "Cool (Thought I'd Be)" with personal verses that aren't mere self-pity, you can imagine her fulfilling the promise that is Aaliyah's true legacy.