Brandy‘s new album B7 has been years in the making and the R&B star is opening-up as to why that is.
“I was a little bit lost eight years ago musically, creatively, spiritually,” she revealed to PEOPLE in last week’s cover story, revealing the highs and lows of child stardom along with her battle with depression. “I had to pull myself together, I had to pull it all together and make it all make sense.”
The 41-year-old revealed how the last two decades have been a rollercoaster ride.
At the young age of 15 with her self-titled debut album in 1994, Brandy rose to superstardom due to her 1998 acclaimed sophomore album Never Say Never, which earned her a Grammy for “The Boy Is Mine,” her smash hit duet with Monica.
Along with the coming-of-age show that ran for six seasons, Moesha, and becoming the first Black woman to play Cinderella onscreen in ABC’s 1997 TV musical, Brandy rose to the top even quicker. She went on to share how early on, fame felt like “pure joy,” but as she matured, she began to feel trapped by her “perfect” public image.
And in 2002, she welcomed daughter Sy’rai, with then partner, producer Robert Smith. A year later, the two would split and Smith would go on to reveal that despite what they had portrayed while filming a reality TV show amidst her pregnancy, he and Brandy had never married.
“It changed people’s perspective of me,” she says of becoming a mom and the situation with Smith, “but I had to focus on what was important, which was Sy’rai.”
Years later, Brandy would be met with tragedy and controversy when she was involved in a 2006 car accident that claimed the life of a 38-year-old woman. Brandy was not charged criminally, settling out of court with the woman’s family and declines to speak of the accident out of respect. After these events, Brandy felt so depressed, she contemplated suicide.
“I remember laying in bed super depressed,” she says. “I [told] myself, ‘So, you’re just going to go out like this? That’s wack. You have a daughter. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for her because this is not the way to leave a mark in her life.'”
She credits Sy’rai, who is now 18 and a 2020 high school graduate, with pulling her out of the darkness she felt. “If Sy’rai wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be either,” she says. “The place that I was in, it just felt like I wasn’t going to make it through.”
And when it comes to songs like her new single, Borderline, or the album’s ender, “By Bipolar,” Brandy – who clarifies how she has not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder – says she had doubts about how candid she was being in her new work.
“I was thinking, ‘Did I go too deep? Did I go too far in what I was singing about?’ But I didn’t dwell on those thoughts,” she says.
In addition to staying on top of her mental health with therapy, meditation, journaling and her faith, Brandy says she feels like she is moving forward. “I’m in a place now,” says the singer, “where I can be proud of moving in the right direction.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.