On Saturday, January 26, actress and Grammy-winning singer Brandy will perform at the 11th annual Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase in Atlanta. Eight competing bands from HBCUs will battle it out at the Georgia Dome to highlight the showmanship of HBCU marching bands. Honda Battle of the Bands is the only national music scholarship program that supports HBCU music education programs.
In a candid interview with the "Put It Down" songstress, she talks the Honda Battle of the Bands, her recent engagement, Whitney Houston and the state of R&B.
You're performing this weekend in Atlanta for Honda Battle of the Bands, which supports HBCUs. Why was it important for you to support Battle of the Bands?
This event is going to be so exciting! So much fun — music, bands, college. It's just going to be great for the young people and it's also going to be great for the older generation who were in band when they were in college. It's going to be great for both generations to come together and have a good time. Plus, my dad and my mom used to battle it out all the time, "Jackson State band is better than Southern University band!" or "Southern University band is better than Jackson State!" They would go at it! Ray J and I were in the midst of it trying to choose which side we would want to be on. We didn't get a chance to have a regular college experience like our parents, so I can't wait to see what happens, perform four songs and enjoy everything in Atlanta. It's going to be great!
Congratulations on your engagement! What kind of Brandy wedding can your fans expect?
I can honestly say I haven't started to plan my wedding yet, but I do envision having my closest friends and family. I can't wait to see my daughter's reaction to me getting married to someone she really loves. It's just going to be a beautiful day, I'm excited about it. Sharing a moment with my fans, I haven't really decided on how I can do that. But I appreciate my fans being there with me — through everything I've been through. They know what's gone on in the love category of my life. I know they're happy to see me in this place where I can share my life with someone. I think they actually love what they see. They've been giving me a lot of positive energy. I'm really thankful for the fans I have.
At the 2012 BET Awards you did a tribute to Whitney Houston. The anniversary of her passing is coming up in few weeks. Can you reflect on being part of the tribute?
One of the best nights of my entire life. I was so honored that BET called me to do a tribute to her. I knew that it would be one of the last tributes. I just wanted to celebrate her in a way where no one else was celebrating her. Of course her ballads really touched the hearts of people but I really wanted to remind people that Whitney Houston was so versatile. She was able to sing "I Will Always Love You" and she was able to dance you around as well. I wanted to celebrate that. I was so nervous! I wanted to make her proud and really wanted to do a good job. Everybody was there — some of my inspirations of today were in the audience. I had to make Whitney proud, make everybody else proud, Stephen Hill, Debra Lee and BET — I had to bring it! That was definitely a pivotal moment of my life.
You once mentioned you wanted to do a remake of Diana Ross' Lady Sings the Blues. Are you still interested in doing that?
I would love to do that, but I started to feel certain movies people shouldn't touch — and I think Lady Sings the Blues is one of those movies that no one should try to redo because Diana Ross did such an amazing, memorable performance. I just don't know who could be Billy Dee [Williams]! Who could be him? But I would love to do something like that — where you see the ups and downs of a singer and what that singer has to go through to not only maintain her image and personal life, but to just keep everything afloat.
I hear many people say they miss the days of '90s R&B. What do you think is missing from the music industry today that we had in the '90s?
The authenticity. A lot of people in today's time are not into making great albums. They are just into being hot for the moment or making money quick and fast. When money is at the forefront of your artistry then your artistry suffers. There were a lot of great albums in the '90s: Faith, Mary, TLC, Aaliyah, Monica, Boyz II Men and 112. They all had incredible albums, it wasn't just a couple songs here and there. I don't think enough of our R&B artists are doing R&B. They are not challenging the genre enough to make it different — for it to pop again. That's one of the reasons why I am so proud of Two Eleven because I wasn't afraid to take a chance on where I come from, which is R&B music. Whether it takes me to Europe or not, I wanted to stay true and give back to that genre and give that genre a chance because it's still alive. We can put a little more glitter on R&B, change it up, edge it up and make it modern for today's time. But everybody's intention for doing music is different.
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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)