Why I’m Afraid Of The Monica and Brandy Verzuz

Those of us in our late thirties and early forties grew up with Brandy and Monica.

Yeah, you just keep guessing about whether or not I’m in my late thirties or early forties…

But I digress.

With the premier of their individual first albums- Brandy’s self titled debut in 1994 and Monica’s “Miss Thang” in 1995- came instant notoriety for both women.

The comparisons were also just as immediate as their success. They were both fierce vocal talents in different ways.

Brandy came with the jazzy/gospel influenced vocals, and Monica came with more of the Aretha Franklin like soul.

Playing on these comparisons and a perceived rivalry between the two of them, in 1998 “The Boy Is Mine” was released as the lead single for both of their second albums from the same year, “Never Say Never” by Brandy and “The Boy Is Mine by Monica”. Influenced by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s 1982 duet “The Girl Is Mine”, the song went on to become the first number-one pop hit for both women, and was the best selling song of that year.

For what the song did in bringing Brandy and Monica together as artists, it drew a line in the sand between their fans, and it’s been increasingly ugly to watch what’s happening on both sides.

It’s not that a little competition is a bad thing, but what has become so deplorable about the comparisons of these two women is the way fans try to use their adoration for and connection to these women as fulfillment of something missing in their life that a musician can’t fill.

I’ll leave the debate about who’s the better vocalist for someone else. It should never have been that one of them needed to be better than the other. Their approach to music has just always been different.

I will address the elephant in the room though.

Yes, of the two ladies, Brandy does lead with being the vocal acrobat. She is a church kid’s delight. She riffs and runs like nobody’s business and everybody’s business. Her knowledge of music notes and the way she manipulates scales is chill inducing and almost uncanny.

NONE of this, at least to me, makes her a better or more skilled singer than Monica. Brandy has a different talent than Monica, and she uses it in the way that suits her best.

Even with the almost magical nature of riffs and runs, it doesn’t automatically mean that the singer that uses them more often is better than the artist that doesn’t.

For what Brandy gives us with acrobatic vocals, Monica gives us one of the most distinct tones in the industry. You simply can not mistake her voice. She also gives us heart piercing intensity and poignancy. Monica has a voice that reaches into you and pulls out emotion in a way few artists can, which is just as chill inducing as Brandy’s vocal gymnastics. Sure, Monica may not have her running shoes on all the time, but just because that’s not as much her thing as it is Brandy’s doesn’t make her any less talented than Brandy. It also doesn’t mean she can’t do it. It’s just not where she lives. Monica’s approach is different, and anyone who has ever listened to Monica and has denied the fact that she is just as talented as Brandy is living in delusion.

Why then is it that we can’t celebrate the difference in our artists instead of bashing one to lift up the other?

I have always said that if you have to drag one artist through the mud to praise another, that is not being a true fan, it’s trying to fill some internal void. I seriously believe that for what some people lack in self esteem they try to fill with singers, particularly black women (there they go being our heroes again, this time inadvertently). It’s projection that becomes excessive and invasive when people have to insult (not criticize) one artist because they like the other one more.

It’s extremely rare that I see anyone express that Monica is better than Brandy or vice versa without showing total disregard for the fact that BOTH of these women are human. This proves to me that the question of which one is better is the wrong question.

The real questions is why does one of them really have to be better than the other in the first place? If fans were honest, they’d admit is has less to do with music and more to do with how they tie their self esteem to which ever artist they like most.

Of course it’s not to say this doesn’t happen with male artists (you couldn’t tell Luther Vandross fans shit back in the day), but the most bitter of music artist rivalries have been waged with fans of female artists.

In this highly visible generation of “Your fave could never”, people want the artist they like to be better than any other artist because it makes them feel better about them self. This wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t lead to some horribly disparaging comments about both Brandy and Monica as this debate of who is better between the two of them wages on.

Sure. My fave could never. My fave, who is Faith Evans by the way, could never be Brandy or Monica.

Guess what? That’s how I prefer it. That’s why I love Faith. She’s not Brandy or Monica. She’s the artist that speaks to me in only the way she can, and that’s not shade to anyone else. We all have that one person that musically speaks to our soul, but what a lot of people need to stop doing is acting like their favorite singer is the only singer that can exist and everyone else is trash.

Sure, some singers may be more interesting than others, or have a more likable sound, but some music fans just can’t have the “better than” discussion without going completely off the rails.

Faith, Brandy, and Monica (and Kelly Price and Jazmine Sullivan and so on and so forth) all occupy different spaces in the industry that are needed, and none of them necessarily need to be “better” than the other for them to occupy that music space.

If one just just has to be better, that conversation should be limited to talent and ability and not veer off into commentary about their personal lives.

Yes, we all want to matter, and we all want to be seen, but submitting singers to our personal lack should not be the cost.

The talent of Brandy and Monica should not be rattling around in the cage of people’s self worth, yet some of their fans are insistent that internal wounds are healed by throwing one artist under the bus to lift up the other.

By throwing under the bus, I don’t mean conversations about the voices of Brandy and Monica.

The war fans wage between these two goes far beyond their talent.

Some fans of Monica will go after Brandy’s darkest public moments, and fans of Brandy will do the same to Monica.

It’s horrific the way some people will use the talent of the artist they love as a weapon against people who in a lot of instances weren’t looking for a fight in the first place (see also: The Beyhive).

Don’t in any way get me wrong. The Brandy and Monice Verzuz is going to be the height of epic, and will probably draw some of the largest numbers yet. I’m very excited to watch these two talented women share with us their amazing successes from over the years, but I’m also afraid fans are going to turn it into another musical sandbox where they kick up so much dirt and dust the accomplishments of both women becomes hard to see.

Both Monica AND Brandy have incredible vocal talent.

Both Brandy AND Monica have a timeless catalog of hits.

BOTH Monica and Brandy have worked with some of the industry’s top producers and writers.

Both Brandy AND Monica have influenced a generation of singers behind them.

Music has needed BOTH Monica and Brandy, and their individual talents, their individual accomplishments, and their individual contributions to music, none of which should be overshadowed by fans who think degrading either one of them can somehow lead to personal healing.

I’m afraid that fans on both sides are going to declare a winner in the ugliest of ways tonight.

I want to put my faith in humanity, but history has shown things can get dangerously inhumane between Monica and Brandy fans.

I really hope they prove me wrong.

Writer of life, Actor, Host/Comedian, and Spoken Word Artist. The last great Atlanta native.

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