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LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - You can't blame Brandy for being a little nervous stepping back into the recording studio. Four years have elapsed since the release of the R&B/pop singer's fourth album, "Afrodisiac." And it has been just two years since her headline-making car accident in which another driver died.
"Once you get into a zone, it's hard to come out," says Brandy, who will not face criminal charges but still faces a wrongful-death lawsuit that goes to trial in April. "What I experienced in the past couple of years was tough, but I had to face it and find the strength to move forward. Connecting back with music has definitely helped me through everything. Once I got back in the studio, the butterflies went away."
Music's uplifting power provided the thematic undercurrent for her new album, "Human," due December 9 from Koch/Epic. The project reunites Brandy with songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins, who first worked with the singer on her 1998 multiplatinum sophomore set, "Never Say Never." Jerkins, the executive producer of "Human," also produced the first two singles: the uptempo "Right Here (Departed)" and "Long Distance," a ballad co-produced with Bruno Mars.
"We have great musical chemistry," Jerkins says. "'Departed' was the first song we did together after reuniting. And that says a lot: Most of the time you don't find the single until you're at the end of a project."
Brandy co-wrote several songs on the album, including "Fall" with Epic labelmate Natasha Bedingfield.
The lyrics drew inspiration from a daily journal Brandy began keeping. "Getting in touch with how I felt made me want to sing about it," Brandy says. "This entire album is about life and what we all experience -- that we're not alone and sometimes need to be uplifted."
Brandy rose to prominence at 15 with her 1994 self-titled debut for Atlantic. Her final album for the label was "Afrodisiac," which has sold 417,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Between recording, she also starred in the popular '90s TV show "Moesha," which still runs in syndication.
In addition to touring to support the new album, she plans to pursue more acting roles. "That's another part of me that has to be fulfilled," says Brandy. "I really want to get back to that, creating a character who people would love to see every week."
Eager to reconnect musically, Brandy says it's actually an audience of one that keeps her going -- her 6-year-old daughter. "Playing my songs back for her and hearing her respond -- that's what lets me know I'm on the right track and motivates me to continue what I'm doing."