It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Toni Braxton. We confess. Her early catalog was the sound of our teen years which still stand among our favorite albums of all time. Seeing her live finally in the mid-2000s was a highlight and well worth the trouble getting all the way to a casino two hours out of the City. While we haven’t kept-up with her music, which we admit hasn’t had the same lustre it had at the height of her fame, it is like a warm blanket listening to her soothing, velvety Alto again in what’s been a not-so-great run for Pop/R&B – a genre she helped pioneer – in the past decade.
Braxton is back with her tenth studio album, SPELL MY NAME and Producer Antonio Dixon(Ariana Grande, Beyonce) returns once again after the Grammy-nominated success of 2018’s Sex & Cigarettes. Braxton has a hand in writing all tracks on the Collection – a concise nine tracks including two versions of Do It, one with Missy Elliott. The Album is a quick listen, a majority of it minor-sounding despite starting-off on a upbeat note with current single DANCE. The Disco-infused track recalls Chic and Nile Rodgers, as Braxton shrugs-off the blues of her lover and his infidelity, instead wanting to just dance. While this goes completely against the grain of where R&B is right now, Braxton does this well. The rhythm and her vocals are precise and we want more, but this is the end of the fun as she has something to say and things slow down.
First single DO IT lands on familiar territory. Braxton is the voice of your soul sister. Some of you out there might be stuck in a stagnant relationship or you might be putting-up with some damage that is beyond repair and she is that confidante you need to tell you that you need to do exactly what it is you know you need to. You get one version with Missy Elliott bantering with Braxton, and a solo version which is fine as is, towards the end.
H.E.R. lends a hand on GOTTA MOVE ON, which carries on the the conversation in DO IT. Titular track SPELL MY NAME is a gorgeous, sexy showpiece modernizing Braxton‘s repertoire with some Drake-esque moodiness, as she carries-on a fling with a younger man. Gorgeous orchestration that spares no cost with some elegant strings.
The remainder of the Disc sees Braxton grappling with a love that feels so right even though it is so wrong for her on SATURDAY NIGHT.
We are gifted with gorgeous Country-Soul ballad NOTHIN‘ a bonus track co-produced and co-written by longtime Collaborator Babyface that is so good we wish the Album had more of this melodic beauty that we’ve come to love of Braxton. In all, some of Braxton‘s best work in a bit over the span of a career which has always placed quality over quantity.
Universal Music Canada release SPELL MY NAME, in stores now. Buy it now here.