The Underrated: Toni Braxton

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal

Lifetime recently just released their TV movie on the career of Toni Braxton. While I was unaware this was even in existence, about two weeks ago, I was listening to a 90's R&B playlist and Toni Braxton popped up. I instantly began to think about how underrated she is. Her name isn't mentioned like a Mary J, a Mariah, or Whitney, or any of those big diva names, but she was one of the most viable and vital singers of the 90's and even her early 2000s projects seemed to hit hard for her as well. Toni had such a deep yet alluring singing voice, along with a beautiful appearance and she would carry her talents to amazing heights. Unfortunately, like most popular singers in the 90's, she would suffer at the hands of bad business practices and end up in some terrible situations. That doesn't take away from her music at all. 

Her 1993 self titled debut, which features some of the most recognizable songs of the 90's, in "Another Sad Love Song", "Breathe Again", "Seven Whole Days", "You Mean The World To Me", and "Love Should Have Brought You Home", Toni and Babyface (L.A. Reid as well) created some of the best music we've ever heard. This would lead to Toni seeing an album that went 8X platinum and captivated the world. Her next album "Secrets" was a massive success, selling 15 million copies worldwide and spawning so many hits. One of my favorite songs of hers is "Let It Flow", which is featured on this album as well. Toni would continue her run at the beginning of the 2000s with another hit album "The Heat", which also spawned hit songs, including the Dr. Dre featured( in the video and on parts of the song) ballad of sorts "Just Be A Man About It" along with the sultry "Spanish Guitar" as well. That album went double platinum and in many ways, it was her last big hurrah. Toni would see success with her later albums, including the gold selling projects "More Than A Woman" and "Libra", which released in 2002 and 2005. Moderate success seemingly followed Toni after "The Heat" and she's never fallen off, despite taking a hiatus here and there. Her legacy is solidified and we have some of the ladies of DAR talking about their memories of Toni and her music. Let's get into it. 

She was the one with the deep voice and the short hair that only she could rock. Toni Braxton didn't try to be like anyone else and that made her absolutely irresistible. Toni's sultry voice grabbed the world's attention on her self-titled 1993 debut album. It went on to sell over 10 million copies and still gets played to this least in my car, it does. That album remains a classic. If I had to name a favorite track, it would be "Breathe Again". The lyrics are unlike any I've ever heard. "And I can't stop doing without the rhythm of my heart." Do you know how in love you have to be to admit something like that? 

Although I was young when it was released, it was played around me enough to be engraved in my memory. Toni teamed up with the incomparable Babyface. I don't even have to go into detail about that guy because his work speaks for itself. 

Three years later, Toni released her second and my favorite album Secrets. Her videos revealed a sexier Toni. She was showing more skin and more hair. The single "You're Making Me High" is one of the most descriptive songs about sex I've ever heard. I distinctly remember being old enough to understand what she was saying and I was blown away at how classy she was with it. Secrets was an album based on the premise of an emotional roller coaster. From bliss to breakups, Toni went there and brought us along with her. 

Ms. Braxton blessed us with her third album The Heat in 2000. I want to personally thank her for the single "He Wasn't Man Enough." Up until recently, Toni didn't have too many upbeat songs. She so eloquently told her ex man's new woman that they were perfect for each other. He just wasn't good enough for Toni and that song still speaks volumes to this day. 

Toni saw some changes with her record label, like many artists do. She released More Than A Woman in 2002; Libra in 2005; and Pulse in 2010. For some reason, I wasn't able to connect with those albums as strongly as I had the prior three. Toni redeemed herself when she teamed back up with Babyface for a duets album called Love, Marriage, and Divorce. They both spoke from personal spaces and experiences. 

There's only one Ms. Toni Braxton. She runs in a lane all her own. Her voice stands out because it's been uncommon for women to showcase their tenor. Between Toni and Lalah Hathaway, I'm appreciative of the beautiful lower registers. Toni wins because of the lyrics her songs have and because she's simply Toni Braxton.

Since the very first day that R&B came into existence, there has been an abundance of talent that provided positive sappy love songs to sad heartbreaking reflections of experience. Year after year, decade after decade, artists would provide us with ballads and classics that would far outlast their relevancy. Toni Braxton fits this description almost perfectly, she has been around for quite some time and although she doesn't have a perfect discography, she gave us a little bit of everything we love from R&B. 

Her debut album is where we would learn that Toni had a unique voice with a deeper vocal range and a fun almost buoyant demeanor that would be her identifying quality in songs and videos. 1993 would be the year she debuted and be the first of a 9 album catalogue (Christmas ones included), which would earn her 7 very well deserved Grammy award wins over the course of her career. Clearly, teaming up with LA Reid and Babyface was a fantastic move for her at the time. Although later on in her career she would have complications with Laface/Arista, she maintained a working relationship with the label and kept the hits coming. Each album would have a Billboard chart topper and be one of the highlights of that year in R&B. She started by giving us classics like "Another Sad Love Song", "Breathe Again" and "You Mean The World To Me", each one touching on a different aspect of love/relationships. She didn't stop there, 1996 she graced us with "You're Making Me High" and "Un-break My Heart", and in 2000, as mentioned, she gave us "He Wasn't Man Enough For Me" and of course music videos to go along with each. Honestly, up until that point Braxton could do no wrong, her songs were hits upon release. Some were sad, some were slow, some were upbeat and some were "happy", she really nailed all aspects of the genre. She was also teaming up with all the right people (at the time) in R.Kelly, Tony Rich, Left Eye and the quality and successes of the albums reflected that. 

Toni Braxton would go on recording a few more albums between 2002 and 2010, but it wouldn't be a smooth run. She got pregnant with her second child in '02 and as a result of the pregnancy, she couldn't promote and market her album and sure enough it was considered a failure. Although there are a couple good tracks here and there, it wasn't hitting numbers and definitely wasn't getting much radio play...there was just no recovering from that. She would go on to see further financial problems, issues with her label and even disputes with Irv Gotti and Jay-Z (for reasons of samples and beats).  Unfortunately, with her 20 plus year run in the industry, her first 7 would be her best and most memorable. 

I think if we're speaking talent, vocals, lyrics, sex appeal and image, Toni Braxton did everything right. From her debut until the beginning of the millennium, she was a fan favorite. I do think however, there were some serious mistakes on the financial and marketing aspects of her career that she should have paid closer attention to. Regardless, I loved her music then and I still revisit it now. I think she was a key player in 90's R&B for sure and I'm so glad I grew up listening to her!! 

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 

Toni has seemingly done the impossible. She has experienced ups and downs, went through the financial trouble and strain, but still maintained her name and a chart appearance. Despite the perceived failure that Bee and Porsha touched on, in a ever changing industry, for a veteran of the 90's to still be around and garnering top 10 albums is a blessing in itself. After her 2002, 2005, and 2010 releases, Toni would team up with Babyface with a return to form on the monumental duet album "Love, Marriage and Divorce". This album shows one of the most powerful voices and the most powerful pen of all time combining to make an album that reminds you of the good old R&B from years ago, but also keeps a current feel to it as well. With that album under their wing, Toni has moved onto legend status, cemented by the biopic on her life and career. There are rumors of another Toni and Babyface album, or maybe another Toni solo album, and I would be interested in hearing it. Only time will tell what the future holds for her, but Toni is a legend and underrated at the same time. Pay homage. 



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