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Monday, April 30, 2012

Toni Braxton

Collection of Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton was one of the most popular and commercially successful female R&B singers of the '90s, thanks to her ability to straddle seemingly opposite worlds. Braxton was soulful enough for R&B audiences, but smooth enough for adult contemporary; sophisticated enough for adults, but sultry enough for younger listeners; strong enough in the face of heartbreak to appeal to women, but ravishing enough to nab the fellas. Wielding such broad appeal, Braxton managed to score not one, but two albums that sold over eight million copies; naturally, they were accompanied by a long string of hit singles on the pop and R&B charts, one of which -- "Un-break My Heart" -- ranks among the longest-running number one pop hits of the rock era.

Braxton was born in Severn, MD, on October 7, 1968. The daughter of a minister, she was raised mostly in the strict Apostolic faith, which prohibited not only all popular culture, but also pants in women's wardrobes. Encouraged by their mother, an operatically trained vocalist, Braxton and her four sisters began singing in church as girls; although gospel was the only music permitted in the household, the girls often watched Soul Train when their parents went shopping. Braxton's parents later converted to a different faith, and eased their restrictions on secular music somewhat, allowing Braxton more leeway to develop her vocal style; because of her husky voice, she often used male singers like Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, and Michael McDonald as models, as well as Chaka Khan. Braxton had some success on the local talent show circuit, continuing to sing with her sisters, and after high school studied to become a music teacher. However, Braxton soon dropped out of college after she was discovered singing to herself at a gas station by songwriter Bill Pettaway (who co-authored Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True"). With Pettaway's help, Braxton and her sisters signed with Arista Records in 1990 as a group dubbed simply the Braxtons.

The Braxtons released a single in 1990 called "The Good Life," and while it wasn't a hit, it caught the attention of L.A. Reid and Babyface, the red-hot songwriting/production team who had just formed their own label, LaFace (which was associated with Arista). Braxton became the first female artist signed to LaFace in 1991, and the following year she was introduced to the listening public with a high-profile appearance on the soundtrack of Eddie Murphy's Boomerang. Not only did her solo cut "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" become a substantial pop and R&B hit, but she also duetted with Babyface himself on "Give U My Heart." Anticipation for Braxton's first album ran high, and when her eponymous solo debut was released in 1993, it was an across-the-board smash, climbing to number one on both the pop and R&B charts. It spun off hit after hit, including three more Top Ten singles in "Another Sad Love Song," "Breathe Again," and "You Mean the World to Me," plus the double-sided R&B hit "I Belong to You"/"How Many Ways." With eventual sales of over eight million copies, Toni Braxton's run of popularity lasted well into 1995. By that time, Braxton had scored Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal ("Another Sad Love Song") in 1994, and tacked on another win in the latter category for "Breathe Again" in 1995.

To tide fans over until her next album was released, Braxton contributed "Let It Flow" to the Whitney Houston-centered soundtrack of Waiting to Exhale in 1995. Again working heavily with L.A. Reid and Babyface, Braxton released her second album, Secrets, in the summer of 1996, and predictably, it was another enormous hit. The first single, "You're Makin' Me High," was Braxton's most overtly sexual yet, and it became her biggest pop hit to date; however, its success was soon eclipsed by the follow-up single, the Diane Warren-penned ballad "Un-break My Heart." "Un-break My Heart" was an inescapable juggernaut, spending an amazing 11 weeks on top of the pop charts (and even longer on the adult contemporary charts). Further singles "I Don't Want To" and "How Could an Angel Break My Heart" weren't quite as successful (not that that's an indictment), but that didn't really matter; by then Secrets was well on its way to becoming Braxton's second straight eight-million seller. In 1997, she picked up Grammy awards for Best Female Pop Vocal and Best Female R&B Vocal (for "Un-break My Heart" and "You're Makin' Me High," respectively).

Toward the end of 1997, Braxton filed a lawsuit against LaFace Records, attempting to gain release from a contract she felt was no longer fair or commensurate with her status. When LaFace countersued, Braxton filed for bankruptcy, a move that shocked many fans (who wondered how that could be possible, given her massive sales figures) but actually afforded her protection from further legal action. Braxton spent most of 1998 in legal limbo, and passed the time by signing on to portray Belle in the Broadway production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (a role originally held by erstwhile teen queen Deborah Gibson). Braxton and LaFace finally reached a settlement in early 1999, and the singer soon began work on her third album. The Heat was released in the spring of 2000, and entered the charts at number two, matching the highest position held by Secrets. Lead single "He Wasn't Man Enough" was a Top Ten hit (and an R&B chart-topper), although the follow-ups "Just Be a Man About It" (a duet with Dr. Dre) and "Spanish Guitar" didn't sustain the album's momentum as well as one might have expected. A brisk seller out of the box, The Heat eventually cooled off around the two-million mark, a disappointing showing compared to her previous efforts, despite yet another Grammy win for Best Female R&B Vocal ("He Wasn't Man Enough").

Braxton appeared in the VH1 movie Play'd in early 2002, and recorded More Than a Woman for release later that year. The singles "Please" and "That's the Way Love Works (Trippin')" announced Braxton's 2005 return with the full-length Libra, her first and only album recorded for the Blackground label. Initially a commercial disappointment, the album was re-released a year later when "The Time of Our Lives" -- a collaboration with the vocal group Il Divo -- became the official 2006 FIFA World Cup anthem. That same year the singer replaced Wayne Newton as the main performer at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Her show, Toni Braxton: Revealed, would run until April of 2008 when she joined the cast of the competitive reality show Dancing with the Stars. After lasting five weeks before being voted off the show, Braxton announced she would be signing with the Atlantic label. Pulse was issued in 2010. Allmusic by Steve Huey

Album: Toni Braxton (1993)

01. Another Sad Love Song
02. Breathe Again
03. Seven Whole Days
04. Love Affair
05. Candlelight
06. Spending My Time With You
07. Love Shoulda Brought You Home
08. I Belong To You
09. How Many Ways
10. You Mean The World To Me
11. Best Friend
12. Breathe Again (Reprise)
13. Give U Heart (Mad Ball Mix)

Album: Secrets (1996)

01. Come On Over Here
02. You're Makin' Me High
03. There's No Me Without You
04. Un-Break My Heart
05. Talking in His Sleep
06. How Could an Angel Break My Heart
07. Find Me a Man
08. Let It Flow
09. Why Should I Care
10. I Don't Want To
11. I Love Me Some Him
12. In the Late of Night-Toni's Secrets
13. You're Makin' Me High (T'empo Mix)
14. Un-Break My Heart (Classic Radio Mix)
15. I Don't Want To (Frankie Knuckles Radio Edit)

Album: The Heat (2000)

01. He Wasn´t Man Enough
02. The Heat
03. Spanish Guitar
04. Just Be A Man About It
05. Gimme Some
06. I´m Still Breathing
07. Fairy Tale
08. The Art Of Love
09. Speaking In Tongues
10. Maybe
11. You´ve Been Wrong
12. Never Just For A Ring

Album: More Than A Woman (2002)

01. Let Me Show You the Way (Out)
02. Give it Back
03. A Better Man
04. Hit The Freeway
05. Lies, Lies, Lies
06. Rock Me, Roll Me
07. Selfish
08. Do You Remember When
09. Me and My Boyfriend
10. Tell Me
11. And I Love You
12. Always

Album: Ultimate Toni Braxton (2003)

01. Give You My Heart (Feat Babyface)
02. Love Shoulda Brought You Home
03. Another Sad Love Song
04. Breathe Again
05. Seven Whole Days (Live)
06. You Mean The World To Me
07. How Many Ways
08. Youre Making Me High
09. Let It Flow
10. Unbreak My Heart
11. I Love Me Some Him
12. I Dont Want To
13. He Wasnt Man Enough
14. Just Be A Man About It
15. Hit The Freeway (Featuring Loon)
16. Whatchu You Need
17. The Little Things
18. Unbreak My Heart (Soulhex Anthem Radio Edit)

Album: Platinum And Gold Collection (2004)

01. Another Sad Love Song
02. Breathe Again
03. How Could an Angel Break My Heart
04. I Belong to You
05. You Mean the World to Me
06. Un-Break My Heart
07. How Many Ways (R. Kelly Remix)
08. He Wasn't Man Enough
09. Maybe (Radio Edit Remix)
10. A Better Man
11. Hit the Freeway (Ft. Loon)
12. Spanish Guitar (HQ2 Radio Edit

Album: Libra (2005)

01. Please
02. Trippin (Thats The Way Love Works)
03. Whats Good
04. Take This Ring
05. Midnite
06. I Wanna Be (Your Baby)
07. Sposed To Be
08. Stupid
09. Finally
10. Shadowless

Album: Un-Break My Heart The Remix Collection (2005)

01. Intro
02. Un-Break My03. Spanish Guitar (HQ2 Club Mix) Heart (Soul Hex Anthem Vocal)
03. Spanish Guitar (HQ2 Club Mix)
04. You're Makin' Me High (David Morales Classic Mix)
05. I Don't Want To (Frankie Knuckles Franktified Club Mix)
06. Hit The Freeway (HQ2 Club Mix)
07. He Wasn't Man Enough (Peter Rauhofer NYC Club Mix)
08. He Wasn't Man Enough (Junior Vasquez Marathon Mix)
09. Maybe (HQ2 Dynamix NYC Club Mix)
10. Un-Break My Heart (Frankie Knuckles Franktidrama Club Mix)
11. Spanish Guitar (Joe Claussell Main Mix)

Album: Breathe Again: Toni Braxton at Her Best (2005)

01. Un-Break My Heart
02. Breathe Again
03. You're Makin' Me High
04. You Mean the World to Me
05. Best Friend
06. Candlelight
07. Spanish Guitar
08. Maybe
09. Rock Me, Roll Me
10. Always

Album: The Essential Toni Braxton (2007)


01. Love Shoulda Brought You Home
02. I Love Me Some Him
03. Tell Me
04. You're Makin' Me High
05. He Wasn't Man Enough
06. Just Be A Man About It
07. How Many Ways (R. Kelly Remix)
08. Breathe Again
09. You Mean The World To Me
10. I Belong To You
11. How Could An Angel Break My Heart
12. Un-Break My Heart
13. Another Sad Love Song
14. Seven Whole Days
15. I Don't Want To
16. Give U My Heart


01. The Heat
02. Gimme Some
03. There's No Me Without You
04. Why Should I Care
05. Spanish Guitar (Royal Garden Flamenco Mix)
06. I'm Still Breathing
07. Me & My Boyfriend
08. Give It Back
09. The Time Of Our Lives
10. He Wasn't Man Enough (Junior Vasquez Marathon Mix)
11. Un-Break My Heart (Frankie Knuckles' Franktidrama Club Mix Edit)
12. Hit The Freeway
13. Come On Over Here
14. Let It Flow
15. Little Things
16. Good Life

Album: Pulse (2010)

01. Yesterday
02. Make My Heart
03. Hands Tied
04. Woman
05. If I Have To Wait
06. Lookin' At Me
07. Wardrobe
08. Hero
09. No Way
10. Pulse
11. Why You Won't Love Me


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