How does an artist who has sold over 27 million albums world wide be considered less important than a new 15 yr old singer who doesn’t even have a solid fan following" Toni Braxton left a stormy relationship with Arista records and walked into a contract with a label that doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that she is a valuable player in the R&B game.
From 1993 until 2000 Toni Braxton produced 12 top 10 singles and three consecutive multi platinum albums within the US alone. Two of which sold 8 million copies a piece in the states and 22 million combined world wide. Even so this 6 time Grammy winner is lacking the respect and attention of her new label Universal/Blackground. Her latest album “Libra” was pushed back 3 times before finally being released in September 05’. After two under promoted singles and one video, Braxton was pushed aside and the funds for Libra’s promotion were used for the promotion of label mate JoJo.
September 27, 2005 marked the release of Toni Braxton’s latest album “Libra.”
An album rich with serene mellow tunes that was easily overlooked due to poor promotion by her label Blackground. With one official single and video for the song “Please” the album still managed to debut at #4 on Billboard’s top 200, #2 for Billboard’s top R&B/Hip Hop albums and #1 for R&B albums. With no real help from her label, on November 4 2005 “Libra” was certified Gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and sold over 380,000 copies according to Nielson Soundscan.
The songs feature not too smooth or overly eager heavenly vocals mixed with cloud 9 music. In other words we get throwbacks that are classic Toni from the days of the 1996 album “Secrets.” My personal favorite “Shadowless” is an acoustic guitar ballad in which she sings about a love lost and a plea to win it back. With this song she does what most singers fail to do, which is make a desperate cry without sounding whiney or needy. Her tone is flawless and the range is beautiful executing every note from high to low as she pleases.
If you are fortunate enough to get the UK release the track “Suddenly” compliments “Shadowless” very well by keeping the album flowing. It’s a relatively jazzy track that could easily be played on NY’s Smooth Jazz radio station CD 101.9 with or without the vocals. Its easily comparable to “How Could An Angel Break My Heart” ft Kenny G. No it does not sound the same but it holds on to the sultry sounds of today and yesterday’s “Smooth Jazz” artist. Following “Suddenly” on the UK release is “Long Way Home.” More of the Toni that long time fans have been missing and a nice addition to the album.
Libra is not without its Hip Hop influences. “Trippin”, the second single, is sang in a fashion that I like to call ‘rapping the way singers do it’. Fast talking where the melody isn’t lost and harmonizing is inserted at the right moments. “Take This Ring”, produced by Rich Harrison, is an up beat heavily percussion driven record. An aggressive song that is balanced by cool and well managed vocal arrangements lead by unapologetic lyrics. It may sound familiar to you but keep in mind that this is the same guy who wrote Amerie’s “One Thing” and Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love.” The style of the production doesn’t make this song any less coveted. “What’s Good” uses a clip from Joe Sample’s “In My Wildest Dreams.” A song that is probably known best to young kids not in to Jazz as the late Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama”.
Braxton pulls in some big name producers like Scott Storch, Kenneth Babyface Edmonds, and Brian Michael Cox. But the chillest songs come from the Underdogs’ Antonio Dixon who produces “Finally” and “Sposed To Be”. A tranquil song with a finger snapping groove and easily the coolest song on the album perfect for individuals who like to ride down the street at 10 mph with the windows down on a summer day.
It seems that in order for this album to get its proper due, it’ll need to be re released with more production. The 10 songs on the US version are satisfying but after hearing the two songs on the UK released album, you know that it could have been better. If rumors are true, Libra will be re-released with 4 new songs and handled by Universal with input from Blackground. Despite the lack of interest and respect from Blackground “Libra” is an album worthy of a place in your R&B collection.