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TONI BRAXTON 2010 CD REVIEW
PULSE (ATLANTIC)
Toni once said that she did not want to be an aging diva singing ballads in gowns after she had sold 20 million albums on her first two releases, her self-titled debut and its follow-up, Secrets.

When she first came on the scene in 1992, her voice was reminiscent of that of Anita Baker. A decade earlier, Anita arrived with a voice that had been influenced by the great Nancy Wilson. But equipped with an impressive arsenal of great songs, Toni’s voice soon shaped its own identity. There was space on radio for adult sounds, as well as, youthful fodder. Toni glided easily between mature songs and hipper, trendy material. Her pathway to stardom embodied classic diva-esque ballads and euphoric club masterpieces. “Unbreak My Heart” was a perfect example of how convincing she could sound singing ballads. And alternately, transformed by great remixers into a #1 dance hit, the remix equally showcased Toni’s unique voice.

Ms. Braxton sold the bulk of those albums on the strength of such beautiful songs as, “Another Sad Love Song”, “Seven Whole Days”, “Breathe Again”, “Unbreak My Heart” and “I Don’t Want To”. Those were classic ballads that helped define her career in the mid-90s. She would stage her revolt with The Heat featuring the smoldering “He Wasn’t Man Enough” but also the ballad, “Just Be a Man About It”. After garnering Diamond-level sales internationally on her first two albums, The Heat sold 2 million copies. Those sales were certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but it did note a decided shift from her previous achievements.

The next couple of releases would find Toni focusing on a younger sound, in hopes of maintaining relevance with a younger demographic. In that quest, her platinum-level fan base would now become gold-level (500,000 units). After finding tremendous success as “The First Lady of LaFace”, (the leading female artist and for most of her stay, the sole female artist) on the massively successful label created by L.A. and Babyface, a breakdown in creative and monetary differences would eventually force Toni to leave her home label for what would become a one-off new venture with Blackground Records. That partnership produced one gold-level album in Libra, but, no hits of note. Beginning in 2006, Toni would take up a two-year residency in Las Vegas starring in her stage show, “Revealed”. The grinding schedule of shows would help to hone her stage performance skills.

After a long absence, Pulse finds Toni fully back in the game. The ballads are huge and dynamic. The uptempo songs are fun and contemporary. She borrows a little from Rihanna’s vocal signature “eh” (“Wardrobe”) and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” (“Lookin’ at Me”) while still retaining the elements that make the songs distinctively hers.

The ballads “Yesterday”, “Why Don’t You Love Me” and “Pulse” capture Toni singing with the conviction and passion that has always been a part of her trademark. (The recent Top 15 Urban Adult version of “Yesterday” featured a duet w/Trey Songz. She goes it alone on the album version with ease). On “Make My Heart” she is in a fun, frenzied state that aptly demonstrates her comfort on the dancefloor. Her Atlantic debut should satisfy longtime fans who have waited 5 years for her return.

RATING: 8

About the Writer
K. Bonin has worked in the music industry for the last three decades. He describes himself as "a child of Motown and the classic rock era." Having spent the balance of his career at Arista Records, his experience and passion gives him a unique perspective on music and the music industry.
  
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