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Toni Braxton - Libra

2006-09-08 13:01
Where did it all go wrong?

It's undeniable: Toni Braxton has one of the most recognisable voices in the biz, but her smooth and sensual contralto voice cannot resuscitate her dying career and bland fifth studio album. Libra offers nothing original or exciting and exposes a nineties R&B sensation as a faded star still singing sad love songs.

All seemed to be going so well for Braxton under the wing of Baby Face and LA Reid at LaFace Records. Her first two albums, the self-titled Toni Braxton, and the follow up Secrets launched her career into the stratosphere. But unfortunately it all started to unravel after she filed for bankruptcy in 1998. Her subsequent albums The Heat (released in 2000) and More than a Woman (released in 2002) failed to make an impression on fans with record sales dropping to 435 000.

After much distress, Braxton left LaFace/Arista Records and signed up with Barry Hankerson's team under Blackground Records. Some critics say Libra's failure was due to inadequate promotion of the album by her new label. But if a finger needs to be pointed at someone, it should be pointed at the artist herself.

No amount of promotion will salvage a lackadaisical, tiresome and just plain boring product. As if to prove this, Braxton teams up with hip hop producer Scott Storch, R&B hit-maker Bryan Michael Cox, Cory Rooney, husband Keri Lewis and heavyweight Rich Harrison (Harrison's produced for artists such as Mary J Blige, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Missy Elliot and Christina Aguilera).

Sister Tamar, formerly of The Braxtons, also makes an appearance on backing vocals.

Braxton returns to her soulful roots, but oozes so much sensuality on tracks like "Stupid", "I Hate You" and "Shadowless" that it bubbles over into a big mess. The album's first single "Please" is a halfhearted reproduction of her 2000 hit "He Wasn't Man Enough For Me", while the R&B single "Sposed To Be" just falls short of what could've been a sexy, smooth, slow-jam.

The only remotely interesting track on Libra is "Take This Ring". The elaborate drum line and aloof bass guitar add something fresh to the album, but it's the edgy backing vocals that bring colour to an otherwise monotonous collection.

In Braxton's defense, she does seem to have gotten the raw deal in terms of her musical career, but that's no excuse. So what if you declared bankruptcy in a rumoured attempt to get out of an unreasonable contract. So what if your record sales have been on a steady decline over the past 13 years. So what if you switched managers and your new record label decides to spend their cash promoting other artists. You pick up the pieces, move on and work harder. And you for damn sure don't replace Wayne Newton at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, Vegas.

- Megan Kakora
It's a sad day when a 6-time Grammy winner loses her superstar momentum and is reduced to Vegas showgirl. It's even sadder when album sales nosedive from 10 million to a dismal 380 000.

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