Toni Braxton is going into her remarkable 25th year in music and she still has one of the most unique voices in the rich history of R&B/Soul. Her signature smoky great vocals that are so recognizable and always made this living legend and icon always standout, she shows it yet again throughout many different parts of her eighth solo album, Sex & Cigarettes. Her first solo album in nearly a decade and first released as part of her new deal with the historic and just as legendary, Def Jam Recordings.
Braxton opens the album pretty strongly with records like Deadwood, the title track and Long As I Live. With the latter being one of the records were the iconic singer really shows off those signature smoky great vocals of hers. As she sings very relatable lyrics about a love she will always remember as long as she lives for this beautifully amazing love song. One that you can hear all the emotion in her lyrics and is one of those records that has Grammy written all over it. The title track also shows her signature vocals off as well and is really not only the strongest of the three, but also the basis of the album with all the emotional rawness Braxton delivers in this tale of emotional abuse. Which has her singing at a level of trauma as powerful and recognizable as that of her biggest single still till this day, Un-Break My Heart, to a cheating lover who doesn’t bother to mask his scent of sex and cigarettes.
Probably a huge reason in why the iconic singer has a real no fvcks given attitude throughout certain points of the album too. First appearing on the very explicit for Braxton’s normal standards, FOH. One of two Babyface collaborations that sees the singer reach a real explict jealous and contempt boiling point. It’s actually quite a chillingly brilliant record.
The production throughout a lot of the album is quite brilliant too. Whether the more country-tinged production from Fred Ball on lead single, Deadwood or the more classic Southern soul on Ball’s also produced, Sorry. A very piano-laden and drums-driven record, which has Braxton singing very emotionally about the regret she has in a relationship and how she’s sorry she even met a former lover she left. There’s actually a lot of piano-laden records throughout the album too. With only three not having any piano in the production.
Like many of her records throughout her nearly three decades in music, there’s a lot of very emotional records too. So much so that like the very tender piano-laden driven ballad, My Heart featuring Colbie Caillat, that it will either move you to tears or be pretty close to moving you to tears with how beautiful it’s. Her longtime collaborator, Babyface, who was a co-producer and writer of the song really showing how great their chemistry still is years later by providing Toni with easily her best song on the album.
A very short album compared to Braxton’s normal standards at only about 30 plus minutes or so, it doesn’t leave room for much error. But she shows she can still hold her own with the very unoriginal, Coping and the what seems out-of-place final track, Missin’, as the only missteps in an otherwise solid album that I would give a four out of five stars. The shortness of the album there for being really key in why it’s not a classic album most of us where hoping for from the iconic singer. Even still though there’s quite a few very amazing records on the album that will surely have an opportunity to not only be nominated for Grammys, but help the incomparable Braxton add a few to her collection of seven she already has.