Toni Braxton’s Self-Titled Debut Album Turns 20
As LaFace’s first female solo signee, Toni Braxton was all about the voice. At a time when Whitney Houston was reigning supreme off ‘The Bodyguard,’ Toni seemed to be a response for a cooler more urban vocalist. She had the voice and the appeal for a young crowd listening to new jack swing.
On July 13, 1993, Toni’s debut self-titled album was released. The effort would spawn a total of seven singles (three of them Top 10 hits), win Grammys and go on to sell a staggering 8 million copies.
The first time many of us heard Toni Braxton was thanks to Eddie Murphy’s movie ‘Boomerang.’ Toni’s duet with Babyface, ‘Give U My Heart,’ a new jack swing record, was the first single off the soundtrack and our introduction to Toni’s contralto voice over the beats of the time.
L.A. Reid and Babyface had been enlisted to work on the soundtrack for the romantic comedy, which also stared Halle Berry. Rumor has it that Toni’s song ‘Love Shoulda Brought You Home,’ featured on her first LP, was originally intended for Anita Baker, but Baker’s pregnancy impeded her from doing the recording and she suggested the song go to Toni. The song would end up going to No. 4 on the R&B chart.
While Toni’s album debut was purely steady and smooth records (except the new jack swing records ‘Spending Time With You’ and ‘I Belong to You’), the beats were forceful and the singer’s interpretations strong, seldom vulnerable. Even on the subdued ‘Breathe Again’ she turns a lyric like, “How could you love me then leave?” into a reproach.
The lead single, ‘Another Sad Love Song,’ was a Top 10 hit but it was the second single, ‘Breathe Again,’ that would catapult Toni to the forefront. Even the album cuts that weren’t written by Babyface like ‘Candle Light,’ ‘Spending My Time With You’ and ‘Best Friend’ (the latter co-written by Toni) are exemplary on melody and lyrics.
It was also interesting to watch Toni come into her own within her debut album. By the release of the seventh single, ‘How Many Ways,’ Toni had gone from donning high-waisted jeans and men’s shirts to frolicking in the beach wearing bicycle shorts with a relatively unknown Shemar Moore.
The industry was listening and awarded Toni the coveted Grammy award for Best New Artist award and Best R&B Vocal performance for ‘Another Sad Love Song’ in 1994. Then in 1995, she’d nab another one for Best R&B Vocal performance for ‘Breathe Again.’
Even with the success of her debut album, Braxton’s relationship with LaFace would sour. She sued the label for unpaid royalties in 1996. Eventually, the situation was all settled and Toni was able to record her third album in 2000.
The lauded songstress’ classic debut stands as one of LaFace’s most influential contributions to R&B music in the 1990s. By using Toni’s extraordinarily unique voice, solid R&B love songs by a female vocalist were back on pop radio. They were embraced by listeners and served as a telling story of love’s many facets.
Watch Toni Braxton’s ‘How Many Ways’ Video
Watch Toni Braxton’s ‘Another Sad Love Song’ Video
Watch Toni Braxton’s ‘Seven Whole Days’ Video