April 22, 2022

Toni Braxton - Sex & Cigarettes (2018)

*Standard pressing. 
Contains 8 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: B0027957-02

© 2018 Def Jam Records
As her 1993 blockbuster debut approached its 25th anniversary, Toni Braxton proceeded to collect accolades while moving forward. Her duets album with Babyface was designated Best R&B Album in 2015 by the Recording Academy -- making her a Grammy winner in three decades -- and the connection with her foundational audience was reaffirmed in 2017 with a Soul Train Legend Award. Her every-few-years release schedule was maintained with this short album, in which she responds to a habitually philandering lover with her distinctive mix of fire and finesse. This has more of the former element than any previous Braxton release. Although the title track is placed second in the sequence, it's really the first scene, or at least the album's basis, an emotionally raw if composed confrontation supported by piano and strings. "I guess you're too cold or too bold to give a fuck," she remarks with a sting. "FOH," one of two Babyface collaborations, is far more explicit, with jealousy and contempt at a boiling point. Only "Missin'," the closing song on the standard edition, deviates from the rough story line, and that's for its lack of sourness; it's built on a light galloping rhythm yet is all about longing, merely one form of emotional engulfment displayed by the singer. There's also a hint of reflective sweetness to "Long as I Live," but the ache is incurable, and the Colbie Caillat collaboration "My Heart" glistens but is otherwise drained. Elsewhere, Braxton alternates between regret and admitting romantic dependency. The productions, typically polished for a Braxton album, are subtly diverse, with "Deadwood" easily adaptable to contemporary country, "Sorry" rooted in classic Southern soul, and "Missin'" verging on tropical pop. Non-standard edition bonus track "Forgiven," a ballad of closure, would make much more sense as this album's finale than it does in its original state, as the backdrop for the credits sequence of Roland Joffé's The Forgiven.

tags: toni braxton, sex and cigarettes, 2018, flac,


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