Toni Braxton: Pulse

Posted October 7, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

After five years of musical silence, the sultry songstress returns with new music deal and one of her best collections to date

One shouldn’t be so naive of Toni Braxton’s contributions to pop music. Led by Babyface’s signature production, she was able to secure three pop hits (“Un-break My Heart,” “Let It Flow” and “You’re Making Me High”) while also amassing a bundle of R&B super standards like “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” “Breathe Again” and “Another Sad Love Song;” all thanks to her incredible 1992 debut album. And with her sophisticated jazz-meets-pop vocal style, Braxton became one of the great super heroes of R&B in the ‘90s. Only the infant generations will only remember her as the graceful dancer and memorable finalist from Season 7 of ABC’s flagship show “Dancing With the Stars.” But Braxton, now on the face of a musical rebound, finally jumps back into her comfort zone, minus the dancing shoes, on Pulse. She’s almost two decades away from her recognizable material, but it shouldn’t be an understatement to state that she has finally arrived on the comeback album of her dreams. The push backs on the album along with Braxton’s desire to give the album newfound freshness and additional excitement were necessary since earlier tracks were leaked on the Internet. What was leaked sounded good – the greenlight for Braxton’s confidence after a five year absence from the music world. “Melt,” floating over a consistently, held down synth and a gorgeous melody that embodied the heart and soul of Ne-Yo’s midtempo ballads, was one of the ear-candy favorites from the early album that gave a glimpse of what Braxton fans were awaiting for.

Her debut on Atlantic Records shows that she’s not afraid to work with new blood. While she’s notoriously known for being “The First Lady of LaFace”, the house that Babyface built, she swoops into a heavy list of producers including David Foster (Whitney Houston), Harvey Mason & Oak (Chris Brown, Mario, Ruben Studdard), Troy Taylor (Trey Songz) and Frank E (Madonna, T.I.). To add to her riskier expeditions, she collaborates with her fellow labelmate, the younger Trey Songz, on an updated version of “Yesterday.” The remixed ballad, provided by Frank E., bears a similarly akin to her earlier work, while strongly exposing the innocence of her signature adult contemporary style. But much of the album, while taking in a few updates to her regimen, fits her very well. The dance-trance jam, “Make My Heart,” rocks with its bossa nova trumpets and Chicago house influences. “Wardrobe” waltzes to a jivin’ four-on-the-floor disco bump while getting a fair share of synthesized strings. And the plush ballads of “Hero” (familiarly tracing the mood of “Un-break My Heart”) and “Hands Tied” feel like missing chapters from her terrific 1996 Secrets album. And that is what is so remarkable about Pulse is that her style, her personality and confident soulful vocals sounds so refreshing in today’s bland marketplace. When she revisits the school of old, she makes it seem so new – as if she’s a new artist who knows exactly who they are. Serious fans will try to pull out their comparison sheets as they wittingly analyze every move from the 42-year old veteran, but will eventually stop. Pulse is a far better album than Libra, her last musical entry, will ever be and it’s a comfortable return to her silky, sultry balladeer standards and less of the Britney Spears-meets-R&B drudge of being classified a dancefloor diva. If all works out well, which we all are banking for, Pulse will be Braxton’s lifeline to the top of the pop and R&B charts.




  • Release Date: May 4, 2010
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Producers: DJ Frank E, Lucas Secon, Warren “Oak” Felder, Harvey Mason, Jr., Chuck Harmony, Troy Taylor, David Foster, Dapo Tomirimo, Steve Mac
  • Track Favs: Yesterday, Hero, Make My Heart, Wardrobe

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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