Toni Braxton & Babyface: Love, Marriage & Divorce

Posted February 10, 2014 by in r&b



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , ,
Genre: R&B, soul
Producer: Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Antonio Dixon, The Rascals
Label: Motown
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 43:36
Release Date: 4 February 2013
Spin This: "Roller Coaster," "I Hope That You're Okay," "Hurt You"


Babyface's best album in years; a minor comeback for both Braxton and Edmonds. Good production, memorable R&B cuts and an interesting record about the dynamics of love/hate relationships


Lyrical definition isn't as strong as former Babyface/Daryl Simmons hits; "Heart Attack" sounds out of place on ballad-driven disc

Two R&B stars work together on disc about love and peculiar heartbreak

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Two R&B stars work together on disc about love and peculiar heartbreak

Like Phyllis Hyman, Toni Braxton’s voice was made for songs about heartbreak. She hits notes lower than most modern R&B singers and moans like Anita Baker on soupy ballads. And it’s that connection that one gathers when thinking of Braxton’s winningest singles: “Another Sad Love Song,” “Un-break My Heart.” Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, her longtime producer during the LaFace era, knows a thing or two about heartbreak, with a bitter divorce from film producer Tracy Edmonds that rocked the front pages of tabloid papers. He also realizes that Braxton’s instrument (and to a certain degree, his own) deserves to turn tales of scorn and failures into art. On the ballad-focused Love, Marriage & Divorce, the two pair up on a glorious suite of “break up to make up” adventures dipped in the sophistication of ‘90’s soul and modern-day Ne-Yo admissions (Of the eleven tracks offered, eight of them are duets).

Even though the Jamiroquai-esque disco grooves on “Heart Attack” give off the perception of good times, much of the disc focuses on the drama of a tattered relationship. The radio-ready “Roller Coaster” is marvelously scored and embellishes every single dip and curve that flows from their pipes. And like the song advertises, its lyrics offer up a condensed presentation of back-and-forth frustration: “But I need you, but damn you/Back and forth, and back/What should we do?” The pain continues on “Hurt You” where Babyface opens up the half piano/half synth midtempo track by saying “Damn, here we go again/Loving you has caused me so much pain, but you don’t see it.” It’s that kind of a party here as the pair fight inside a tunnel of love using the physics of a schizoid. But not everything is manic and implodes angrily. Babyface’s strongest solo offering, “I Hope That You’re Okay,” mimics the drum beats of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” while showing a bit of modest compassion in the midst of doom and gloom: “We can work it out and go our separate ways/I just hope that you’re okay.” “Take It Back” showers down drops of optimism, while reminding listeners of the melodic expressions used on Babyface’s 1988 old-school gem “Two Occasions.” But it doesn’t take much long for the bitterness of divorce to rear its ugly head. On “I Wish,” Braxton combats Babyface as he moves on with another lover. It sounds like an angelic lullaby, but cringes with a taste of revenge (“I hope, I hope she gives you a disease/So that you will see/But not enough to make you die”).  “The D Word” exposes a few regrets in the stratosphere of breakup (“Although we’re apart/You still own my heart”), but exposes that divorce is what’s best for the singing duo.

As Love, Marriage & Divorce works as a concept album of some sorts and attempts to give you a Best of Both Worlds motif for those hungry, it may have been better if Chante Moore and Kenny Lattimore had been giving this project – especially since Braxton and Edmonds were never married. But it’s best to summarize the album as both of their best works in years. Their voices blend well together and the music is more interesting the acoustic renderings of ‘Face’s ‘90’s output and far more valuable than the content heard on Pulse, Braxton’s 2010 disc. Despite being suppressed with emotionally-drenched ballads and not always bearing the best in lyrical definition, Love, Marriage & Divorce serves as Babyface’s best album in ages. It may not be enough to usher Braxton out of the financial drought and bankruptcy battles that loom over her. And it may never really heal the wound that Edmonds gained from his real-life divorce, but it’s a disc that will certainly be met with open arms from those that value their artistry and the good it brings to contemporary r&b.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


Please support HIFI Magazine
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better