Ms. Braxton's Opus: 'Secrets' may disappoint listeners: Fusion of spiritual and pop, 'Secrets' is a slower release for the R&B singer, lacks pizazz of debut

by Michael A> Posey | 8/12/96 5:00am

After a brief hiatus, R&B phenom Toni Braxton returns to the music scene with a work that improves upon her debut and gives new insight into the saucy R&B songstress.

A dizzily rich, witty and satisfying release, "Secrets" is filled with the fodder which made Braxton's debut so popular -- an album equal parts heartache, independence, and fun.

Braxton's self-titled debut saturated radio stations everywhere. Her simple yet powerful lyrics coupled with her rich honeyed voice catapulted the singer to instant stardom.

Fans may remember the R&B anthem "Love Should Have Brought You Home Last Night" or "Seven Whole Days" where Braxton exclaims "Seven whole days and I'm away from you/ Seven whole nights, don't know what to do/ Can't take it this minute/ Can't take it no more/ I got to get a hold of you."

However, "Secrets" remains very different from Braxton's debut. The most apparent element missing from this release is simply: pizazz.

Some of the selections on the track are painfully slow. After a while one questions why Braxton does not just buy a dog to provide her with companionship, because all her man does is break her heart and talk in his sleep about other women.

"Come on Over Here," the first song on the album, is an irrestibly catchy track featuring Braxton's vocals over a thumping bass line. This upbeat, up-tempo selection is a rarity on Braxton's newest release. Most of the album with the exception of the first two tracks, highlight a more relaxed Toni.

"Come On Over Here" was written by Babyface protegee Tony Rich, the artist of this spring's successful "Nobody Knows" from his own compact disc, "Words."

Braxton's voice flows like maple syrup on "You're Making Me High," Braxton's next selection, and burns like old whiskey on "There's No Me Without You," the third cut from the album.

"You're Making Me High," a retro-synthed embellished ditty with vocals from Babyface and Chante Moore, lead Braxton's charge to the R&B throne.

"You're Making Me High," Braxton's latest release, has been very successful on the Billboard charts and with R&B fans. As the first release from the album, the selection has duped some record buyers into believing that "Secrets" is more of the same. However, there is nothing as face-paced or similar to the single's style.

This song highlights a more sensual Toni. She states, "I'll always think of you/ Inside of my private thoughts ... You know I want you so bad."

On "There's No Me Without You," Braxton drapes that voice around her listeners like a bearskin rug. The selection is a romantic paean to love.

"Un-break my Heart," is exquisitely crafted piece of pop heartache. Braxton slithers her way through this suave saccharine ballad asking her man to "undo the hurt that he left when he walked out of her life."

Other memorable tracks on the album include "Let It Flow," Braxton's contribution on the "Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack and "I Don't Want To," a medium-paced selection written by groovemeister, R. Kelly of "Keep It on the Down-Low" fame.

"I Love Me Some Him," written by Babyface is a nice hip-hop confection. Braxton croons "I love me some him ... Another man will never do."

Braxton's latest release comes during a period of dearth for the R&B industry.

While there have been several soundtrack compilations, there has been a lack of releases from top artists.

This release also precedes next week debut release of The Braxtons compact disc, "So Many Ways."

The Braxtons, will feature three of Toni's sisters, Tamar, Towanda and Trina.

The album, on the whole, shows a marked difference from Braxton's earlier success.

This albums improves upon its predecessor in that the album's star wattage is absolutely blinding, with contributions by Tony Rich, Chante Moore and R. Kelly of . However, all the glitzy names does not necessarily make a better product.

"Secrets" also challenges Braxton vocally. The lilting-vibrato filled selections included in such tracts as "How Could and Angel Break My Heart" and "Find Me a Man" highlight the soul-torn grief she demonstrates in her singing.

Unusually slow and often sluggish, the album may be a tough-sale for die-hard R&B fans.

Although a significant departure from her debut work, "Secrets" features Braxton doing what she does best -- crooning about love lost and won.

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