Every gifted female R&B singer eventually finds herself compared with those who came before her. It seems that critics and fans alike are always on the lookout for the next Aretha or Chaka. Toni Braxton, who makes her solo debut on this album, is not the next anyone. Her voice—so strong and emotional—is unique enough to make her the model to match in years to come.
Braxton first sparked attention last December on the movie soundtrack of Eddie Murphy's Boomerang, where producers LA and Babyface (who wrote and produced most of this album as well) gave her the triumphant "Love Should Have Brought You Home," which is reprised here. Melancholy is Braxton's forte. Listen to the coiling, almost eerie intro to the lead single, "Another Sad Love Song," bolstered by her full-throated alto, or the haunting "Breathe Again." The quaver in her voice says more about love's promise and deceit than many singers manage in a career.
Braxton can work it up-tempo too. "I Belong to You" is a rousing pledge of devotion a la the Emotions' "Best of My Love." At limes, when Braxton slides into her lower register she echoes Anita Baker, and when she skips around the higher notes there's also a hint of Whitney Houston. The influences are there, but Toni Braxton is most definitely her own woman. On this sophisticated, stylish and soulful album, she slates her case. (LaFace/ Arista)