Album Reviews

Album Review: Toni Braxton - Spell My Name (Island)

Reuben Raj

Multi-Award winning R&B singer-songwriter Toni Braxton debuts on Island Records with her tenth studio album, Spell My Name. The new album follows the Grammy-nominated Sex & Cigarettes in 2018 with Def Jam Recordings.

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Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton possesses one of the finest voices in contemporary R&B. Her singles “Another Sad Love Song” (1992), “Un-Break My Heart” (1996), “Where Did We Go Wrong?” (2014) and more will always have a place on the airwaves to soothe broken hearts and pave the way for love between the sheets. But, Spell My Name woefully falls short… way short when compared with Braxton’s past body of work.

Braxton literally invites the listener to “Dance” at the start of the album. It’s a catchy disco-infused track with repetitive and unremarkable lyrics. I found out just the other day/That you were giving it away… You told me that you'd never hurt me/Made me believe I was your only… And I just wanna dance the love away (repeat 10+ times). But at least, one hears a horn section and funky bass riffs to foretell better things to come?


Toni Braxton and Babyface

But, It does not get better with the album’s second track, “Do It” co-written with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

A Braxton-Babyface collaboration has typically furnished many memorable R&B hits like "You're Makin' Me High" (1996), “And I Love You” (2002) “Hurt You” (2014), but the union in “Do It” with Missy Elliot is just plain uninteresting. It is such a sheer waste to have the rap icon whooping in the background and backing Braxton with an unstirring delivery. And what’s with the tired and overused DJ siren Fx throughout the song?! Thankfully, the ‘bonus’ Babyface track “Nothin” with a mournful blues solo offers some redemption… just some.

The title track literally includes the spelling of Braxton’s name - really?! This might have been saved with a profound sax solo or a blues guitar riff but it appears that even producer and Braxton's long time collaborator Antonio Dixon has either lost interest or just playing it safe.

So tell me, would it burn (So tell me, would it burn?)/Baby, if the tables turned? (If the tables will turn)/Pardon, if the tables turned/Tell me, could you handle it?/I know you couldn’t… I just gotta move on.
“Gotta Move On” featuring H.E.R holds some promise. But this writer wonders otherwise when the rock guitar solo mid-track becomes the best part of the whole song.

Many songs fall into the same vein… “O.V.E.Rr.”, “Happy Without Me”, “Saturday Night” with the same banal piano accompaniment all blend into one un-noteworthy blur.

Oh Toni, have you run out of Secrets to sing about?

Spell My Name is a mediocre and lacklustre affair with nine uninspired and unimaginative songs that last a total of thirty-five minutes.

Can someone play "Spanish Guitar" so I can "Breathe Again" and remember the Toni Braxton that once was?

Thank you. 

Click here to stream or buy
Released: 28 Aug 2020

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert or wandering the streets of China with a blond, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records and his Hasselblad SW/C from 1965. He is also the founder of Radio 13.