Favorites: Hurt You, Where Did We Go Wrong?, I Wish, I’d Rather Be Broke
Overall: Not as catchy or hard hitting as hoped, but still a great love/loss album
There are many dream-teams in R&B; there’s Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis with Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott & Timbaland with Aaliyah and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds with Toni Braxton. As seen on the WeTV reality series “Braxton Family Values,” Braxton became disillusioned with recording following her divorce from Mint Condition keyboardist Keri Lewis, and she considered retiring from music. Having been through the same situation, Edmonds convinced Braxton to do otherwise, offering to help her put her emotions to song. From that heart-to-heart, “Love, Marriage & Divorce” was born. After over 10 years of not working together in the studio, the dynamic duo was finally doing a collaborative album and it had this amazing back-story. So, was it the earth-shaking, R&B taste of heaven we all fantasized it would be? Maybe not, but I still truly enjoyed it.
There’s nothing horrible about this album; I didn’t overwhelmingly hate or dislike anything. The theme was stuck to and the lyrics are relatable, heartfelt and bluntly candid in places (ex. on “I Wish:” ‘I hope you’re unhappy. I hope she gives you a disease…not enough to make you die, but only make you cry like you did to me…I hope your new baby is a boy, please don’t have a girl because you’ll give that woman the world’). There’s a generic instance or two in the content, but nothing obstructing. The problem for “Love, Marriage & Divorce” is that it’s far too relaxed. There are no sweeping or swinging melodies, no big vocal moments and few parts that are particularly “catchy.” You have to listen to the tracks several times before they glue to you, like “Roller Coaster,” poorly chosen for the album’s opening. The island-flavored “Sweat,” “Take it Back” and “Let’s Do it” show that ‘tranquil’ was the intended feel for the record, but a little ‘dramatically sad’ would’ve helped make things more biting overall. Despite the absence of a “Love Should’ve Brought You Home” or “How Could an Angel Break My Heart,” the album still has a very listenable quality, especially if you’re in a quiet mood or at a challenging point in your love life. I had recent fight with my significant other and I went straight to it on my IPod. It did the trick. For me, I got through the 1st half of the album without wanting to skip tracks. In the 2nd part, I was most attracted to “I’d Rather Be Broke;” maybe the Babyface-Braxton magic works best when Babyface is just the writer and producer, because some of the best tracks are those with Toni alone on vocal (“I Wish,” “Broke”). In the end, I was glad for 3 things: 1) That they finally did a duet album, 2) Toni didn’t quit the business and 3) I bought this album.