One time 80s pop sensation Toni Braxton has returned with her ninth studio album; and that’s not including her early work alongside her siblings in group The Braxtons. Sex & Cigarettes comes after a number of health based issues for the singer, who is refusing to let such features weaken any part of her public persona.
There is a distinct 90s feel to opener Deadwood. Braxton’s voice is a soulful as it ever was, cementing her status as R&B royalty. Even though Braxton found herself at a point where she was down, her lament of not being fully out of the game are testament to her immense personal strength and ability to benefit from challenges thrown her way.
The eponymous track is a mature questioning of an unfaithful lover, that ever fateful question of whether to stay or go. Pianos spike up the song, for Braxton’s voice to deliver the knockout point scoring technique. Self-doubt has probably never sounded this smooth before – anxiety hidden behind elegant string arrangements that frame the brutally honest emotion that underpins the entire track.
FOH takes a little more time to settle in and amongst the rest of the album, as there is a distinct Disney musical feel to it thanks to sparkling sound effects alongside slightly animated sadness. Braxton brings in the inimitable Colbie Caillat to join her on My Heart, whose Spanish guitar and drawn out lament present us with a more Balearic suited sound.
There is a lack of percussion across this record as a whole, which could have been utilised for bigger builds and punches in the many already decent sounding choruses. There is a full sound throughout this album, but by adding that extra oomph, Toni Braxton could have been sitting on something slightly more special.
Toni Braxton has gone through many trials and tribulation in her life, but Sex & Cigarettes is something she can proud of for certain. Her voice delivers consistently, With a smokey style that continues the great tradition of 90s R&B, Toni Braxton is showing the young ones how to effectively use past events in order to power a performance.