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July 28 - August 4, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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*** Toni Braxton



No longer arranged (but still produced) by Babyface, who wrote her hits "Unbreak My Heart" and "Never Breathe Again," Toni Braxton presents a younger, less pre-packaged version of her romantic self on The Heat. By drawing her lyrics and melodies from other sources, she frees her voice from over-reliance on showy drama as well as from the breathless characterizations imposed on her by the success of "Never Breathe Again." Here is a younger ("Gimme Some"), flirtier ("He Wasn't Man Enough"), more plaintive ("Spanish Guitar," "I'm Still Breathing"), quietly consoling ("Speaking in Tongues," an Isleys-like ballad) Braxton. Acoustic-guitar accompaniment in "Fairy Tale" and (of course) "Spanish Guitar" allows her to sing softly and delicately as she addresses her lover. A different kind of surprise is "The Art of Love," in which Braxton breathes sultry à la Donna Summer over a track drawn directly from Kool & the Gang's 1975 spaced-out "Summer Love." You can definitely hear (and almost taste) the mischievous grin in her voice as she whispers sweaty sex into the music's wisps.

-- Michael Freedberg
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