10 November 2005

toni braxton - "love shoulda brought you home" (from the ultimate toni braxton lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : uptown soul from the turn of the 90's, w/ an opening to set the night aflame and a vocal to stoke the fire.

"love shoulda brought you home" has one of the most amazing openings of any pop records i've heard in the last twenty years. that piano glissando is like the sound of a city skyline lighting up, a concatenation of incandescence. the rest of it--the piano vamping, the backing vocals, the strings--reminds me of nothing so much as the four tops' "baby i need your lovin'," the feeling it gives off of something beginning.

what was beginning, exactly, was the career of toni braxton. right, the anita baker comparisons--click the link and you'll see even amazon implies them, by linking this album w/ the best of anita baker. not entirely w/o merit, but, w/ all due respect to anita (and that's a lot of respect), i've never heard her this fiery. what's most amazing about the performance is how toni is able to display two seemingly contradictory emotions: giddiness and indignation. the indignation is in the lyric, it's there in the growls; the giddiness comes through in the gusto w/ which she takes to the song, as if she too senses that this is her big break.

what it signalled the end of was exactly this kind of song and songwriting thriving anywhere except on adult contemporary. it's jazzy, it has a bridge, it's organic--it's like v. little you'll hear on radio today, period. (an aside : does anyone know what daryl simmons did exactly?) this is one of babyface's best songs, and one is left to wonder if he took it too far, if he overreached and, for corrective measures, urban radio went all the way to the other direction. what that opening also inspires is optimism, and hope that this kind of music, this marriage of performer and song, perhaps learning a lesson from the music that's thrived while it's been in the wilderness, will thrive once more.

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