From a distance, it looks like Toni Braxton and Babyface -together they have sixteen Grammy Awards- didn’t need to make this album. Yes, they both have been in love, married and then divorced,1 but from the album and song titles, it doesn’t seem they have anything new to offer. And the truth is: they don’t. But in a time where R&B is changing and directions are shifting with artists as Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, a classic R&B album might be exactly what we need. And Love, Marriage & Divorce delivers eleven tracks of sweet, old-school R&B.2
The record starts with Roller Coaster, a track that’s typical of what’s to come. It’s as smooth as you’d expect from a Babyface production. The composition is extremely easy on the ear, but the lyrics are uninspired. Lines like “Love is like a roller coaster / always up and down / When love takes over, your emotions spin you round and round” are among the worst of the year. The divorce-part of the album seems to fit Braxton and Babyface best. Where Did We Go Wrong and I Hope That You’re Okay are two of the better songs the duo has recorded. Both are soulful tracks with an adult view on a relationships-gone-wrong and the sultry voice of Toni and the soothing sounds of Babyface complement each other perfectly. Or as Toni Braxton puts it: “I think because Babyface and I have both gone through divorces, we can relate and we can collaborate together on this topic and make it so others who have gone through this situation can relate.” The album just sails on, like driving a convertible on cruise control down an empty street. Only Heart Attack, a track with a
modern electronic sound, is one big pothole in an otherwise smooth road.
Love, Marriage & Divorce is full of pretty music, but nowhere near groundbreaking or raising the bar. And I don’t think that’s what Braxton and Babyface had in mind when recording this album. My guess is they wanted to bring the soulful R&B of the late-eighties and early-nineties back, and if that was the goal, they succeeded.
- To be clear: not with each other, as far as we know. Babyface is actually planning to be married again. ↩
- Tank doesn’t agree with me on this one. He feels like traditional R&B artists, like himself, need to catch up with the Timberlake’s and Robin Thicke’s of this world. If you’ve listened to their latest albums –The 20/20 Experience Part II and Blurred Lines respectively- you know Tank is out of his mind. ↩