Toni Braxton

  • R&B singer and songwriter born in 1967 from Severn Maryland.
  • Braxton’s father was a minister and her mother had training as an opera vocalist. Her mother encouraged her to sing, and she performed with her sisters at church. Initially, only gospel music was permitted at home, though Braxton would watch Soul Train on television if her parents were not home. As she grew older, secular music was permitted, and Braxton developed her vocal style. She had some success at local talent shows, and she enrolled in college to become a music teacher. In 1989, a songwriter and producer who worked at a gas station recognized her while she was pumping gas, and he asked if he could produce for her. She was skeptical, but she decided to accept, leaving college to pursue a music career.
  • The producer managed to get Toni and her four sisters signed to a recording contract, performing as The Braxtons. Their first single was released in 1990, titled Good Life. The single was not successful, but it caught the attention of R&B producers L.A. Reid and Babyface. The producers had just created a record label, and Braxton was their first female artist signed. She recorded the song Love Shoulda Brought You Home, written by Babyface and others for the Eddie Murphy 1992 film Boomerang. Another song for the film, Give U My Heart, was recorded by Babyface and featured Braxton as a duet. Love Shoulda Brought You Home reached #4 on the R&B chart, while Give U My Heart reached #2.
  • Braxton’s debut album, the self-titled Toni Braxton, was released in 1993. Under the production guidance of Babyface and L.A. Reid, the album was a smash success. It topped the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified 8x platinum, with global sales of over 12 million copies. Three singles reached the top 10 on the Hot 100 chart – Another Sad Love Song, Breathe Again and You Mean the World To Me – each of which reached #1 on the Adult R&B Songs chart. Braxton won three Grammy awards with the album – Best New Artist in 1994, and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1994 and 1995 for Another Sad Love Song and Breathe Again respectively.
  • Her second album was an even bigger success. Secrets was released in 1996, certified 8x platinum and with global sales of over 15 million copies. Two songs were #1 on the Hot 100 chart – You’re Making Me High and her signature hit, Un-Break My Heart. She won two more Grammy awards for each of the songs. Un-Break My Heart remained at #1 for 11 weeks, and it was the fourth most popular song for the entire decade of the 90s. In 2018, in the 60 year history of the Billboard 100 chart, it was ranked the #15 song of all time.
  • Unhappy with the terms of her contract with her label, she sued in 1997 to terminate the deal, and the label countersued. While the legal issues were negotiated, she performed on Broadway as Belle in the musical Beauty and the Beast. Finally, the dispute was settled in early 1999, with Braxton remaining with the label under much more lucrative terms. In 2000, her third studio album was released – The Heat. While not the blockbuster of her earlier albums, it sold well, reaching #2 on the album chart and receiving a certification of 2x platinum. The single He Wasn’t Man Enough peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot R&B Songs chart. Braxton won her sixth Grammy award for the song.
  • Her 2002 album More Than A Woman was a commercial disappointment, compounded by the fact that she could not effectively promote the album while she was pregnant. She requested her label to delay the release until after the birth of her child, but the label refused. Soon after its release, she left the label and signed with a new label that her manager created. In 2005, her album Libra was released. It was just as disappointing as her previous album, and by 2007, she was back in court with a lawsuit against her now-former manager.
  • After resolution of her legal issues, she released four albums from 2010 to 2020. All sold modestly, with several songs charting on various R&B charts, including #1 songs on the Adult R&B Songs chart for Hurt You in 2013, Long As I Live in 2018, Do It in 2020 and Gotta Move On in 2020. Her 2015 album Love, Marriage & Divorce, a collaborative album with Babyface, won a Grammy for Best R&B Album in 2015 – Braxton’s seventh Grammy award.
  • In addition to her singing career, Braxton performed in several films, and her reality television series with her sisters, Braxton Family Values, ran for seven seasons on WE tv from 2011 – 2020. She also returned to Broadway in 2003 (Aida) and 2014 (After Midnight), and she published a memoir about her life. She had a Las Vegas residency from 2006 to 2008.
  • Braxton’s 70+ million records sold worldwide make her one of the best selling women R&B artists ever. Her husky contralto voice together with her ability to hit the high notes gives her a sultry sound that is classic R&B. Here’s the video for her signature song Un-Break My Heart – a song that Braxton initially hated, saying that she didn’t want to do another “heartbreak track.”

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