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Braxton, Toni

Toni Braxton

Singer

Decided to Become a Singer

Had Immediate Hit with Toni Braxton,

Struggled Financially

Signed New Deal with LaFace Records

Selected discography

Sources

Toni Braxton’s first effort at recording picked up where a generation of R&B divas had left off years before—launching her into instant stardom. Showcasing a rich contralto much lauded by critics, the Maryland native’s 1993 debut, Toni Braxton, won several industry awards and made her a household name almost overnight. One key to Braxton’s success was the faith a famed team of producers known for their hitmaking abilities had placed in her talents. Her collaboration under the wings of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid was a virtual assurance that her debut album, Toni Braxton, would go gold; it reached multiplatinum instead. In later years, her personal adversity provided fodder for the tabloids, but her subsequent triumph over financial and legal difficulties allowed her to regain her position as one of pop music’s reigning stars.

Braxton grew up in Severn, Maryland, in a relatively prosperous household. Her father worked for a utility company, but was also a minister and deeply religious man. Braxton and her younger siblings—four sisters and a brother—were members of a number of faiths during their childhood as the Braxton parents searched for a harmonious spiritual fit. For a long stretch of her childhood, the Braxton family belonged to the Apostolic Church, a strict creed that dictated dresses for all female believers and no secular music. Braxton’s mother, however, was an amateur opera singer, and gave her daughters singing lessons that they put to use in their father’s church choir. Braxton also studied piano and composed her own songs.

Decided to Become a Singer

When Braxton entered her teen years, the family became adherents of the United Methodist Church, a less conservative faith, and her father rescinded some of the strict rules. She was finally allowed to buy her first pair of pants—some Levi’s—in the eighth grade, and she could listen to non-religious music such as Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder, two particular favorites. (She still had to sneak out of the house to watch Soul Train, though.) By the time she entered high school, Braxton had made up her mind she wanted to become a singer—a decision, she has admitted, that was partly the result of attending predominantly white schools much of her life. “I always wanted to fit in, but they [classmates] never accepted me,” Braxton told Joy Duckett Cain in Essence. “So I said, ‘One day, I’ll show them.’”

When she was still a teenager, Braxton talked her parents into letting her sing in a band, but one late-night performance caused her to come home past her curfew and she was forced to quit. After graduation from high school, Braxton enrolled in community college, then business school, and also worked as a secretary and court reporter. She decided on a back-up career as a music teacher, but had also formed a

For the Record…

Born Toni Michele Braxton on October 7, 1968, in Severn, MD; daughter of Michael (a utility company employee and minister) and Evelyn (a cosmetology instructor) Braxton; married Keri Lewis (a musician); children: Denim Kole, Diezel Ky. Education: Attended community college, business school, and Bowie State University.

Sang with her four sisters in a group called the Braxtons as the choir for her father’s church; the Braxtons recorded a single “The Good Life” for Arista Records, 1990; offered a solo contract by Atlanta-based LaFace Records, 1991; worked on Boomerang, the Eddie Murphy movie soundtrack, 1992; “Give U My Heart” and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” from Boomerang became hit singles; multiplatinum debut album Toni Braxton released, 1993; sang on soundtrack album Waiting to Exhale, 1995; released Secrets, 1996; Heat, 2000; More Than a Woman, 2002; title role in Broadway play Aida, 2003.

Awards: Grammy Awards, Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Another Sad Love Song,” 1993; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Breathe Again,” 1994; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “You’re Makin’ Me High,” Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Unbreak My Heart,” 1996; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” 2000; she has also been presented with an NAACP Image Award, several Soul Train Music Awards, and American Music Awards.

Addresses: Record company—Background Records, http://blackgroundrecords.com. Website—Toni Braxton Official Website: http://www.tonibraxton.com.

singing group with her sisters by the late 1980s. They entered talent contests and recorded one single, “The Good Life,” as The Braxtons, but, she told Ebony writer Muriel L. Whetstone, the sales were so abysmal that she was certain no one outside the Braxton family had bought it.

Nevertheless, “The Good Life” got the attention of the famed Atlanta producers/label executives Edmonds and Reid. Braxton’s voice lured them in particular, but they were wary of bringing another all-female group into the LaFace Records family since they had just signed TLC. (The Braxton sisters would later record their own album and serve as Braxton’s back-up singers on the road.) Signing just Toni Braxton in 1991, Edmonds—who performs under the name “Baby-face”—recorded a duet with her, “Give U My Heart,” for the soundtrack to the 1992 movie Boomerang; another Braxton single, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” also appeared on the release. The latter—a heartfelt admonishment to a straying man—had originally been offered to Anita Baker, who passed on it. Each song enjoyed success on the charts while Braxton was at work co-writing and recording several new songs with Edmonds and Reid for a full-length debut album of her own.

Had Immediate Hit with Toni Braxton,

The self-titled album, Toni Braxton, appeared in 1993, became an immediate hit, and would eventually sell over nine million copies. As Essence’s Gordon Chambers explained, at the time of Braxton’s debut, R&B and dance was dominated by “tough, sexed-up adolescence bubble-gum pop,” in dramatic contrast to the sound and sentiments that came out of Braxton. “Her bluesy, hard-hitting, timeless R&B ballads about lies, deceit, and love gone wrong hark back to Billie Holiday,” Chambers declared. Reviewing Toni Braxton for the Village Voice, James Hunter also found much to praise. “That Braxton doesn’t try to stretch her voice up toward the sacred jazz galaxies or demonstrate wild concert virtuosity on this debut doesn’t make her music seem more calculated or any less soulful,” Hunter opined. “It brings home the real.”

Braxton’s Grammy-winning record included several introspective, brooding cuts, such as “Another Sad Love Song”—which would win the 1993 Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance—and “Best Friend.” The latter track she wrote about a real-life experience that occurred a few years before when her best friend immediately took up with a recently-exited beau. Success was indeed the best revenge, and it was sweet. “After I released [it], I heard through acquaintances that this ex-boyfriend wanted publishing rights,” Braxton laughingly told Time writer Christopher John Farley.

“The things I sing about, women can identify with,” Braxton explained to the magazine. “Although they’re sad love songs, I always try to portray it like everything’s going to be O.K.; I’m still strong.” Furthermore, Braxton’s lush voice limits her, in a way, from taking on the typical lightweight pop songs. In discussing the fact that her music seemed rather atypical of the offerings from other young, attractive African-American female recording artists—with their thumpy beats and lyrics that often celebrate sex—Braxton explained to Linden in Essence, “My voice is a lot older than I am. So, even though I might have enjoyed doing one of those hip-hop songs, I don’t know if I could have, because of my mature sound.”

Such smart-girl vibes in Braxton’s music earned her legions of fans and made her a major star. With Secrets, released in the spring of 1996, Braxton took her time recording—“I can’t record in the morning because I sound like Barry White,” Braxton told Essence’s Cain—and she and the LaFace team came up with a decidedly new, more upbeat sound. Farley found the transition a successful one. “The rhythms are forceful, dynamic, danceable,” he wrote in Time. “These are the kinds of songs you can expect to hear booming out of car windows for the rest of the summer.” The album, which met all expectations, featured a Grammy Award-winning number one single, “You’re Makin’ Me High,” and earned a second Grammy for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance for the much played “Unbreak My Heart.” Additionally, the album won two American Music Awards for Braxton who also contributed a song to another hit soundtrack that year, Waiting to Exhale.

Struggled Financially

In the midst of all the success and recognition Braxton received in the first five years of her musical career, it came as a surprise that Braxton ended up filing for bankruptcy. In December of 1997, citing Section 2855 of the California Labor Code, a statute that limits the length of personal service contracts to seven years, Braxton filed suit against her record label, LaFace Records. Braxton claimed that her agreement with them had been invalid as of August of 1996. LaFace and Arista countersued in New York’s Supreme Court, alleging that Braxton had breached her contract. On January 23, 1998, in a Los Angeles court, Braxton filed for Chapter 7 protection.

According to Entertainment Weekly, in late December, Braxton was informed that what she thought was a $600,000 line of credit from the Republic Bank was already used to cover overdrafts. In January she learned that a concert in Europe the previous autumn had gone into the red and that she owed her business manager over $400,000; and that she was in debt several hundred thousand dollars to managers and lawyers who were no longer her employees. In all, her debts totaled approximately $2.8 million.

Some people blamed Braxton’s expensive taste and spendthrift ways for her financial problems. Braxton’s manager Barry Hankerson claimed that much of her personal money was consumed by expenses that should have been underwritten by her record company as marketing costs. All of her personal possessions had to be sold to pay off her creditors, even her prestigious awards. In the midst of her bankruptcy proceedings, Braxton was offered the role of “Belle” in Disney’s musical, Beauty and the Beast. She says she always wanted to act, and if the bankruptcy problem didn’t happen, she probably never would have started. She performed on Broadway in New York and flew back to Los Angeles for court appearances between performances. This was a difficult and stressful time for Braxton, but she was eventually able to buy back most of her valuable possessions and to retrieve her Grammys and her Soul Train awards.

Signed New Deal with LaFace Records

In 1999, Braxton signed a new $20 million recording contract with LaFace Records, and reached a settlement agreement regarding legal actions filled during her contract disputes with LaFace and Arista Records. The agreement dismisses the original suit that was filed by Braxton in December of 1997. Afterward, she said that her business strategy had changed. She now believes in herself and has taken control of her finances, a job she had entrusted to other people in the past. Two years after her bankruptcy problems, Braxton made a big comeback with the release of her third album, The Heat. The album, a mix of sultry love ballad and R&B dance tunes, went multiplatinum. During the bankruptcy process, her personal relationship with professional football player Curtis Martin ended, caused in part by the stress and strain of the bankruptcy. Her friend (and now husband), Keri Lewis, stuck by her side through the whole controversy. Braxton told People, “Keri saw the woman, he could see past the dollars and the bankruptcies and he believed in me.” The couple married in 2001, and gave birth to their first son, Denim Kole, the following April. A second son, Diezel Ky, followed in early 2003.

Braxton released her final album on Arista, More Than a Woman, in late 2002. The album was a relative commercial disappointment, failing to sell even 500,000 copies; her last album went multiplatinum. In a move that didn’t garner much press attention, Braxton left her longtime label Arista in early 2003. She returned to acting, this time taking the lead role in the Broadway play Aida. After her run with Aida finished, Braxton returned to the studio to work on her next album, scheduled for release on the Universal-distributed Blackground label. “I’m so happy right now,” Braxton told Jet magazine in September of 2003. “I don’t have to worry about contracts. I love what I do, I get my paycheck and I come home to my family. No worries!”

Selected discography

(Contributor) Boomerang (soundtrack), LaFace, 1992.

Toni Braxton, LaFace, 1993.

(Contributor) Waiting to Exhale (soundtrack), Arista, 1995.

Secrets, LaFace, 1996.

Snowflakes, Arista, 2001.

The Heat, LaFace, 2000.

More Than a Woman, Arista, 2002.

Sources

Ebony, May 1994, p. 134; April 2002, p. 44.

Essence, December 1992, p. 50; April 1994, p. 60; May 1996, p. 94.

Jet, December 2, 2002, p. 58; April 21, 2003, p. 34; September 15, 2003, p. 56.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 25, 2003.

People, August 23, 1993, p. 19; May 7, 2001, p. 124.

Rolling Stone, December 26, 1996, p. 190.

Time, July 15, 1996, p. 67.

Village Voice, August 24, 1993, p. 80; September 17, 1996, p. 60.

Carol Brennan

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Braxton, Toni

Braxton, Toni

1968—

Singer

Toni Braxton's distinctive voice has made her an enduring figure in popular music since her big break. Braxton's first effort at recording solo picked up where a generation of R&B divas had left off years before—launching her into instant stardom in 1993. Showcasing a rich contralto much lauded by critics, the Maryland native's namesake debut solo album, Toni Braxton, won several industry awards and made her a household name almost overnight. One key to Braxton's success was the faith a famed producer team known for their hit-making abilities had placed in her talents. Her collaboration under the wings of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid was a virtual assurance that her debut album, Toni Braxton, would go gold; it reached platinum instead. Critics deemed the singer the next Anita Baker or Whitney Houston, but Braxton, the daughter of a minister, dismissed the comparison. "I'm just a new singer who has been blessed to work with renowned producers," Braxton told Amy Linden in Essence in 1993 as her star began to rise. And rise it did; by 1996 Braxton had become the second female artist to win Grammy Awards for both Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Performance in the same year. Surviving a few career pitfalls, Braxton enjoyed continued success a decade later as she began to collect career achievements awards.

Sang from Young Age

Braxton was born on October 7, 1968, in Severn, Maryland, and grew up in a relatively prosperous household. Her father worked for a utility company, but was also a minister and deeply religious man; Braxton and her younger siblings—four sisters and a brother—belonged to several faiths during their childhood as the Braxton parents searched for a harmonious spiritual fit. For a long stretch of her childhood, the Braxton family belonged to the Apostolic Church, a strict creed that dictated the wearing of dresses for all female believers and forbid secular music. Braxton's mother, however, was an amateur opera singer and gave her daughters singing lessons that they put to use in their father's church choir. Braxton also studied piano and composed her own songs.

When Braxton entered her teen years, the family became adherents of the United Methodist Church, a less conservative faith, and her father rescinded some of the strict rules. She was finally allowed to buy her first pair of pants—some Levi's—in the eighth grade, and she could listen to non-religious music such as Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder, two particular favorites. (She still had to sneak out of the house to watch Soul Train, though.) By the time she entered high school, Braxton had made up her mind that she wanted to become a singer—a decision, she has admitted, that was partly the result of attending predominantly white schools much of her life. "I always wanted to fit in, but they [classmates] never accepted me," Braxton told Joy Duckett Cain in Essence. "So I said, ‘One day, I'll show them.’"

While still a teen, Braxton talked her parents into letting her sing in a band, but one late-night performance caused her to come home past her curfew and she was forced to quit. After graduation from high school, Braxton enrolled in community college, then business school, and also worked as a secretary and court reporter. She decided on a back-up career as a music teacher, but had also formed a singing group with her sisters by the late 1980s. They entered talent contests and recorded one single, "The Good Life," as The Braxtons for Arista Records, she told Ebony writer Muriel L. Whetstone. The sales were so abysmal that she was certain no one outside the Braxton family had bought it.

Found Success as Solo Artist

Nevertheless, "The Good Life" got the attention of the famed Atlanta producers/label executives Edmonds and Reid. Braxton's voice lured them in particular, but they were wary of bringing another all-female group into the LaFace Records family since they had just signed TLC. (The Braxton sisters would later record their own album and serve as Braxton's back-up singers on the road.) Signing just Braxton in 1991, Edmonds—who performs under the name "Babyface"—recorded a duet with her, "Give U My Heart," for the soundtrack to the 1992 movie Boomerang; another Braxton single, "Love Shoulda Brought You Home," also appeared on the release. The latter—a heartfelt admonishment to a straying man—had originally been offered to Anita Baker, who passed on it. Each song enjoyed success on the charts while Braxton was at work co-writing and recording several new songs with Edmonds and Reid for a full-length debut album of her own.

The self-titled album, Toni Braxton, appeared in 1993, became an immediate hit, and would eventually sell over nine million copies. As Essence's Gordon Chambers explained, at the time of Braxton's debut, R&B and dance was dominated by "tough, sexed-up… adolescence bubble-gum pop," in dramatic contrast to the sound and sentiments that came out of Braxton. "Her bluesy, hard-hitting, timeless R&B ballads about lies, deceit, and love gone wrong hark back to Billie Holiday," Chambers said. Reviewing Toni Braxton for the Village Voice, James Hunter also found much to praise. "That Braxton doesn't try to stretch her voice up toward the sacred jazz galaxies or demonstrate wild concert virtuosity on this debut doesn't make her music seem more calculated or any less soulful," Hunter said. "It brings home the real."

Braxton's Grammy-winning record included several introspective, brooding cuts, such as "Another Sad Love Song"—which would win the 1993 Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance—and "Best Friend." The latter track she wrote about a real-life experience that occurred a few years before when her best friend immediately took up with a recently exited beau. Success was indeed the best revenge, and it was indeed sweet. "After I released [it], I heard through acquaintances that this ex-boyfriend wanted publishing rights," Braxton laughingly told Time writer Christopher John Farley.

"The things I sing about, women can identify with," Braxton explained to the magazine. "Although they're sad love songs, I always try to portray it like everything's going to be OK; I'm still strong." Furthermore, Braxton's lush voice limits her, in a way, from taking on the typical lightweight pop songs. In discussing the fact that her music seemed rather atypical of the offerings from other young, attractive African-American female recording artists—with their thumpy beats and lyrics that often celebrate sex—Braxton told Linden in Essence, "My voice is a lot older than I am. So, even though I might have enjoyed doing one of those hip-hop songs, I don't know if I could have, because of my mature sound."

At a Glance …

Born October 7, 1968, in Severn, MD; daughter of Michael (a utility company employee and minister) and Evelyn (a cosmetology instructor) Braxton. Married Keri Lewis (a musician), 2001; children: Denim Kole, Diezel Ky. Education: Attended community college, business school, and Bowie State University.

Career:

Secretary and court reporter; recording artist, 1991-.

Awards:

Two Grammy Awards, 1993, for Best New Artist and for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; Grammy Award, 1994, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; Two Grammy Awards, 1996, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Best Female Pop Vocal Performance; Grammy Award, 2000, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; Aretha Franklin Soul Train Award, 2000, for career achievement; numerous Soul Train Music Awards and American Music Awards.

Addresses:

Web— www.tonibraxton.com.

Such smart-girl vibes in Braxton's music earned her legions of fans and made her a major star. With Secrets, released in the spring of 1996, Braxton took her time recording—"I can't record in the morning because I sound like Barry White," Braxton told Essence's Cain—and she and the LaFace team came up with a decidedly new, more upbeat sound. Farley found the transition a successful one. "The rhythms are forceful, dynamic, danceable," he wrote in Time. "These are the kinds of songs you can expect to hear booming out of car windows for the rest of the summer." The album, which met all expectations, featured a Grammy Award-winning number one single, "You're Making Me High," and earned a second Grammy for best pop female vocal performance for the much played "Unbreak My Heart." Braxton was the second female artist to win both of these Grammys in a single year. Additionally, the album won two American Music Awards for Braxton who also contributed a song to another hit soundtrack that year, Waiting to Exhale.

Career Sidetrack Opened Other Opportunities

Braxton's success was tainted by financial woes. She had signed a disadvantageous contract with LaFace Records that limited her royalties to about 35 cents per album sold, according to the Seattle Times. She was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1998. After a legal battle with LaFace Records, Braxton bounced back to continue her recording career with a new contract that put her on a firmer financial footing.

During the legal proceedings, Braxton took a respite from the recording studio to appear on Broadway in the lead role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast. "I always wanted to act," Braxton related to the Voice, "and if the bankruptcy thing hadn't happened, I wouldn't have started acting." Impressed with Braxton's performance on stage, New York Amsterdam contributor Vinette K. Pryce wrote that acting "may be her second calling."

The songstress returned at the start of the millennium with a new album, Heat, in 2000. The album, like her earlier work, was an instant success, earning two American Music Awards and the chanteuse a Grammy for best female R&B performance for "He Wasn't Man Enough."

Braxton married Keri Lewis, the keyboardist for the group Mint Condition, on April 21, 2001. The couple's first of two children was also born that year. Yet her growing family did not distract Braxton from her career. Braxton appeared in her first feature film, Kingdom Come, a comedy with Whoopi Goldberg, in 2001. Her performance won her a BET Black Oscar. Braxton also kept recording, collaborating with her husband on the production of her first Christmas album. Snowflakes, released in 2001, enjoyed critical praise and popular appeal. In his review of Snowflakes for the Afro-American Red Star, Wayman Coleman complimented Braxton's renditions of Christmas classics as well as the original tracks on the album. He called her "a voice of the present and a voice of the future." Braxton released another new album, More than a Woman, in 2002.

Not long after the birth of her second child, Braxton returned to Broadway to star in Aida in 2003. Elton John, who wrote the music for the production, predicted to the New York Beacon that Braxton would be "amazing" as Aida, adding ""Toni Braxton has one of the best voices anywhere. It's a voice I've fallen in love with ever since her first album." Her performance delighted audiences, but was cut short by a heart ailment that interrupted her schedule for nearly three years.

Fully recovered in 2005, Braxton resumed her career full force. She released a new album, Libra, in 2005, and launched her first tour in ten years. The Trumpet Awards Foundation praised the album as "a glowing testament to Toni Braxton's status as one of the decade's most vibrant, exciting, young artists." Braxton's status as an international superstar was confirmed further when she performed the official song of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, "The Time of Our Lives," with Il Divo. She then became a headliner at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Not yet 40 years old, Braxton had enough winning material to release The Essential Toni Braxton, a two CD commemorative album of her recording career at Artista and LaFace. Her career success was honored with a Trumpet Award in 2007. Trumpet Awards Foundation founder and chairperson, Xernona Clayton, praised Braxton for her tenacity, saying, according to the New York Beacon: "In spite of the odds, the pitfalls and her dark days, Toni Braxton not only survived but was also able to overcome the adversities. Her story is one to share and one that will surely inspire others." Braxton herself seemed newly inspired and headed toward an even longer future in the music industry.

Selected works

Albums

Toni Braxton, LaFace, 1993.

Secrets, LaFace, 1996.

Heat, LaFace, 2000.

Snowflakes, BMG Special Products, 2001.

More Than a Woman, Arista, 2002.

Ultimate Toni Braxton, LaFace, 2003.

Platinum & Gold Collection, LaFace, 2004.

Libra, Blackground Records/Universal, 2005.

The Essential Toni Braxton, LaFace/Legacy, 2007.

Plays

Beauty and the Beast, Broadway, 1998.

Aida, Broadway, 2003.

Sources

Periodicals

Afro-American Red Star, January 4, 2002, p. B10.

Ebony, May 1994, p. 134.

Essence, December 1992, p. 50; April 1994, p. 60; May 1996, p. 94.

New York Amsterdam News, October 18, 1998, p. 21.

New York Beacon, July 23, 2003, p. 24; October 6-October 12, 2005, p. 24; February 15-February 21, 2007, p. 29.

People, August 23, 1993, p. 19.

Rolling Stone, December 26, 1996, p. 190.

Seattle Times, February 26, 2002, p. E4.

Time, July 15, 1996, p. 67.

Village Voice, August 24, 1993, p. 80; September 17, 1996, p. 60.

Voice, December 4, 2000, p. 3.

On-line

Toni Braxton,www.tonibraxton.com (June 5, 2007).

"Trumpet Awards 2007: Toni Braxton Bio," Trumpet Foundation,www.trumpetfoundation.org/2007/bio_tbraxton.html (June 5, 2007).

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Braxton, Toni 1968(?)–

Toni Braxton 1968(?)

Vocalist

Soul Train Sneak

Won Plum Record Contract

Scored Several Hits

Sassy Follow-Up; Savvy Attitude

Selected works

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

Toni Braxtons first effort at recording picked up where a generation of R&B divas had left off years before-launching her into instant stardom. Showcasing a rich contralto much lauded by critics, the Maryland natives 1993 debut, Toni Braxton, won several industry awards and made her a household name almost overnight. One key to Braxtons success was the faith a famed producer team known for their hitmaking abilities had placed in her talents. Her collaboration under the wings of Kenneth Babyface Edmonds and Antonio L.A. Reid was a virtual assurance that her debut album, Toni Braxton, would go gold; it reached platinum instead. Critics deemed the singer the next Anita Baker or Whitney Houston, but Braxton-the daughter of a minister-dismissed the comparison. Im just a new singer who has been blessed to work with renowned producers, Braxton demurred to Amy Linden in Essence in 1993 as her star began to rise.

Braxton grew up in Severn, Maryland, in a relatively prosperous household. Her father worked for a utility company, but was also a minister and deeply religious man; Braxton and her younger siblings-four sisters and a brother-were members of a number of faiths during their childhood as the Braxton parents searched for a harmonious spiritual fit. For a long stretch of her childhood, the Braxton family belonged to the Apostolic Church, a strict creed that dictated dresses for all female believers and no secular music. Braxtons mother, however, was an amateur opera singer, and gave her daughters singing lessons that they put to use in their fathers church choir. Braxton also studied piano and composed her own songs.

Soul Train Sneak

When Braxton entered her teen years, the family became adherents of the United Methodist Church, a less conservative faith, and her father rescinded some of the strict rules. She was finally allowed to buy her first pair of pants-some Levisin the eighth grade, and she could listen to non-religious music such as Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder, two particular favorites. (She still had to sneak out of the house to watch Soul Train, though.) By the time she entered high school, Braxton had made up her mind she wanted to become a singera decision, she has admitted, that was partly the result

At a Glance

Born c 1968, in Severn, MD; daughterof Michael (a utility company employee and minister) and Evelyn (a cosmetology instructor) Braxton. Education: Attended community college, business school, and Bowie State University.

Career: Singer. Also worked as a secretary and court reporter.

Awards: Braxton received three Grammy Awards for her 1993 debutToni Braxton, including Best New Artistand Best Female R&B Vocal Performance with Another Sad Love Song; for her 1996 LP Secrets, Braxton won another Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for Youre Makin Me High) as well as Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) for Unbreak My Heart); Braxton has also received platinum certification from the Recording Industry Assn of America for both records; NAACP Image Award, several Soul Train Music Awards, and American Music Awards.

Addresses: Office -LaFace Records, 3350 Peachtree Rd., Suite 1500, Atlanta, GA 30326.

of attending predominantly white schools much of her life. I always wanted to fit in, but they [classmates] never accepted me, Braxton told Joy Duckett Cain in Essence. So I said, One day, Ill show them.

When she was still a teenager, Braxton talked her parents into letting her sing in a band, but one late-night performance caused her to come home past her curfew and she was forced to quit. After graduation from high school, Braxton enrolled in community college, then business school, and also worked as a secretary and court reporter. She decided on a back-up career as a music teacher, but had also formed a singing group with her sisters by the late 1980s. They entered talent contests and recorded one single, The Good Life, as The Braxtons, she told Ebony writer Muriel L. Whetstone, the sales were so abysmal that she was certain no one outside the Braxton family had bought it.

Won Plum Record Contract

Nevertheless, The Good Life got the attention of the famed Atlanta producers/label executives Edmonds and Reid. Braxtons voice lured them in particular, but they were wary of bringing another all-female group into the LaFace Records family since they had just signed TLC. (The Braxton sisters would later record their own album and serve as Braxtons back-up singers on the road.) Signing just Braxton in 1991, Edmonds-who performs under the name Babyface-recorded a duet with her, Give U My Heart, for the soundtrack to the 1992 movie Boomerang; another Braxton single, Love Shoul-da Brought You Home, also appeared on the release. The lattera heartfelt admonishment to a straying man--had originally been offered to Anita Baker, who passed on it. Each song enjoyed success on the charts while Braxton was at work co-writing and recording several new songs with Edmonds and Reid for a full-length debut album of her own.

The self-titled album, Toni Braxton, appeared in 1993, became an immediate hit, and would eventually sell over nine million copies. As Essences Gordon Chambers explained, at the time of Braxtons debut, R&B and dance was dominated by tough, sexed-up... adolescence bubble-gum pop, in dramatic contrast to the sound and sentiments that came out of Braxton. Her bluesy, hardhitting, timeless R&B ballads about lies, deceit, and love gone wrong hark back to Billie Holiday, Chambers declared. Reviewing Toni Braxton for the Village Voice, James Hunter also found much to praise. That Braxton doesnt try to stretch her voice up toward the sacred jazz galaxies or demonstrate wild concert virtuosity on this debut doesnt make her music seem more calculated or any less soulful, Hunter opined. It brings home the real.

Scored Several Hits

Braxtons Grammy-winning record included several introspective, brooding cuts, such as Another Sad Love Song--which would win the 1993 Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance-and Best Friend. The latter track she wrote about a real-life experience that occurred a few years before when her best friend immediately took up with a recently-exited beau. Success was indeed the best revenge, and it was indeed sweet. After I released [it], I heard through acquaintances that this ex-boyfriend wanted publishing rights, Braxton laughingly told Time writer Christopher John Farley.

The things I sing about, women can identify with, Braxton explained to the magazine. Although theyre sad love songs, I always try to portray it like everythings going to be O.K.; Im still strong. Furthermore, Braxtons lush voice limits her, in a way, from taking on the typical lightweight pop songs. In discussing the fact that her music seemed rather atypical of the offerings from other young, attractive African-American female recording artistswith their thumpy beats and lyrics that often celebrate sexBraxton explained to Linden in Essence, My voice is a lot older than I am. So, even though I might have enjoyed doing one of those hip-hop songs, I dont know if I could have, because of my mature sound.

Sassy Follow-Up; Savvy Attitude

Such smart-girl vibes in Braxtons music earned her legions of fans and made her a major star. With Secrets, released in the spring of 1996, Braxton took her time recording-I cant record in the morning because I sound like Barry White, Braxton told Essences Cain--and she and the LaFace team came up with a decidedly new, more upbeat sound. Farley found the transition a successful one. The rhythms are forceful, dynamic, danceable, he wrote in Time. These are the kinds of songs you can expect to hear booming out of car windows for the rest of the summer. Braxton also contributed a song to another hit soundtrack, Waiting to Exhale.

Braxton rejects the diva tag, and many of her personality traits seem to reflect a down-to-earth personality. She claims to love junk food, enjoys an occasional cigar, and never exercises. She is also known for her frugal habits. Before I got signed, I read anything I could about the music business, Braxton told Chambers in Essence. The sad tales of the soul artists who became famous in the sixties and received little or no money because of bad contracts taught Braxton a valuable lesson. So I made a point to know what was going on with me contractually.... I love what Im doing, but I dont want to labor in vain, she added.

Selected works

Toni Braxton, LaFace, 1993.

Secrets, LaFace, 1996.

Also recorded a 1990 single, The Good Life, as a member of The Braxtons; as solo artist, contributed tracks to the soundtracks for Boomerang, 1992, and Waiting to Exhale, 1996.

Sources

Ebony, May 1994, p. 134.

Essence, December 1992, p. 50; April 1994, p. 60; May 1996, p. 94.

People, August 23, 1993, p. 19.

Rolling Stone, December 26, 1996, p. 190.

Time, July 15, 1996, p. 67.

Village Voice, August 24, 1993, p. 80; September 17, 1996, p. 60.

Carol Brennan

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Braxton, Toni

Toni Braxton

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Although Toni Braxton has received considerable attention for her physical appearance, she has made a name for herself as a talented singer. She also credits her strict upbringing for maintaining her levelheadedness. I just want people to love and appreciate my music because I sing it from my soul, she said in a New York Times article. Its emotional and I feel it. Braxton was designated by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1994. Glamour reported the style and fit of her pants in a blurb titled Why I Love My Jeans. Sophisticates Black Hair named her one of the 10 Best Styled Women of 1994, and Black Beat wondered if she became prettier every time we see her or what? Toni Braxton takes all the fuss with a grain of salt. Shetold US magazine, Im not a diva. Im a tadpole trying to be a frog.

When Braxton was a child, her father, Michael worked as a gas company employee, but felt that his true calling was as an Apostolic minister. At home, the children were forbidden to listen to secular music, and frivolity was not encouraged. The Braxton household was so strict that the children were not allowed to watch movies or even cartoons. Toni wore only plain dresses, and certainly not pants, until the family converted to Methodism when she was 12. There was plenty of music in the house, however, because her mother Evelyn loved opera-and opera counted as religious music. Mr. Braxton recruited his daughters as a traveling choir for his services around the Severn, Maryland area. Braxton notes that much later her father became proud of her musical successes, and claimed that along with the times, her parents have changed as well.

We used to sing everything in operatic style when I was younger, Braxton recalled for Ebony, And I hated opera because I wanted to sing Dont rock the boat baby/Dont tip the boat over! During a commercial on television, she caught a glimpse of Dionne Warwick singing Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, and those six seconds made a profound impact on her. She sang the tune over and over to herself. She thought, according to Upscale, Omigosh, its so pretty. Shes so pretty. I love that song. I want to sing just like her. Itwas the first secular music she remembers singing. Another influence was the character Penny on Good Times, the 1970s sitcom. The character Penny was played by a young singer around Braxtons age, Janet Jackson, and she identified with her thoroughly. Both Toni and the fictional Penny had a crush on J.J. (comedian Jimmie Walkers character). The pop music of the era, such as the Jackson Family, was the sound of her daydreams. Sometimes Braxton stole a peek at Soul Train when her parents weren not around.

She sang in the glee club at school and in talent shows. With her four younger sisters, who sang with her at

For the Record

Born 1967 in Severn, MD; daughter of Michael (a Pentecostal minister) and Evelyn (a cosmetologist and amateur opera singer); eldest of six children; attended Bowie State College.

Sang with her four sisters in a group called the Braxtons as the choir for her fathers church; the Braxtons recorded a single The Good Life for Arista Records 1990; offered a solo contract by Atlanta-based LaFace Records 1991; worked on Boomerang, the Eddie Murphy movie soundtrack 1992; Give U My Heart and Love Should Have Brought You Home from Boomerang became hit singles; made video Give U My Heart; debut album Toni Braxton sold over nine million copies; sang on soundtrack album Waiting to Exhale 1995.

Selected awards: Three Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards and two Soul Train Awards, 1993.

Addresses: Record company LaFace Records, 1 Capitol City PL, 3350 Peachtree Rd., Ste. 1500, Atlanta, GA 30326.

church, she formed a group called the Braxtons. Through songwriter Bill Pettaway, who worked at an Annapolis gas station, she was introduced to Ernesto Phillips of the R&B group Starpoint. Phillips in turn took the Braxtons to Arista Records where they were able to cut a single, The Good Life in 1990. Braxton joked that the song sold all of three copies, one to her grandmother, one to her parents and one to herself. However, two people who did hear the record were L.A. Reid and Kenny Babyface Edmonds, who at the time were putting together a company, LaFace Records of Atlanta.

Reid and Edmonds had just signed another female singing group, TLC, and consequently, were not interested in the Braxtons, but they asked Toni if she would consider signing as a solo artist. Although this meant leaving her family, she eventually made the decision and moved to Atlanta. She signed with LaFace in 1991. Her big break came when newly pregnant Anita Baker could not fulfill her commitment to sing on Boomerang, the soundtrack for the 1992 Eddie Murphy movie. Two songs had been written for Baker, a bluesy torch song, Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night and a duet with Babyface, Give U My Heart. The songs were perfect for Braxtons smoky alto voice, which combines stark honesty with a gut-wrenching melancholy. The songs rushed up the R&B charts, and made Braxton an overnight star. Her delighted mentors at LaFace dubbed her The First Lady of LaFace. Her looks and winning personality made her a natural on the talk show circuit as well. She appeared with Babyface on The Arsenio Hall Show, and later on The Tonight Show, David Letter-man, Good Morning America, Today, and Entertainment Tonight.

Her success with the singles made her self-titled debut album eagerly anticipated. Braxton wrote two of the songs herself: Best Friends about a painful relationship, and How Many Ways, a sweet love song. The album became a huge critical and financial success. Billboard named her one of the top pop artists of 1994, and two of the cuts went gold as singles: Another Sad Love Song, written by Babyface, and Breathe Again. The songs on the album were a mixture of sorrow and joy, filtered through her sophisticated adult persona. I didnt want to do the standard love songs, she said to Essence magazine, I wrote songs that pertained to me. I wanted to say things like, Where were you last night? Why didnt you call me? The album sold 9.5 million copies in the two years following its July 1993 release, ranking behind only Whitney Houston for a female singers debut. She won three Grammy Awards and three American Music Awards. Braxton attributed the albums appeal to the fact that it connected with the complexities people commonly experience in relationships.

Her first national tour was as the opening act for Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, a tour that enabled her to hire her sisters as backup singers. She then toured Europe, and in between, she made television appearances on Roc and Living Single. Also, during a memorable Tonight Show spot, she somehow ended up sitting on Jay Lenos lap. She was a host for Video Soul on cables BET. In 1995 she contributed to another soundtrack album Waiting To Exhale, which kept her in the public eye.

Selected discography

(contributor) Boomerang , LaFace, 1992.

Toni Braxton, LaFace, 1993.

(contributor) Waiting to Exhale: Soundtrack, LaFace, 1995.

Secrets, LaFace, 1995.

Sources

Black Beat, June 1995.

Ebony, May 1994.

Elle, September 1994.

EM, February 1993.

Essence, December 1993.

The Hiltonian, Summer/Fall 1994.

New York Hair and Style, Spring/Summer 1994.

New York Newsday, January 1, 1995.

New York Times, December 5, 1993.

People, May 9, 1994; June 20, 1994.

Sophisticates Black Hair, May 1995.

Upscale, March 1994.

Paul Anderson

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Braxton, Toni

TONI BRAXTON

Born: Severn, Maryland, 7 October 1967

Genre: R&B, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Toni Braxton (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "Breathe Again," "Another Sad Love Song," "Un-break My Heart"


Toni Braxton brought a new degree of sultry sophistication to rhythm and blues music of the 1990s. Unlike her contemporaries such as Mary J. Blige, Braxton had no trouble reaching a mainstream pop audience; her records were equally popular on youthful hip-hop radio stations and "adult contemporary" stations aimed at middle-aged listeners. Braxton's across-the-board success was a combined result of songs that were catchy without being formulaic, good looks, and a distinctive, husky voice that managed to sound both vulnerable and tough. Since most of her songs dealt with the universal subject of love, she was able to transcend boundaries of race, class, and gender in her audience. Her most famous records, steamy ballads such as "Breathe Again" (1993) and "Un-Break My Heart" (1996), received constant radio play and made Braxton a household name.

Born in a small Maryland town to conservative, religious parents who at one point did not allow her to wear pants, Braxton grew up listening to gospel music with her four sisters. Over time, her parents relaxed their strictures and she developed a love of secular vocalists, especially rhythm and blues singers such as Luther Vandross and Anita Baker. After being discovered by producer Bill Petteway, Braxton and her sisters were signed to Arista Records as the Braxtons. Braxton released one single with her sisters, but was soon pulled out of the group by the hot young producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L. A." Reid, who signed her to their new LaFace label, affiliated with Arista. Although rumor had it that Arista chief Clive Davis was not satisfied with Braxton's vocal ability, any fears were allayed when her debut album, Toni Braxton (1993), became a sensation, eventually selling more than 8 million copies. Braxton and her producers spent a great deal of time working on the album, and the effort showed. Nearly every track is first-rate, and six of its eleven songs became hits. But the album's biggest asset is Braxton herself: On songs like "Another Sad Love Song," "Seven Whole Days," and "You Mean the World to Me," she burrows into the tuneful melodies with her deep, profound voice, and then belts at the top of her range when the music reaches peak moments of intensity. Throughout the album her vocals meld themselves perfectly to the arrangements, creating the feel of a unified, cohesive work. Like Anita Baker's Rapture (1986), it is a perfect mood album, designed for romance by candlelight. In 1994, Braxton won a much-deserved Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Braxton's second album, Secrets, was released in 1996 and repeated the commercial and artistic success of its predecessor. On Secrets Braxton began to experiment with her sound, developing a tougher, more sexually aggressive persona on the hit "You're Making Me High." With producer Babyface playing a lean, muscular guitar part, Braxton settles assuredly into the song's danceable groove. Because of its references to masturbation and its overall sensual feel, "You're Making Me High" qualifies as perhaps the most torrid moment of her career. Another highlight of the album is "Let It Flow," which also appeared on the soundtrack to the film Waiting to Exhale (1995). Here, Braxton uses the haunting low end of her voice to deliver a powerful message about strength and perseverance. The lyrics are some of the finest Babyface has written: "First thing early Monday morning / I'm gonna pack my tears away." However, the biggest-selling single on Secrets was "Un-break My Heart," a big, dramatic ballad that spent eleven weeks at number one on the pop chart. The song features all the ingredientslilting melody, strong vocal, subtle but sophisticated orchestrationthat marked her previous hits, but it gains extra distinction through an acoustic guitar part that suggests Spanish flamenco music.

In 1997 Braxton was at the top of her game commercially and artistically, but there was trouble on the horizon. Late that year, she filed suit against LaFace Records, claiming that her contract no longer reflected the high sales of her records or the profit she was bringing to the company. When LaFace countersued, Braxton promptly filed for bankruptcy, a move that stalled any further legal action. Appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Braxton claimed that, despite her massive record sales, she was over $1 million dollars in debt because of poor accounting of bills and expenses. During the lengthy legal battle that ensued, she fell out of the pop music spotlight, working instead on Broadway in the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast. By the time the dispute was finally resolved in 1999, Braxton's career had lost some of its momentum.

Remaining with LaFace Records, she released her third album, The Heat, in 2000. Although The Heat contained the type of slow ballads for which Braxton had become famous, it also threw in doses of urban-sounding hip-hop in an attempt to update her sound. Unfortunately, the songs were not as strong as those on previous releases, and a further album, More Than a Woman (2002), pushed Braxton even further into a contemporary hip-hop sound. For the most part critics were not pleased, claiming that Braxton's unique voice had been eclipsed. Comparing Braxton's new sound to that of the teen pop star Britney Spears, USA Today called the album "predictable and so painfully trendy." Despite signs of creative confusion, Braxton seemed happy, announcing that she and her husband, keyboardist Keri Lewis, were expecting their second child.

Her career difficulties notwithstanding, Braxton is one of the freshest, most distinctive singing talents to emerge in the 1990s. More than her excellent voice and sexy appearance, the root of her success is her talent for exploiting contradictions: She offers music that encompasses both middle-of-the-road pop and hard rhythm and blues, a persona both tough and sweet, and singing that skillfully balances calculation with genuine emotion.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Toni Braxton (LaFace, 1993); Secrets (LaFace, 1996); The Heat (LaFace, 2000); Snowflakes (Arista, 2001); More Than a Woman (Arista, 2002).

WEBSITE:

www.toni-online.com.

david freeland

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"Braxton, Toni." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/braxton-toni