The Main Idea:
Toni Braxton got her start in the early 90's as a soulful balladeer. After 1996's smash hit "Un-Break My Heart," her career was sent into overdrive. Toni continues that drive with her fourth album (excluding her Christmas record), More Than A Woman, but this drive isn't a good thing. She seems to have abandoned her roots and is now attempting to get in touch with the younger crowd by crafting a record full of hip-hop-inspired, radio-friendly material, and it's hardly a seamless transition. Though we saw Toni reinvent herself on her previous album, More Than A Woman is taking it a little too far. There's none of Toni's signature ballads or powerhouse vocals, which are now replaced by synthesizers, poorly arranged background vocals, and half-hearted lyrics. This record was a desperate and failed attempt to make it into the CD players of teenagers everywhere.
1. LET ME SHOW YOU THE WAY (OUT) - This first track samples a Curtis Mayfield song and is extremely repetitive. The lyrical concept is very redundant - Toni kicks out her man for doing her wrong. Ho hum. The song is a bit catchy, though: "Tell ya what I think about you/You're tired and confused/And I want nothing to do with you/Tell you what you think about me/You think that I'm crazy/You think that I am dumb and naive." The beats are very annoying; a pitiful attempt at hip-hop. This song is also too damn long - 3/5
2. GIVE IT BACK - This song sounds almost exactly like the previous one and features the notoriously horrible Big Tymers. Manny Fresh also produced the track, so you already know it's going to suck. The lyrics are extremely juvenile, and the hook is downright stupid - it's just Toni singing "Give it back!" and "Give my uh-uh back!" If she means that she wants to give this putrid excuse for a song back to its writers, then here, take it, please!!! - 2/5
3. A BETTER MAN - This song would be nice if it didn't have those annoying little beeping noises in it. The melody, production, and vocal arrangements sound phenomenal after listening to the previous two tracks, but still aren't up to Toni's usual par. This song can get kind of annoying, though, so I usually skip it. It's just not the right sound or style for Toni's voice; it sounds like an Ashanti reject - 2/5
4. HIT THE FREEWAY - Ah, now we're getting to some good stuff! Though this sounds like every other Neptunes-produced song I can think of and it features Bad Boy "rapper" Loon, Toni really brings out the attitude in the lyrics: "I would have bet the Dow Jones/Nothing compared to our fun, yeah/Imagine how crushing it was/For you to say I was not the one." In my opinions, this is Toni's best effort at hip-hop and is one of my favorite songs on the record - 5/5
5. LIES, LIES, LIES - This is a decidedly rock-oriented track with screeching guitars that, combined with the harder-edged sound, don't quite suit Toni's voice, but are still pretty nice. The production could be a lot worse, but it could also be a lot better. The lyrics are still about leaving a guy, but are presented in a different way. Toni finally sings with some passion and conviction, which is really what saves the song from being horrible. Not one of my favorites, but it's pretty good - 3/5
6. ROCK ME, ROLL ME - This is about as close to a ballad as this album gets. It's fairly simple and very seductive, and I like the way the vocals are arranged. This track is a real treat after the previous five because there's not a whole lot going on production-wise, though that can get kind of annoying towards the end. The lyrical concept is a bit fuzzy, too; she asks a guy what kind of women he's had, then says they only want him to rock her, Toni, and roll her. That doesn't make sense to me, but maybe I'm just dumb - 4/5
7. SELFISH - This is another very simple song and is one of my favorites. It has a light, gentle quality about it that makes it charming, and the chorus is very sweet: "Selfish/I don't wanna share you with anybody else/Don't want them/Hugging you, touching you, feeling you, kissing you/You can call me selfish." I like the way the vocals are arranged, and Robert Smith's (Brandy, Kelly Rowland) modest production compliments them well. Of the entire album, this track sounds the most like previous Toni material - 5/5
8. DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN - This mid-tempo track was produced by Rodney Jerkins, but sounds a bit bland. The handclaps and synthesizers are nice, but don't suit Toni's voice that well. However, the song is very catchy and has some good soul to it, though it's still a bit too bubblegum for my tastes. The vocal arrangements are pretty good, even though Toni sounds a bit juvenile at times. I think this track should have been released as a single because it's very radio-friendly - 3/5
9. ME & MY BOYFRIEND - Okay, now Toni said Jay-Z stole the idea of sampling 2Pac's "Me & My Girlfriend" from her, but I think she's just jealous because Jay's version with Beyonce is better than hers. The vocals on this Irv Gotti-produced track are deplorable, as well as the production, and the lyrics are sappy and overly gushy: "He makes me feel so good inside/He keeps me satisfied/He ain't gon' make me cry/Gon' be there through thick and thin/Even until the end." I advise you to skip to this track altogether - 2/5
10. TELL ME - This appears to be a desperate bid to rekindle the "You're Makin' Me High" sound, but, in this smoky mid-tempo track, Toni just tells a guy that she'll do anything (well, almost anything) to please him. Ho hum. Where haven't we heard this before? The song is pretty good, but I don't like the strange production and the vocals, which try too hard to sound sexy and seductive, and Toni just comes off as sounding like an unexperienced phone sex operator - 2/5
11. AND I LOVE YOU - This is Babyface's only track on the entire record, which sucks because Toni really needs him back. This mid-tempo ballad is, once again, very simple with some old-school production and showcases Toni's voice rather well. The hook is also rather catchy: "And I love you/As in more than anything/And I love you/Even when my heart's in pain/And I love you/Is there any other way?/I'm gon' love you 'til my dying day." This is another one of my favorites, even if the background vocals are a bit overpowering - 4/5
12. ALWAYS - Like the previous Brandy- and Robert Smith-penned song, this track is very sweet and simple. In the lyrics, Toni tells her man that they don't need to argue anymore and that she will always love him, no matter what. Aw, how sweet! Anyway, something about this song is just kind of annoying. Maybe it's the background vocals again, I don't know. The strings do add a nice touch though. A very classy song, though not one of my favorites - 3/5
The Big Picture:
More Than A Woman is a good contemporary R&B album, it really is. But, as a Toni Braxton record, it sucks. This harder, more street-wise sound just doesn't work for her and her voice. She doesn't have the attitude to pull it off. What this record is missing is that big, show-stopping ballad, like what "Un-Break My Heart" was to Secrets. That's what I've come to expect from Toni, and that's really her strong point. This entire album is pretty mid-tempo and there's no one track that jumps out at you like on her previous efforts. Toni's vocals aren't up to their usual standards; there's hardly any embellishments on the whole album. More Than A Woman is a fun record with a lot of radio-friendly songs. But, while trying to gain that pop sensibility and appeal, Toni forgot who she was and abandoned the torch songs that made her into who she is today.
I do admire Toni for going out on a limb and trying something new. It took a lot of balls to do that. But when that attempt at reinvention failed, and failed miserably, she just ended up looking like an idiot. In my opinion, Toni Braxton needs to put her clothes back on and stop trying to compete with all the Britneys and Christinas out there, and More Than A Woman is a testament to that. Toni has real, genuine talent and class. She has one of the most polished, professional-sounding voices of anyone in the music industry. She doesn't need to sell out and work with the Neptunes and Irv Gotti in order to gain "street cred" or have a radio smash. She just needs to sing, and sing well, and sing the right material. Since releasing this record, Toni has left Arista and signed with Blackground. Hopefully, the folks over at Blackground can whip Toni back into shape and get her to do the music she should be doing and the music her fans love. Please, no More Than A Woman Pt. 2. I don't know is I could handle it!
Average Song Rating: 3.167
Best Song(s): "Hit The Freeway," "Selfish," and "Rock Me, Roll Me"
Worst Song(s): "Give It Back"
How Would I Rate This Record's...
Vocals? 3 stars
Lyrics? 2 1/2 stars
Production? 2 1/2 stars
Timelessness? 0 stars
Artistry? 1 1/2 stars
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