Friday, November 4, 2011

Lightning Review Before The Library Closes! Toni Braxton's "I Don't Want To" Flops!

The Good: Not bad vocals, Production is decent
The Bad: Instrumental accompaniment is overproduced, Lyrics are fairly lame, SHORT
The Basics: A particularly lame c.d. single, “I Don't Want To” may be passed by, even by fans who like Toni Braxton.

I have an order, as inscrutable as it may seem here, to the reviews I write and when I find that order upset by something suddenly missing from the database, I often have to scramble. This afternoon, that means that my intended review of a Heather Nova single is instead taking the form of a Toni Braxton c.d. single that has been kicking around my local library unsold for the past four months. I've only listened to this two-track disc six times (as I type this) so it might lack some of my usual insight, but the truth is, it's a two-song recording and I think I can do it justice even with only fifteen minutes to write about it.

As far as Toni Braxton goes, I've only heard her full album The Heat before now and a few songs by her which I have heard on the radio over the years. As it turns out, I had heard “I Don't Want To” before, but the b-side track, “I Love Me Some Him” (sic) was unknown to me. Frankly, it is absolutely no surprise to me that the b-side track never went anywhere. What is surprising is that Braxton and her production staff allowed such a limp single to be released. Usually r&b singles make use of the limited medium to release alternate cuts of album tracks, but this disc includes two album cut tracks from Braxton's album “Secrets.”

With only two songs occupying only nine minutes of disc space, “I Don't Want To” is a terrible waste of a c.d. The disc also reveals only limited creative ability from Toni Braxton. Braxton did not write or co-write either song, nor did she play any instruments on either song. She does provide the lead vocals on both songs and she is credited as a co-executive producer on the single, though she is not credited with any production credits on either of the actual songs (I’m not sure how that works).

Vocally, both songs are distinctive for Toni Braxton's smoldering vocals and she works the range well on the title track. She does slow, low and soulful and then makes her voice soar in a way that is melodic and high on the song. It's easy to see why this was one of her more popular singles . . . at least up until the moment when her backing vocals take over and overwhelm her voice, making the song sound like a Kid Bop interpretation of itself. At least “I Don't Want To” has somewhere to degenerate to: “I Love Me Some Him,” a ridiculously ethnic-sounding track starts with Braxton in the background and she never overcomes her backing vocalists. It was for that reason that I had no problem smacking this disc with the one-star rating; it's inconsistent even on the key element Braxton usually offers.

Instrumentally, this is very much a contemporary pop/r&b number that has been assembled on a mixing board as opposed to through playing real instruments. As a result, the instrumentation that backs Braxton is predictable and pedestrian synthesizer/keyboard sounds with percussion coming from loops or a drum machine. Both songs are r&b ballads which are slow and lack anything resembling soul (having spent most of the month listening to Tina Turner I can say this with complete credibility). Neither has a strong enough tune to call memorable or even worthwhile, so I am sure in a few hours I could hear “I Love Me Some Him” and not recognize it.

As for the lyrics, these are two songs which remind the listener just how low the bar is set for beautiful people who can sing. Braxton mournfully repeats the refrain “And I don't want to sing another love song babe / I don't want to hum another melody / I don't want to live my life without you babe yeah / It's driving me crazy” (“I Don't Want To”) without ever convincing the listener just what is so wonderful about the object of her affection in the song. Instead, this sounds like a Junior High interpretation of love and affection and the simplicity is enough to bother adult music listeners.

But even the title track has more substance than the inane “I Love Me Some Him.” After seven listens to this song, I have nothing on this song other than to call it an utter cliché. It is a poorly written one at that. When Braxton sings “All those days and lonely nights / Have all gone away / I never thought the day would come / When we'd more than friends / You made me smile when I was down / You turn my world around / The way you give me love feel so right” (“I Love Me Some Him”) it is impossible to take her sad tones seriously. Instead, the terribly rhyming refrain becomes unintelligible and ridiculous and the listener is just left wondering how bad the rest of the album “Secrets” must have been that this was used as a b-side to the single.

For uninspired r&b, this might fit the bill, but it's a poor example of Toni Braxton's talents and fans are as likely to be disappointed as those who do not profess to call themselves fans of Braxton or the genre.

For other R&B vocalists, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below - Outkast
It Ain't Easy: Essential Recordings - Wilson Pickett
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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