Toni Braxton and Babyface sizzle on 'Love, Marriage & Divorce.' (Motown Records)
Toni Braxton and Babyface
“Love, Marriage & Divorce” (Motown)
Toni Braxton and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds have had more hits between them than the testimony in a Philly mob trial. Teary, weary and smooth, Edmonds pretty much invented the new-school/old-school sleek (but not slick) romantic adult R&B genre when he penned “Grown & Sexy.” Braxton’s powerfully tender, pleading voice could summon rain on the sunshiniest day. One thing that unites the pair is that each has gone through the pain of public divorce. That’s why, 22 years after their “Give U My Heart” duet, Braxton and Babyface return with a bold, soul-soaked take on the state of separation.
Hark back to Motown’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell glory days, the duo simmer through love’s troubles (“Where Did We Go Wrong”) and steam up the guilt-ridden “Hurt You” as if having a conversation over snifters of Drambuie. The wrung-out emotionalism of “Roller Coaster” is matched by the seductive swerve of “Sweat.” These two are masters at such romantic rope-a-dope. Each singer goes it alone (Babyface’s “I Hope That You’re Okay” and Braxton’s “I’d Rather Be Broke” are best), but dramatic duets such as the pleading “Take It Back” cut deepest. GRADE: B