5 Love Lessons Learned From Toni Braxton & Babyface’s ‘Love, Marriage & Divorce’ Album

Photo Credit: Motown Records
Photo Credit: Motown Records

On Tuesday (Feb. 4), Toni Braxton and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds released their duets album, “Love, Marriage & Divorce.” The 11-track set reflects on the love stories of both Braxton and Edmonds — from the good to bad and the in-between.

While the album mirrored the turmoil from their own romantic relationships, it’s almost certain the songs could be parallel to their fans’ love life.

Music has the ability to act as an interpreter that reveals underlying issues in the lives of its listener who can’t express his or her shortcomings verbally to themselves.

Each song on Braxton and Edmonds’ new album uncovers a valuable lesson in love that could shed light on one’s current love state and help ease the troubles in the relationship.

If you can’t afford a relationship counselor, you’re in luck. We’ve listed five love lessons from five standout tracks that can help bring peace back to your relationship — whether you’re together or not.

Lesson No. 1: Listen and pay attention the first time your partner tells you something’s wrong.

The number one question you plead to your partner when they’re walking out the door is “where did we go wrong?” But the better question is “why weren’t you listening when they were trying to explain what was wrong?”

A key part in a relationship is listening to your partner when they’re expressing their concerns on the current state of the relationship. Look at listening like going for a checkup and finding out you have a serious illness. The doctor tells you, “Luckily, you caught in the early stages or it could have been a lot worse.”

If you hear the problem early, work out it out then, you won’t have to worry about hearing those haunting five words (where did we go wrong?) later. You’ll have already resolved the situation at its earliest stage before it became untreatable.

“Where Did We Go Wrong?”

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Antwane Folk is the editorial assistant at RatedRnB.com.

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10 Years Later, MTV Still Fails to Revive Best R&B Video at VMAs

Tonight is the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. Over the years, like many televised award ceremonies, the VMAs has become less exciting. Of course, there is enjoyment in seeing the fashion hits and misses or live tweeting commentary. However, it’s really hard to ignore the lack of diversity and inclusion of R&B artists in the award categories.

Popular genres such as pop, rock and hip-hop all have their respective fields for artists to thrive and shine. Most times if an artist isn’t Beyoncé, Bruno Mars or Rihanna — or isn’t associated with a category-leading artist — they probably will be slighted and not recognized for their dope visuals.

While MTV has become more strategic in their nomination approach to include a range of artists in categories like Best Pop Video, Best Editing, Video with a Social Message, and Song of the Summer, there is still a hint of prejudice that lingers in being all-embracing.

Looking back at Khalid’s Best New Artist win last year, one could argue that MTV has done their part in keeping the integrity of black music alive on their video music awards platform. But VMA history has proven otherwise.

MTV halted on handing out genre-based Moonman in 2007. At the next VMAs in 2008, the network ruled to bring back the music variety awards and choose to keep pop, rock and hip-hop (previously rap) and eliminate R&B from future ceremonies.

The decision to exclude R&B from the VMAs is just as absurd as the Recording Academy neglecting to award R&B (and hip-hop) artists on the main stage and issuing their Grammys on the online telecast every year.

According to Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report, the R&B/Hip-Hop genre ended the calendar year as the most popular genre in American music after tallying 24.5 percent of all music consumption (combination of album sales, track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units — including both on-demand audio and video streams).

The rock genre came in at second and claimed 21 percent, making it the first time R&B/Hip-Hop outpaced in a calendar year since Nielsen began electronically tracking music sales and data in 1991.

Much like R&B/Hip-Hop today, the genre had leading artists breaking grounds in 2008. Alicia Keys, Lil’ Wayne, Mario, T.I. Usher, Keyshia Cole, Rick Ross, J. Holiday and Jazmine Sullivan were ruling the radio airwaves and had impressive album sales with notable videos to accompany their rollouts.

First awarded in 1993, nine years after the first VMAs, the Moonman for Best R&B Video landed in the hands of En Vogue for “Free Your Mind” off their Funky Divas album. A year later, the vocalists won again for their contribution to Salt N Pepa’s “Whatta Man.”

In the 13-year award existence, four women — Lauryn Hill (1999), Mary J. Blige (2002), Beyoncé (2003, 2006) and Alicia Keys (2004, 2005) — have won the R&B VMA as a lead artist. Others winners included TLC (1995), The Fugees (1996), Puff Daddy (1997), Wyclef Jean (1998) and Destiny’s Child (2000, 2001).

Since 2008, there have been amazing videos by R&B artists that would have probably been nominated (and won) this award. Erykah Badu (“Window Seat”) and Marsha Ambrosius (“Far Away”) have given fans conscious videos. Chris Brown (“Look at Me Now”) and Ciara (“Ride”) have gotten us out of our seats and aiming to dance like them.

Usher (“Lil’ Freak”), R. Kelly (“Same Girl”) and Trey Songz (“Bottoms Up”) put out eye-catching visuals while Keri Hilson (“Pretty Girls Rock”) and Alicia Keys (“Teenage Love Affair”) took us back to the past. Monica (“Everything to Me”) and Mary J. Blige (“Suitcase”) have worn their heart in a couple of frames. And Beyoncé, well, like Kanye West said, she’s released some of “the best video [s] of all time.”

Many R&B artists had creative and original visuals that would have been promising nominees for Best R&B Video this year. SZA has debatably served up some of the best videos. While she is nominated in three categories — Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects and Push Artist of the Year — does she have a true advantage to walk away with an award? Not taking away from her visuals or downplaying her talents, but she going up against very POPular competition that makes it impossible for her to win.

Besides why did the VMA committee nominate SZA for a collaboration (“All the Stars”) and her puzzling video for Solange-directed “The Weeknd” when she produced three more solid videos from her CTRL era? Make it make sense because right now it doesn’t.

At least if the MTV VMAs are not going to have a video category dedicated to R&B artists, make sure that proper videos by them are featured in inclusive categories

SZA and her frames for “Broken Clocks,” “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” and “Doves in the Wind” deserved to be recognized on this career-changing platform for Best Pop Video — in addition to Art Direction and Visual Effects.

6LACK, Janelle Monáe, Khalid, Maxwell, Leon Bridges and Kali Uchis have respectively music videos that would have represented nicely for R&B on the VMAs tonight. Even though the variety of categories offer the illusion of fairness among all genre-crossing artists, things will never be equal until MTV sanctions to bring back Best R&B Video.

African-American writers, such as myself, can voice their opinions on the disproportion in white-dominated award shows for black artists, but artists in the spotlight and video creatives and directors must have the same energy. Video treatments, album budgets and long hours shooting and editing are falling by the waste side of career-long fans if artists don’t get (and fight for) proper recognition of their final products. This opinion not only goes for artists’ music videos but their albums as well.

Honestly, BET should be leading the pack for R&B artists and visual representations of their work in this day and age. Until that happens, VMAs will still possess major consumer visibility that can positively affect the careers of rising and established artists through video and song.

Will we ever see MTV VMA nominations for Best R&B Video again? Only time will tell.

Follow An’Twane on Twitter at @9thwonderofPR.

Top 4 Deep Cuts from K. Michelle’s Debut Album ‘Rebellious Soul’

K. Michelle Album Cover Rebellious Soul

Kimberly Michelle Pate, better known as K. Michelle, has come a long way since she graced our television screens in 2012 as a cast member on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta. Three No. 1 albums, four tours, and a few social media beefs and public relationships later, she is really beginning to zone in on her artistic vision and hone her own sound. On this bumpy road of her musical journey, she has faced many hardships, but also enjoyed many milestones. Her first major success (post-Jive Records) is her debut album, Rebellious Soul.

In celebration of Rebellious Soul’s fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to compose a short list of some of the best non-single tracks from K. Michelle’s first No. 1 R&B album.

Here is our list of the top 4 deep cuts from the star’s breakout album:

“Hate on Her”

Infidelity is a common cause for failed relationships, and it’s no different when K. Michelle discovers her longterm relationship is crumbling in the wake of her lover’s infidelity. However, instead of hating or attacking the other woman, she feels sorry for her. “But I can’t even hate on her / Cause I know you got no heart / I can’t even hate on her / Cause I know how low you go,” she sings. This song makes the countdown for its lyrical genius and storytelling. Lines like “In this house we made are own / You have torn it down to nothing / And for the moment of a stroke / You let it all go” perfectly illustrate the combination of frustration, betrayal, and numbness that significant others feel after being cheated on. This would’ve been a great third single for the album, as its smooth production leans toward an R&B radio direction.

“When I Get a Man”/”Repair This Heart”

K. Michelle is speaking a loving relationship into existence on the album’s penultimate track. “I’m gon’ cater serve ya/ Give you what you deserve / He’s gon’ love me / When I get a man / I’mma treat him like a king / He gon’ be my everything / He gon’ love the hell outta’ me,” she sings. Although this is a perfectly fine R&B record with impressive production (courtesy of Hit Drew and Eric Hudson), the song is lifted by its hidden track “Repair This Heart.” The piano-driven cut serves as a sort of backstory for “When I Get a Man,” and flexes K’s pen game beautifully, as well as her voice’s capability of approaching a song with tenderness and emotion.

“Sometimes”

Although this was her first album, there were definitely some brilliant moments and “Sometimes” may be the brightest of them all. On this post break-up record, K is simply torn between her wants and her needs when it comes to a healthy relationship. “Oh, Lord have your mercy / For loving him religiously / I should be praying for better things / Instead of praying for a man / Who don’t give a fuck about me,” she sings. Not only is this is one of her finest vocal performances to date, but this song embodies everything about her: brutal honesty, unbridled passion, raw emotions, high energy, and of course rebellion with soul. What makes this even greater is the second hidden track on the album, about…well…her genitalia (sung operatically!) If there was a song that represented K. Michelle’s artistry, this would hands down be the song of choice.

“Right One”

Tank’s writing skills come to life once again thanks to K. Michelle. The Memphis-born and bred singer is literally holding nothing back on her no-good ex on this killer kiss-off. “F*ck you and all that / Blast on Twitter then I’mma blast back / You want a ratchet then I’mma be that / Don’t make me call my boys and have yo sh*t peeled back,” she sings. What makes this deluxe edition record shine is her commitment to the sentiments and emotions penned by her, Tank, and Jerren “J-kits” Spruill. This would’ve been a more than appropriate addition to the standard LP, but we are thankful for the song’s video treatment, which has over 22 million views on YouTube.  And in song’s final phrase, so eloquently stated by K, she declares “and that’s the end; leave it there.”

What about you? What’s your favorite song from Rebellious Soul? Let us know in the comment section below.

What a Time: 20 Memorable ‘Sessions @ AOL’ Performances (R&B Edition)

Sessions @ AOL may have launched in 2002, but its presence was felt more in 2003 as the way we hear and see our favorite artists online started changing at a rapid speed. From the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) going to legal war with individual music file-sharers ( Napster, Wake.Princeton.edu ) to the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the options for consumers to follow their beloved artists started to become more difficult. But Sessions @ AOL made this easier.

Brought to us by AOL Music, the mini-concert experience became an outlet for artists to perform their past and presents hits in a more up-close and intimate way. Similar to MTV-Unplugged, many artists have sung acoustic and stripped down versions of their popular songs and album gems. Artists even sat down to dish on their latest albums ahead or after its release.

After 10 years of special performances, exclusive interviews and some name changes (AOL Sessions, AOL Music Sessions), the intimate concert series ended abruptly in 2013.

While others (Walmart Soundcheck and Yahoo! Pepsi Smash) have attempted to capture their own exclusive studio performance moments, nothing beats holding the house phone hostage so no uses it so you could use dial-up to watch your faves spill the tea on their album and sing your favorite cut track.

In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled a list of 20 memorable performances from the online music concert series. (Sidenote: Can you guess how we ranked the list? The answer is at the end)

Mario – “How Could You” (2005)

Mario brought his underrated vocals to Sessions @ AOL to perform his top-20 hit “How Could You” from his Turning Point album.

Keri Hilson – “Let Me Down / Beautiful Mistake” (2011)

Following the release of 2010’s No Boys Allowed, the singer-songwriter stormed Sessions to sing cuts off the new album including “Beautiful Mistake.”

Chrisette Michele – “Be Ok” (2009)

Fresh off the release of her album Epiphany, Michele revisited her I Am era with a sensational performance of “Be Ok.” The uptempo number won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Keyshia Cole – “Love” (2005)

Sporting her signature orange hair and a casual outfit, The Way it Is singer belted her powerful ballad “Love” for online viewers.

Monica – “It All Belongs to Me” (2012)

While this Rico Love-written track is a duet with Brandy, the New Life vocalist stripped down the record and took it on alone with some help from three backup singers.

Jennifer Hudson – “I Remember Me” (2011)

There are not many artists who can sit on a stool, sing their hearts out and still be on key. Jennifer Hudson is one of them. She delivered a stellar performance of “I Remember Me,” the title track of her 2011 album.

Tyrese – “Stay” (2012)

Tyrese accepted an Open Invitation to AOL Sessions in 2012 where he performed his soulful tune “Stay.” The song spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart.

Ashanti – “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” (2003)

The then-Murder Inc front-women was on point with all aww babies for her first time at Sessions. And catch how Ashanti barely opened her eyes during this performance of “Rock wit U (Awww Baby).” We love a dizzy queen.

Faith Evans – “I Love You” (2005)

The First Lady had viewers in their feelings with “I Love You” from her 2001 album Faithfully. Did you peep Meelah, lead singer of 702, singing backup?

Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2005)

The sultry tone diva came to Sessions to promote material from her Libra album. She also revisited The Heat era and sung “He Wasn’t Man Enough” alongside her sisters Trina and Tamar Braxton.

Fantasia – “Bittersweet” (2010)

Donning a black dress with silver shoulder embroidery, the Back to Me singer left it all on stage with her mind-blowing performance of “Bittersweet.” She reprised the emotionally charged ballad with more personal lyrics.

The-Dream – “I Luv Your Girl” (2013)

The Radio Killa paid a visit to AOL Sessions in 2013 to promote IV Play. While there, the versatile musician dropped the auto-tune and bared his natural singing voice for his wavy performance of “I Luv Your Girl” off his debut album, Love Hate.

Ne-Yo – “So Sick” (2006)

The singer-songwriter had us “So Sick” with his first-ever AOL Music Sessions visit. The heartbreak song topped several Billboard charts including the Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks.

Chris Brown – “Winner” (2006)

The young Breezy had girls all over the world screaming at their computer screens with his performance of “Winner” off his self-titled album.

Brian McKnight — “Back to One” (2003)

Brian McKnight was one of the first R&B artists to grace the AOL studio. He performed his classic song “Back at One” from his 1999 album under the same name.

Earth Wind & Fire – “The Way You Move” (2005)

Supported by a full band, the legendary group got us out our seats to dance along to “The Way You Move” from their 2005 Illumination album.

Kelly Rowland – “Like This” featuring Eve (2007)

Ms. Kelly invited rapper Eve to perform their fierce collaboration “Like This.” Hopefully, no one hurt themselves trying to reenact this dance number.

John Legend – “So High” (2004)

Seated behind his instrument of choice, Legend had us levitating as he wonderfully sung “So High” from his debut album, Get Lifted.

Alicia Keys – “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – (2010)

Alicia Keys rarely steps from behind her piano to perform music. But she did for the majority of her 2010 Sessions to perform past and present tunes including “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” from The Element of Freedom.

Mary J. Blige – “Take Me As I Am” (2005)

It was all or nothing at all with the Queen of the Hip Hop Soul’s moving performance of “Take Me As I Am” from The Breakthrough.

Rihanna – “Unfaithful” (2007)

The Unapologetic artist starred on the Sessions for three album eras: A Girl Like Me, Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R. Her amazing performance of “Unfaithful” in 2007 is a standout though.

Beyoncé – “Me, Myself and I” (2008)

Although she was there to promote B’Day and its singles (“Irreplaceable”), it was Yoncé’s breathing performance of “Me, Myself and I” alongside her incredible background singers The Mamas that stole the show.

Give up yet? The list of performances was ranked by the artists’ number of Grammy nominations. Beyoncé has the most (63) nods out of all the artists featured on this list while Mario and Keri Hilson have the least (2).

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