“I used to dream of living lavish, now your girl’s a living legend,” Toni Braxton sings on her newest offering “Heart Away.” She’s absolutely right: she is a living legend. With three multi-platinum albums, six top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and over 67 million records sold, Braxton is basking in the glory of her success.
As she gears up for her eighth studio album Sex & Cigarettes, let’s countdown some of her most slept-on records in a new monthly series we like to call UnderRated. (Sidenote: to be considered an “underrated” record, the song couldn’t have I have been a single at any point in time.)
Check out the list below:
“Gimme Some” (feat. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) from the album The Heat (2000)
Credits: Jazze Pha, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Lisa Lopes (Writers); Babyface and Jazze Pha (Producers)
Oh, Toni, why wasn’t this danceable number a single? Even though Babyface and Jazze Pha seem like an unlikely musical pair, they went to work on the lyrical content and production of this banger, which has Braxton taking charge when it comes to her love interest.
“It is an age-old story / Goes back back to Adam and to Eve / I know you know what I want for / And if it ain’t clear to ya baby / Don’t stop, let’s Rock, give it to me baby,” she sings. Left-Eye had a stellar verse too.
“What’s Good” from the album Libra (2005)
Credits: Bryan-Michael Cox, Johnta Austin, Toni Braxton, Joe Sample (Writers); Bryan-Michael Cox and Keri Lewis (Producers)
“What’s Good” appears as the third track off of Libra, and following the hip-hop edged songs “Please” and “Trippin’,” it’s a perfect musical shift in the gear of the album. Led by a genius sample of Joe Sample’s “In All My Wildest Dreams,” Braxton sings & coos confidently inc her signature contralto tone about the great things her new man does for her.
“It’s like a house I never left / Like a fever I wanna catch / Like a mountain that’s worth the climb / Talkin’ ’bout this man of mine / Like my money I wanna spend / My homie-lover-friend / He’ll be with me till the end / And he’s never failed me yet,” she sings.
“Caught (Don’t Take Your Hat Off) [feat. Mo’Nique]” from Pulse (2010)
Credits: Mikkel Stoleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, LaShawn Daniels (Writers); Stargate (Producer)
Songs that appear on an album’s deluxe edition have a way of adding value to the original album; that’s exactly what this Stargate-produced jam off the Pulse deluxe album does. Braxton kicks her lover out of her house after being cheated on.
“Baby I been more than good to you / When you leaving gimme my key back too / It’s about to go down /Your, your other new lady/ You’re out there with your pants down,” she sings. The light, somber piano is almost addicting, and Mo’Nique’s monologue is the perfect touch.
“Talking In His Sleep” from the album Secrets (1996)
Credits: Toni Braxton (Writer); Keith Crouch (Producer)
Following “Un-Break My Heart” on the Secrets track listing is no easy feat, but bluesy tune “Talking in His Sleep” holds its own. Braxton’s speaking voice has a chilling effect as she touches on infidelity and adultery. “Guilty secrets/ They are haunting my life / And he doesn’t even know that I know/ Can you hear him / The promises he makes/ Said we’ll be together for always / He’s such a liar / Then he goes out to burn me.” The Mary J. Blige-esque jazzy bass line is killer!
“You’ve Been Wrong” from the album The Heat (2000)
Credits: Toni Braxton, Brian Casey, Brandon Casey, Teddy Bishop, Kevin Hicks, Thom Bell, Linda Creed (Writers); Teddy Bishop and Kevin Hicks (Producers)
If The Heat was a family, “Just Be a Man About It” would be the older sibling to this guitar-led track, which hears Braxton finally finding the strength to leave a no-good lover. “Finally I’ve realized/ Your lies have opened up my eyes/ This love affair, now it’s over, over/You’ve been wrong for so long/ And I can’t take the pain you bring me no more/ You’ve been wrong for so long/ And I can’t take the pain you bring me no more,” she sings. Oh, and the Stylistics’ “Stop Look Listen To Your Heart” interpolation? Genius.
“Lies, Lies, Lies” from the album More Than a Woman (2002)
Credits: Keri Lewis and Stokley (Writers); Keri Lewis (Producer)
Ms. Braxton is fed up on this rock n’ roll (yes, rock!) cut. “Don’t bother to apologize / It’s too late, heard it all before / And it should come as no surprise / I’m leavin’, I packed my things / ’Cuz I’m through with this merry-go-round / I’m getting off, I finally found / My strength way deep down / I shoulda left your ass after the first round,” she sings. This is one of the best songs Braxton has ever recorded. EVER (in my opinion).
The raw emotion, the pacing of the song, the commitment to the vocal — Toni was in her bag! Stokley didn’t play a single game with the lyrics, guitar solo, or the backing vocals. Shout out to Chris Dave, who played the drums on this song. And trust, this song is nothing without the drums!
“Shadowless” from the album Libra (2005)
Credits: Alex Cantrell and Philip White (Writers); Keri Lewis (Producer)
Some of Toni’s best songs have a nice guitar somewhere hidden in the instrumentation, but the acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song about regret and love lost. “Gotta make it right with you / Ooh you baby / So tell me what I gotta do / Ooh to make u come back home / Ooh boy how can this be / I remember that every step / U were here with me/ Now I’m shadowless,” she sings. There is just something so magical about the Living Legend’s smoky vocals over the spirited strums of the guitar. Although this would’ve been a nice finale track for this album, penultimate isn’t so bad either.
(If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the AOL Sessions version of this song.)
“The Heat” from the album The Heat (2000)
Credits: Keri Lewis and Toni Braxton (Writers and Producers)
Braxton channels the summer vibes and brings the heat on this sexy title track. “Summer’s almost over so you better hurry / Andale! Andale! / Starting right now let’s dance and party / Ole! Ole! Ole! / Give Me a reason to love you through, through the season / No need to hesitate, come on let’s get it on,” she sings. This song is easy and breezy; sultry and sensual; sex — well, y’all get the point. And to answer your question, Toni, yes, I do want some ice cream.
“Why Should I Care” from the album Secrets (1996)
Credit: Babyface (Writer and Producer)
Braxton is fed up and denying her ex lover a second chance on this ‘90s tune. “And every time I start to slip / I just remind myself / I need only thing of it / I went through so much hell / You say ya wanna get things back / The way they used to be / Can you give one good reason / Why I should darlin’/ Why should I care / Why should I care for you,” she sings. Babyface and Toni Braxton are always a magical pair, but you have to get into these background vocals from the one and only Chanté Moore!
“Do You Remember When” from the album More Than a Woman (2002)
Credits: Toni Braxton, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins, LaShawn Daniels III (Writers); Rodney Jerkins (Producer)
This More Than a Woman cut finds Toni Braxton thinking back on the better moments of her time with an ex lover. “Do it like you did back then / And then we’ll do it again / Do you remember when? / Reminiscing and more on what we had before / Makes me feel so warm inside / Wanting you constantly and feeling so sorry / That we had to say goodbye,” she sings. Although this song feels like a The Neptunes-Kelis combo, Rodney Jerkins’ groovy production and Toni’s tender vocals fit seamlessly on this track, making it one of the standouts on this album.
“Selfish” from More Than a Woman: Upon first listen, you’ll notice how intricate the background vocals are. So, it’s no surprise that this song credits Brandy as a writer and her ex-boyfriend Robert Smith as the producer of this breezy tune.
“If I Have to Wait” from Pulse: It’s unfortunate that Country radio and the Country music industry is so exclusive, because this had the potential to be a nice crossover hit.
“Sposed to Be” from Libra: Blackground Records was not feeling the original album that Toni Braxton and then-husband Keri Lewis turned in, so they set her up with additional recording sessions. That decision led to the creation of this sensual cut, which is spearheaded by The Underdogs and even features a writing credit for Keri Hilson.