If TLC and Mary J. Blige epitomized the hip-hop/soul hybrid of the 1990s, Toni Braxton was the mature, sophisticated older cousin you listened to when you turned the lamps down low. For decades, the singer has struck a balance between hip-hop/R&B and adult contemporary, bolstered by her smoky contralto voice and a magical ability to sound both sultry and smooth. That chameleon-like flexibility helped make her a ubiquitous and multiplatinum-selling artist in the 1990s, with Quiet Storm slow jams that graced both dance floors and doctors’ offices. Braxton was born in 1967 in Severn, MD, and raised in a big and very religious family; she’s famously tight with her four sisters. The girls grew up officially listening to (and singing) only gospel music, but they snuck in viewings of Soul Train when their parents were out of the house. In time, the secular won out, and in the late 1980s they formed The Braxtons, a short-lived singing group that brought Toni to the attention of R&B singer, songwriter, and producer Babyface. It was love at first listen, and Braxton soon signed to his and L.A. Reid’s LaFace Records. Her first two records, 1993’s Toni Braxton and 1996’s Secrets, topped charts and went multiplatinum with seductive yet palatable singles like “Breathe Again,” “You’re Makin’ Me High,” and “Un-Break My Heart.” Financial disputes and a private struggle with lupus slowed the singer down as the 21st century dawned, but she battled through, releasing albums that consistently hit the charts while staying true to her sensual, measured sound.
Un-break My Heart
He Wasn't Man Enough
You Are Making Me High
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