Review: Toni Braxton wows on new album, ‘Sex & Cigarettes’

Braxton turns a new leaf with this album, as it is her first one under Def Jam Records, as well as her first album to use explicit language.

Photo: Courtesy of the label


Toni Braxton is back and has something to say on her new album, ‘Sex & Cigarettes’.

After four years of focusing on reality television and withstanding the effects of lupus, the songstress is back with her eighth studio album. Supported by opulent R&B orchestration and beautifully fluctuating vocals, the album entitled, ‘Sex & Cigarettes’, came out on March 23. Braxton turns a new leaf with this album, as it is her first one under Def Jam Records, as well as her first album to use explicit language. As the album takes listeners on a ride through Braxton’s emotions, the bigger picture is for sure to be clear: Toni did not come to play, and she said, what she said!

First and foremost, it is safe to say that Miss Braxton is not letting her iconic reign up. Looking as enticing as she did twenty-five years ago, she graces the album’s cover in a body suit while smoking a cigarette, giving us a sultry superstar vibe.

Toni Braxton's cover art for 'Sex & Cigarettes'
Photo: Courtesy of the label

Taking us through the gamut of betrayal, deceit, heartbreak, despair, and healing, the eight-track album starts off with ‘Deadwood’. A soft but powerful aria, Toni is declaring that you can’t keep a good woman down. Making her point, she sings:

Just want to let you know/I won’t let this one go/You’ve got me down but I ain’t out/Think you got me good/Left me like some deadwood/I may be down but I’ll turn it round

Keeping the same energy, Toni is entirely fed up with the next track ‘Sex & Cigarettes’. She is reiterating a multitude of disheartening details about a toxic relationship as she vehemently cries out the lyrics:

You make me crazy, crazy/I swear you act like you hate me, hate me/How can you tell me, “I love you”/Then do the things you do/At least try and lie to me, lie to me/ Instead you come straight to our bed/Smelling like sex and cigarettes

The throaty vocals and ardent cadence on this ballad most definitely serve some infamous “Toni Braxton” attributes and make the song even more likeable.

On the next track, ‘Long As I Live’, the deep and evocative side comes out. Although she may be totally over this guy, Toni admits she still reminisces about their time together and is not quite over him. She indicates that other people have been talking about how her ex and his new girl looks so happy, but Toni is not here for it.

And now I’m trying not to lose my mind/And start crying, but I can tell/That you love her, really love her/Long as I live/I’ll never get over you/It’s killing me/I’ll never get over

As the emotional voyage continues, the mood switches from “How could you” to “How did you even!?”. With the next track on queue being, “FOH” (standing for ‘Fuck Outta Here’), Toni is putting her foot down. One thing is for sure; she is over the relationship, but now she feels compelled to tell this guy that he needs to stop killing her vibe and go elsewhere. Initially, in the song, Toni comes through vexed about his inconsistency. She is calling him out, and our good sis has all the statistical data to prove her point:

It’s been 37 hours, 7 minutes, 30 seconds/And you still haven’t responded to me/Got me on the edge of crazy

As time moves on, she goes on and recapitulates the same issue with, “It’s been 47 hours, 7 minutes, 30 seconds/And now you’re just responding to me/Boy you must be suicidal/Is that bitch right there beside you/’Cause I know hell it couldn’t be me”.

Once she relinquishes all of her irritation, she ends the song with a made up mind and a clear message, “If you don’t want me around/Then don’t come around/And cloud up my atmosphere/Fuck outta here/Fuck outta here”.

On the track ‘Sorry’, Toni Braxton’s concise message keeps the “As if!” momentum going. Lyrics, “I’m sorry that I let you/I just should’ve walked away/I’m sorry that I let you/In my life and made you stay… You’re sorrier than me by far/You’re so sorry”, show the singer’s remorse that she feels for allowing this man in her life.

On a personal favourite of mine, ‘My Heart’, changes the tone with an intimate and sympathetic temperament. With background vocals from Colbie Caillat and accompaniment from what sounds like a Spanish guitar, this tune is super soothing. After her tumultuous start, it appears that Toni is coming to terms with the situation’s end and providing some closure:

I can be that friend that I was to you/Like we were/Right from the start/I can be right there when you want me to/If we’re a million miles apart/I’d give you every part of me that I could/But the one thing I can’t give you… is my heart/Is my heart

In spite of the fact that she is finally getting over him, on the last two tracks ‘Coping’ and ‘Missing’, Toni Braxton has a few more things to express. Still dealing with her woes, she sings

Everywhere I go I see your silhouette/Every time I swear/ I can’t forget/And it’s hard to know you’re happy with somebody else” on the track, ‘Coping’.

Ending the project with the upbeat number ‘Missin”, it appears that Toni Braxton has done some thinking and is feeling optimistic.

Baby, I wanna take you home/I play by a different set of rules, dealing with someone like you/Keep you around like you’re in my crew/Hold me down like I depend on you

I’m not sure if these words are for a familiar ex or a new found love she just met in the club, but she seems to be in good spirits. Whoever these songs are about will regret his poor decision making and wish he had never even given Toni the fuel for her fire. With a multitude of relatable lyrics, this project is undoubtedly one for the ladies. Hopefully, it won’t be another long while before the legendary singer gives us more material.

Written by Manny King John

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