Music » CD Reviews

Toni Braxton

More Than a Woman (Arista)

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Neither diva nor neo-soul sister, Toni Braxton has always aimed for the crossover radio-and-club hit. And like fellow pop-R&B anachronisms from TLC to Michael Jackson, Braxton updates this old-school strategy with jittery electro beats and brittle sound effects, courtesy of hot producers ranging from the Neptunes to Manny Fresh. The tinny futurism suits her, too, offsetting a thick alto that might otherwise get as gummy as Tracy Chapman's folk croon. Boosted by such touches as a Big Tymers rap or Curtis Mayfield vocal sample, the first five tracks offer all the solid hooks and seductive beats a dial spinner or club-hopper could want.

They also offer a conceptual suite, as Braxton finds five different ways to tell her man to "Hit the Freeway" with his "Lies, Lies, Lies." The second half's slow, airy jams get all lovey-dovey (and a tad gooey), but even when giving him a show, she notes that a ménage-a-trois is going too far. And at a time when so many young Bonnies are swearing allegiance to their amoral Clydes, Braxton's honorable refusal to share dates her as much as anything in the music.

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