Record label: Def Jam Records
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
On Oct. 6, 2017, Toni Braxton released a new single entitled “Deadwood,” a song about being jilted by a lover. The rhythmic ballad featuring octave-jumping vocals became the lead single for her new album, Sex & Cigarettes, released March 23. This album marks Braxton’s return to music after an eight-year hiatus.
Most of the songs from the eight-track LP follow this similar pattern of acoustic instrumentation and powerful, heartbreaking vocals. In “FOH,” the chorus accentuates Braxton’s breathy pronunciation of the title acronym with staccato guitar echoing her words. “Sorry” features a steady drum keeping time with flavors of a string orchestra, horn section, and backup singers, as Braxton shames a former lover for his bad deeds and criminalizes his indifference toward their failed relationship.
In “Missin’,” Braxton surprises the listener with an upbeat dance number about regret. Though the song doesn’t delve into the usual electronic music territory of insane buildups and bass drops, it still provides a diversion to bring the listener out of the calming, sorrowful spell that Braxton has led them to. As the last song on the album, Braxton reminds the audience to be wary of love or else find themselves in her position of simultaneously feeling the lament of loss but also, the creation of heartfelt anthems for others like her.