Braxton headlines ‘Soul Sessions V.5′

Feb. 18, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Toni Braxton and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds performed at the Grove's 11th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Spectacular last year in Los Angeles. Edmonds collaborated on their new album, "Love, Marriage & Divorce." (Associated Press)

Toni Braxton and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds performed at the Grove’s 11th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Spectacular last year in Los Angeles. Edmonds collaborated on their new album, “Love, Marriage & Divorce.” (Associated Press)

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Dysfunctional relationships. Cheating spouses. Separation. Divorce. None of those things are standard topics for a Valentine Day’s concert, but if Toni Braxton does any songs from her new album, “Love, Marriage & Divorce,” Friday in Blaisdell Arena, that’s where she’s coming from.

The album, a collaboration with multitalented singer/writer/recording artist/producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, charts the implosion and termination of a troubled marriage. Although one song describes a romantic reconciliation, the marriage ends in divorce, bitterness and heartbreak.

‘Soul Sessions V.5′

With Toni Braxton, Donnell Rawlings and Jon B

» Where: Blaisdell Arena, 777 Ward Ave.
» When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
» Cost: $55-$125
» Info: (866) 448-7849 or ticketmaster.com

“Love, Marriage & Divorce” is the first vocal collaboration between Braxton and Edmonds since she appeared as a featured guest on his 1992 hit, “Give U My Heart,” a song that helped spotlight Braxton’s sultry, deep vocals. Later that same year Edmonds produced Braxton’s first solo hit, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.”

Braxton’s publicist did not respond to interview requests, so it was not possible to get the three-time Grammy Award winner’s insights on the project, or any updates on her WE tv reality show, “Braxton Family Values.” However, taken at face value and judged by its contents, “Love, Marriage & Divorce” seems to be primarily Braxton’s statement, despite Edmond’s co-billing and his active participation as a vocalist, songwriter and producer.

Both “stars” of the project are divorce survivors. Braxton and her husband, Keri Lewis, announced their separation in 2009 after eight years of marriage; their divorce was finalized in 2013 while she was working on the album. Edmonds’ wife, Tracey Edmonds, ended her marriage to “Babyface” in 2005.

The lyrics describe the emotional turmoil of divorce in wrenching, emotionally vivid terms.

The husband is the first to cheat — for reasons that remain unexplained and are apparently not considered relevant to the story. He in turn is shattered to learn that his wife’s reaction to his extramarital activities was to have an affair with another man. The couple separates, then decides to give it another try.

“Reunited,” the song that describes that moment, is hauntingly beautiful, but the woman eventually decides that although her husband’s “money is strong” she would rather be broke than stay with him.

The ex-husband is left to bemoan his wretched fate — “Girl I will miss you (oh boy will I miss you) / Even though it breaks my heart. … Although we’re apart / You still own my heart / Forever, and ever.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

Toni Braxton (Associated Press)

Toni Braxton. (Associated Press)

BRAXTON FANS who don’t understand English might well mistake “Love, Marriage & Divorce” for a collection of retro “slow jam” love songs. Many of them are reminiscent of the “slow jams” Braxton and Edmonds excelled at in the early ’90s, when Braxton won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and Edmonds was successfully multitasking as a recording artist, writer, producer and record label executive.

“Romantic” is something the lyrics of most of the new songs definitely are not, but Edmonds and Braxton and the other writers do excellent work capturing the conflicting emotions in vivid terms.

In “I Hope That You’re Okay,” one of the songs Edmonds wrote without Braxton’s input, he expresses the emotions of someone who accepts the fact that “we can’t go through the motions anymore” but hopes that they can part without hurting each other anymore.

With “I Wish,” which Braxton wrote, she expresses the feelings of someone who wants her ex to hurt as least as much as she does — “but not die.” The lyrics are a series of revenge scenarios: She hopes that he’s unhappy. She hopes that his new lover “gives you a disease.” She hopes the other woman will spend all his money and that she “creeps on you with somebody who’s 22.”

If there is ever a remake of the chick-flick revenge fantasy “First Wives’ Club,” this song will certainly be on the soundtrack.

Another song, “Heart Attack,” vividly describes the pain the man feels when he sees the wife he hurt out on the town with another man.

Any similarities between the circumstances described in the songs and the real-life experiences of Braxton and Edmonds with their ex-spouses are left to the listener’s imagination.

The latest news about Braxton these days, aside from her new album, is the epic “wardrobe malfunction” that occurred during a concert in August when the back panel of the almost-backless dress she was wearing dropped much lower than intended.

Although some reports said Braxton was naked under the dress, she was in fact wearing an opaque skin-tone body stocking. When a wardrobe wrangler’s attempt to retie the dress proved fruitless, she slipped out of the dress entirely and continued the show wearing the body stocking and a sports jacket donated by an audience member.

Many men who have tickets for Braxton’s Valentine’s Day show here are no doubt hoping she’ll be wearing the same dress.

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