TGJ Replay: Toni Braxton’s ‘Secrets’

Published: Saturday 15th Aug 2015 by Rashad
thatgrapejuice - Secrets_-_Toni_Braxton_(Front)_1996

Welcome back to TGJ Replay!

Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.

This week, we’ll unlock the secrets behind the success of Toni Braxton‘s 1996 sophomore release ‘Secrets.’

The dreaded sophomore slump:  a huge fear of artists (and fans of said artists) who see “overnight” success from the beginning of their careers.  And, with 3 top 10 Hot 100 singles and a #1 run on the Billboard 200 courtesy of her self-titled debut LP, 1993-1995 saw Toni Braxton put herself in the same boat.

Breaking free from the plague of endless comparisons to Queen of Quiet Storm Anita Baker – whom many of her hits at the time were originally written for (see:  ‘Love Shoulda Brought You Home,’ ‘You Mean the World To Me,’ and ‘Give You My Heart’ with Babyface), Braxton developed her own identity to become a force all her own in the industry.  Add to this a bevy of critical acclaim and industry recognition (see three Grammys including ‘Best New Artist’ at the 1994 ceremony), the success of her inaugural project put some serious pressure on her next release to match or outperform it.

Her 1994 interview with Ed Gordon shone as proof of her awareness of this.

“…God can take this from me at any time and I’ve only had one album. So many artists have had successful first albums and you’ve never heard from them again. Not to say I’m an exception to that rule, but I’m going to do everything I can to ensure I have a career. But, there are no guarantees. Toni Braxton, 1994”

  • Anita Baker comparisons (4:05)
  • Fear of Sophomore Slump (5:55)

Some three years after her debut, 1996 would see elements of the sonic formula that brought her first opus to fame thrown in the equation of crafting its follow-up.  Tapping LaFace label heads, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, to executive produce the project, the duo aided Braxton in birthing her long-awaited sophomore release.

Titled ‘Secrets,’ the album was kicked off by the sultry single ‘You’re Making Me High’…

Delivered courtesy of a double A-side which featured the tune ‘Let It Flow’ (also found aboard the 1995 ‘Waiting To Exhale’ soundtrack), the song lived up to its titling by getting “high” on charts worldwide (including a skyrocketed trip to #1 on the Hot 100).

Gifting the songstress with her very first chart-topper, ‘High’ and ‘Flow’ flew Braxton right to the ownership of her 4th Grammy (‘Best Female R&B Vocal Performance,’ 1997).

Leading the album to an impressive #2 debut in summer 1996, its commercial acclaim was only bested by rave reviews from critics.  Unknown to them at the time, the success of ‘High’ and ‘Flow’ were only the quiet before the storm.

For, songwriting and production giants Diane Warren and David Foster – who’d penned megahits for the likes of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and more – joined forces for the stirring ballad ‘Un-Break My Heart.’ Story has it, the song was originally presented to Dion while her 1996 hit, ‘Because You Loved Me,’ was initially supposed to be for Braxton.  Dion opted to record ‘Because’ instead, leaving ‘Heart’ to be offered to L.A. Reid for Braxton. Reid was impressed with the song and thought it would be an excellent inclusion on ‘Secrets,’ but Braxton, on the other hand, made it no secret she was not a fan of it.

Despite initial protests, the contralto diva eventually relented and recorded the song – a move that later proved lucrative.  Selected as the second single from ‘Secrets,’ ‘Heart’ was an instant knockout with listeners.

With its sweeping low notes to its gripping climax, the ballad shot Braxton straight to the top of the Hot 100 for a jaw-dropping 11 weeks.  Going on to double platinum certification, ‘Heart’ – the 3rd #1 hit of her career – also helped her nab her 5th Grammy award (‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance,’ 1997).

To date, the song not only remains her “signature” song, but also shares the record for most weeks spent in the Hot 100’s top 3 by a female artist (tied with Mariah Carey‘s ‘We Belong Together’) with whopping 18 week runs.

‘Heart’ was a undeniably tough act to follow.  But, Toni and team forged on with selections from ‘Secrets’ by tapping the R.Kelly-penned/produced number ‘I Don’t Want To’ as its follow-up.  Much like the project’s inaugural releases, ‘Don’t’s delivery came as a double A-side, sharing billing with mid-tempo groove ‘I Love Me Some Him.’

While not nearly as successful as its predecessors, the tunes still managed top 20 placement (#19 peak).

To round out the record, Braxton and co. called upon ‘How Could An Angel Break My Heart.’  Though delivering some respectable numbers, ‘Angel’ wouldn’t exactly soar on charts like its predecessors.  In fact, while it missed the Hot 100 all together, it did still manage to score top 20 placement on the Adult Contemporary charts.

We’re sure the misstep was hardly noticed.  By the time ‘Angel’ was lifted from ‘Secrets,’ the album had already been certified 8x platinum.  To date, it sits at a cool 15 million worldwide.

toni_braxton_pic_tgj replay

‘Secrets’ is undoubtedly Toni Braxton’s magnum opus.  One of the “must hear” albums of the past 20 years, this collection of modern R&B classics is simply representative of Braxton at her best.

Now, as we press play on our jams ‘Why Should I Care’ and ‘I Love Me Some Him,’ you tell us:


Your thoughts?

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  1. Sandra August 15, 2015

    That’s a beautiful album cover.
    I love Unbreak My Heart. I haven’t heard the other songs on the album

    • Bitchpleaseeezzzzzz August 16, 2015

      Sandra, quickly find this album on iTunes and buy it pronto. I promise you won’t skip a track. Enjoy 😉

  2. FAF August 15, 2015

    Tamar could NEVER

    • Molly #September4thSurprise August 15, 2015

      Tamar is the better singer tho.

      • Petty August 15, 2015

        Tamar can’t even sing live….

      • Kayla C August 15, 2015

        Tamar a better singer???? Lmao

      • Molly #September4thSurprise August 15, 2015

        Even Toni said on the show Tamar is the most talented outta all the sisters.

      • Mark111 August 15, 2015

        Tamar’Tamar’s voice isn’t special. Toni’s tone is iconic. Tamar wanted to be MC, but Toni was MC’s peer.

      • Cassandra chen August 15, 2015

        Be a leader not a follower, there is nothing special about Tamar voice. Lol the better singer..when I want to listen to a singer that will touch my soul, its definitely not Tamar..

  3. BeyRihLiyah August 15, 2015

    Unbreak my heart ????☺️

  4. PeaceMaker August 15, 2015

    “Let it Flow”, “I Don’t Want to”, “Find Me a man” & “There’s no Me Without You” are my favorites

  5. Beyoncé Giselle-Knowles Carter (Formerly RihNavy) August 15, 2015

    Let it Flow is my favorite. I listen to it regularly. The video for that song was also amazing

  6. Barb-wire August 15, 2015

    I have unconditional love for this woman, she doesn’t compete with anyone… She just does the f*** she wants and it’s always on point. #How could an angel break my heart.

  7. Molly #September4thSurprise August 15, 2015

    Was never a fan but “Unbreak My Heart” is legendary

    • Petty August 15, 2015

      This one album outsold your favs discography sir.

      • Molly #September4thSurprise August 15, 2015

        Cool still not a fan.

  8. Kayla C August 15, 2015

    “I don’t want to” and “I love me some him”, YES

    • desmond l. anderson December 7, 2015

      “I LOVE ME SOME HIM” IS MY FAVORITE SONG FROM TONI BRAXTON!!!!!!!! SHE SAID EVERYTHING THAT I WANT TO SAY TO MY BOYFRIEND…..WHEN I GET ONE WHO IS WORTHY!!!!! IT’S TOUGH BEING A GAY MAN IN THIS WORLD WHO’S LOOKIN’ FOR REAL LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. lolhart August 15, 2015

    One of my favourite R&B albums of all time. I’ll never understand why There’s No Me Without You wasn’t a single. It would have done much better on the charts than Angel.

  10. Mark111 August 15, 2015

    My ex girlfriend loved this album. She played it ALL THE TIME! She would play I Love Me Some Him to me every night.
    .
    Toni’s tone, Baby Face writing and you can’t forget Ms Warren monster song she wrote. Witch would later birth Aaliyah’s How Could The One I Gave My Heart To, Monica’s For You I will and Brandy’s Have You Ever. Oh the 90s.

    • african music lover August 15, 2015

      You date girls? i cant believe i actually thought you were gay.

      • Rocnar August 16, 2015

        Mark is very gay. That “ex-girlfriend” nonsense was a put on.

  11. african music lover August 15, 2015

    auuuuuu!!UNBREAK MY HEART remains my favourate song from her and overall one of my top favourate songs from the 90s.. God i love this woman,and love, marriage and divorce with babyface remains my favourate rnb album for the past three years

  12. african music lover August 15, 2015

    You date girls?no shade but i cant believe i actually thought you were gay….

  13. Molly #September4thSurprise August 15, 2015

    “My ex girlfriend loved this album.”

    hahahahahaha mark stawwwwwwwp!!!!!!!!!! pls

  14. Rock$ August 15, 2015

    You Got Love This Woman!I Love Toni!

  15. Monica Stan August 15, 2015

    Legend

  16. MUSICHEAD August 15, 2015

    This is a beautiful album. Secrets was the first CD album I ever bought alongside CrazySexyCool. Ironically, Unbreak My Heart is my least favorite song on the album. How Could An Angel is my favorite. I was at one of her concerts a few weeks ago.

  17. Cory Wynne August 15, 2015

    Her debut imo had better songs that people actually know

  18. Fancy BISH August 15, 2015

    TGJ, I love these Replays…Toni Braxton’s Secrets sounds as fresh as the day it was released…maybe the R. Kelly penned I Don’t Want To shows its age just a little bit…but the arrangements feel very modern and stripped to the elements that make it work…impeccably recorded…it sounds expensive (IT IS)…now, that voice…wow! Toni sounds like she recorded the album in one take…her voice just flows perfectly with every sound and rhythm it comes in contact with…there’s a confidence here…she KNOWS she’s slaying these tracks chile…but there’s still a vulnerability and tenderness that Miss Toni does so very well…favorite track has to be YMMH…chile, that west-coast slinky groove matches her sultry voice perfectly…Why Should I Care matches the hotness of YMMH with a scorching guitar and west-coast vibe as well…the bridges are very similar…i wonder what was recorded first…Toni slayed 1996 and cemented herself as one of the best singers in contemporary R&B with the sultry Secrets…

  19. cocobutta August 16, 2015

    Great album

  20. Bitchpleaseeezzzzzz August 16, 2015

    The entire album >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  21. Stephy August 16, 2015

    Her debut album is WAY better.

  22. MeIAmMarie August 16, 2015

    my faves are def I Dont Want To,Youre Making Me High and Unbreak My Heart

    and from her first album Love Affair is genuis

  23. adelefan August 16, 2015

    ICON… LEGEND. Toni Braxton is the best . Love her. Dont forget that R&B Icon Miss Anita Baker. love her too

  24. adelefan August 16, 2015

    ????????????????????????????????
    im selfish, she needs all the praise.
    we got her feeling like she won agian.
    we got her feeling like she won again.
    Shouts go out to 20 yrs up in the game. she needs a few bands just to see how long the run was been.
    10 bands.. lol high

  25. Dossome August 16, 2015

    Let It flow is definitely one of my all time favorite songs without a doubt…

  26. Sean August 16, 2015

    “Why Should I Care”, “Come On Over Here”, “Talking In Hs Sleep”, “I Love Me Some Him”, “There’s No Me Without You”, love all these songs because of my Aunt…yesss Auntie Toni???? come thruuuuu…shout out to TGJ for this amazing post on this amazing album.

  27. Royalkev August 16, 2015

    This was such a masterpiece! This album makes me get a little sentimental, it’s the 3rd album I ever owned (my 1st were Waiting To Exhale & Design of a Decade, which I think I got around Christmas). ‘Secrets’ was truly the best album that dropped that year, hands down! I did think Aaliyah’s OIAM was up there though, but this ‘Secrets’ album was an instant classic! It’s one of a kind! My favorite songs are: ‘Find Me a Man’, ‘Why Should I Care’, ‘I Love Me Some Him’, ‘Come On Over Here’ and ‘You’re Making Me High’. I mean, this album was so remarkable, the gems go on and on. If you can appreciate these kind of albums when your young, you’ll certainly find new meaning in the music as you get older. It ages perfectly!

  28. Erik August 16, 2015

    Great pick!..This album is certainly amazing from beginning to end. Toni IS the Queen of R&B!!. There is not one artist EVER who has been as successful or who has done PURE R&B music like Toni has.

    Difinately a masterpiece of an album. Completely flawless!!!

    • Royalkev August 17, 2015

      ^ I totally agree! People often talk about all these POP/R&B divas being R&B artists back then. I don’t know how some people begin to classify some of music the way that they do (from artists that they stan for). Being 50% R&B, doesn’t make you an R&B artist. I feel the biggest STRICTLY R&B artists of that time were Toni, R.Kelly & Usher.

      • Erik August 17, 2015

        Right!!..Around this time most artist were incorporating Hip Hop, Pop and other musical generes into their music!..it wasn’t up until Tonis major success did other acts start doing full on R&B music..than came along Deborah C**, Tamia and a hand full of other female artist who started doing R&B music the way Toni did, but never had the major success she did.

        Whitney and Mariah Will always be considered Pop artist. Mary is Hip Hop/ Soul. Janet is Pop…Brandy, Monica and Aaliyah were in fact R&B but will always be considered Tonis lessers because none had Tonis impact and success.

      • Royalkev August 17, 2015

        Hmmm, interesting… I see things the way you do for the most part. I may be in the minority here, but I also see Whitney & Mariah as POP artists. I can understand how some may want to label them POP & R&B because of how they both dabbled into R&B later on in their careers. I just don’t understand how people categorize them as R&B. It’s like Mary, she’s always been an R&B artist. Although she’s recorded music outside that genre, she’s still an authentic R&B artist. Janet’s always been a POP artists that has tremendous success on R&B and Dance charts, but people often label her an R&B artist these days. I actually don’t think any black artist was more POP than Janet (until maybe Rihanna came along). I guess it’s a bit confusing because these women are black. Bran is actually a perfect example of Pop/R&B imo.

        What type of artists do you consider Bey, Rih and Ciara to be?

  29. Erik August 17, 2015

    I think all 3 of these artist started off R&B and after success crossed over to the POP territory…

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