In Case You Missed It : Toni Braxton’s R&B Masterpiece ‘Libra’

Libra was the sixth studio album by American recording artist Toni Braxton. It was released by Timbaland’s  Blackground Records on September 27, 2005. It marked Braxton’s debut on the label, following her split with longtime record company Arista Records in 2003 after the release of her album More Than a Woman (2002), which was commercially less successful than its predecessors. ‘Libra’ debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and at number two on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, selling 114,000 copies in its first week. A steady seller, Libra gained gold status by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on November 4, 2005, having sold over 441,000 copies to date. In my eyes this album would be in my top 5 albums of all time. Toni Braxton has an A class list of writers and producers help her create the album from, Scott Storch, Johnta Austin, Harvey Mason Jr, Bryan-Michael Cox, Keri Hilson and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds to name a few.

Breaking away from her usual formula which saw her setting up projects with a variety of music producers, Braxton began recording her Blackground Records debut with husband Keri Lewis, who she had married in 2001. The former Mint Condition member had been involved to varying degrees in all of Braxton’s three prior albums. The duo along worked on several tracks for ‘Libra’, about seven or eight songs which made the first record they turned in to Blackground. However, Universal Records, Blackground’s distributor in the United States at this time, was reportedly dissatisfied with the material and refused to consider releasing it. Similarly, Blackground’s international partners questioned the commercial appeal of the couple’s ballad-heavy work. Commenting on the album’s modification process, Braxton expressed her uncertainty about whether her music should follow trends. With the record company trying to make her sound more commercially viable, she felt pressured to approach a more uptempo, hip hop-oriented sound with the songs. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Braxton admitted, that she was forced to put her artistry on the back burner to be more commercial on some songs: “We tried to be clever and incorporate new sounds in my old sound. It was hard at first,” she said, though she also conceded: “I do wish the album had a few more slow songs. Overall, I’m satisfied.”

With Braxton also experiencing a happy family life during the album’s production, she became less involved with the songwriting on the album: “They like [to] hear a little bit more controversy, and that’s not necessarily my lifestyle […] I don’t have to be seen at every party, because that’s not me. I’m not an industry person. I’m not a taste-maker person. I just make a living at singing. So it’s what I love. But the after-party thing, they pretty much gotta make me go.”

An album rich with serene mellow tunes that was easily overlooked due to poor promotion by her label Blackground. The songs feature smooth instrumentals and heavenly vocals, bringing listeners back to that old school R&B sound that Braxton was releasing in the 90’s.

Braxton’s ability to pull big name producers helped this album propel to being flawless. From names like Scott Storch, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and Brian Michael Cox you know your going to get something good and they don’t disappoint. Tranquil songs and impeccable lyrics, if ‘Libra’ doesn’t impress you, then you’re clearly not a lover of music. Upon it’s release, ‘Libra’ earned generally mixed reviews from music critics, who complimented Braxton vocal performance and her return to form on the album’s ballads. In his review for USA Today, Steve Jones noted that Libra broadens “her perspective while growing increasingly feisty […] Still, the more mature Braxton is no longer waiting around for someone else to un-break her heart.”

Billboard wrote that the album “finds the singer doing what she does best: tapping into her R&B siren muse. Braxton still owns the road when it comes to slow jams [but] it’s when she veers into the fast lane that things become a little uneven.”

‘Libra’ showcases Toni Braxton’s artistic excellence, as once again she’s delivered a brilliant collection of tracks that could very well be her best work to date. Libra literally grabs your attention right from the start with Please and won’t let go until the very last note of the very last song Shadowless. The album is a nicely varied, mix of 10 tracks that are very well written songs by some talented artists. Most of the songs display a lot of the kind emotion that makes for a really great listen. Seemingly drawing from what I can only imagine are her own real life experiences. At different points touching on the most real emotions like love, heartbreak, pain, failed relationships and unattainable romance. Although this is her least known album to date, her fans shouldn’t have any trouble appreciating it. Despite the lack of interest and respect from Blackground, ‘Libra’ is an album worthy of a place in your all time greats in R&B.

Rating: ★★★★★



Written By: Neill Frazer

Comments: 2

  • Ernesto Medina

    Reply July 11, 20197:20 pm

    Totally agree. This is one of the best Toni Braxton albums and unfortunately is one of her most underated too. This album is great in every sense, it contains great lyrics, nice instrumental, and also a lot of feelings that only Toni Braxton can sing like nobody else. I hope one day people appreciate this album and consider it one of the best on all time R&B.

  • A.J Lewis

    Reply July 11, 20197:33 pm

    This is my favorite album of her, i hear it every day and hopefully one day it will get the recognition it deserves, cause this album is Perfect. Btw, nice article! 👌🏼

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