Off the pedastal 90s diva Toni Braxton has been out of contention for too long. She's had her knockers: bankruptcy, bad material, illness, reality TV and broadway attention have held her tabloid status more or less, but for a singer whose hits include chart-toppers You're Making Me High, Let It Flow and Unbreak My heart, her recording drought was cause for concern. Thankfully she is back with her best album in years, but probably won't get a hit single out of it.
Opener and first single So Yesterday is a gorgeous stir of strictly mature emotions of rueful regret, strictly calculated Halo-style arrangement shudderings and above all else tinged with Braxton's classy husky timbre softening as her pain breaks away in satisfying conclusion. Bimbo Jones have tarted this one up, and the generic gay club results are nothing short of brilliant. The singer even throws in one of her classic whoooo's, so whatever it was really is yesterday and she's probably not even gon' think about it, nu uh! Failing to crack the Billboard Hot 100, the track is supposedly picking up on Russian radio almost as faster than her esteem.
Oh dear is that my keys and wallet being stolen or is someone really wanting me to dance? Current single Make My Heart is a tight and scary dancefloor twist and grind. Toni's in her 40s and this, as much as I would enjoy it anyway, is thankfully not mutton disco menopause. She's grabbing Paula Abdul's horny horns and just stay out the way or it will have you doing things that won't make you look good at all.
Joining Monica in her MOR Rn'B misery club, 2nd single Hands Tied is as good as the younger sister's Stay Or Go. Synths fizz up the jam. More lush arrangements ooze out of Woman, another misery-guts Halo-strike. If I Have To Wait reads my mind as it's yet another polished self-affirming song of love lost. Lookin' At Me is a Make My Heart re-write: fall for it once, shame on you girlfriend; fall for it twice then you are probably a really gay homosexual. Wardrobe gets Toni dusting off her dancing shoes for more cardiovascular cougar life-planning. The faintly dramatic Hero isn't anything Brandy didn't do far better on Piano man, but this isn't anything to hold against her. No Way is limper than its title would suggest. Title track Pulse flushes the same MOR ingredients down the toilet. Peppered with casual synths, Why Don't You Love Me isn't any better or worse.
If you are a fan of 'the voice' (and she is probably the only 90s diva to still have that voice), Pulse is an accomplished set of MOR songs all cleanly decorated with pretty-but-safe production flourishes, which allows her vocals to prove themselves with a triumphant dignity currently abandoning Whitney and Mariah. Oomph is there on the endearingly ropey Make My Heart, and as So Yesterday proves, the bitch is safe when it comes to the power of the remix. A good record, Pulse just lacks the impulse to be really sensational.