Spell My Name

Toni Braxton's Spell My Name is a great, if short, record

Toni Braxton has returned to R&B with her tenth studio album, Spell My Name, which came out on August 28, 2020. A follow-up to 2018's Sex and Cigarettes, Spell My Name feels like it was a product of love with Toni Braxton contributing on the writing for every track on the album. The album is short, lasting only 35 minutes across ten songs, but it's packed with quality.

Since the album is so short, I figure I will offer a play by play of each track.

The album opens with the single Dance. This song is so insanely catchy, that since the single's release I find myself humming and dancing to this song at least once a day. It has a catchy beat and matches well with Toni Braxton's delivery. A great song through and through.

A remix of Do It with Missy Elliott comes next. Toni sounds great, but this remix is weird. The backing sounds and supportive shouts and woots are more distracting than anything else. Missy's rap is fine but the production here gets in the way of the actual song.

The album's third single, Gotta Move On, comes next. This track features guitar play by H.E.R., who absolutely kills it with her guitar solo. Overall, I don't know how I feel on this song. The first time I heard it, it felt too sleepy and subdued to me. Since then, it has grown on me some, with its heavy message as Toni Braxton struggles with the question of leaving her partner.

Fallin' is an interesting song, as it features a conflicted message. It's a love song as she talks about falling in love with someone every day. However, it also is dark as she talks about their relationship being bad and this not being the person she should be with. It's not one of my favorites but the variation on the theme makes the song have something to it.

The title track for the album comes next with Spell My Name. The opening strings lure you into the song and then hits with some effective delivery. The track features Johnny Yukon opening every verse as he calls at Toni Braxton. The track has a nice change of pace from the rest of the album as it feels like it features Toni Braxton in a more empowered position.

O.V.E.Rr. comes next, in which Toni sings about a relationship being done. The track features a little more punch to Toni's delivery, as she talks about being done with the relationship. The delivery is a nice mix of breathy and punchy. Overall, I like the song, but it is caught in part of the problem of feeling like the message of the song is the same as what we've been hearing over and over again on the album.

Happy Without Me comes next, and is probably my favorite track on the album. The song is packed with so much emotion, it really feels like Toni let herself be exposed on this song. The delivery and production play well to her voice. A sobering track, but great.

Saturday Night follows the packed emotion of the last two tracks, with a weird mix of lyrics. The verses have a haunting slow sound as Toni Braxton reflects on having to end things. However, teh chorus then is all about her plans for some wild love making that night. The juxtaposition just doesn't work that great for me. What's more, the mixing seems strange as the delivery at the end gets stronger, but there's such a muted feeling to the sound at the end that a lot of that power gets lost.

The original version of Do It comes next, and this song confuses me. This version of the song is great, I don't know why they remixed it into the weird version that opened the album. The song is a great match for Toni's voice and the more subdued beat better reflects the lyrics and feeling of the song. Another great track.

The album ends with Nothin, a bonus track that was written and producted with Babyface. I was excited for this as the two often seem to make great material together. The song has a folksy, countryish sound to it, and the chorus makes you want to put your hands in the air and wave them along. However, the song feels too generic to me. I feel like I've heard this Babyface song before, and the message is too simple, I need some more specificity to really connect to it.

My only major criticism of the content of the album is that it starts to feel very samesy. Dance was such a fun start to the album, but then afterwards it felt like we heard 8 or 9 variations on the same song. "I'm in a bad relationship, unsure if I can leave you" delivered at a slow pace. A varied message and some more variety could elevate this album to be one of Toni's classics.

Favorite tracks: Do It (original version), Dance, Happy Without Me, O.V.E.Rr.

tl;dr: Overall, this is a lean album at 35 minutes, especially when you consider we get two copies of Do It. Having said that, the album is a great listen, with every song featuring competent production and great delivery by Toni Braxton. Toni has continued to modernize and demonstrate that she's just as talented and worth listening to in the 2020s as she was in the 1990s.