The R&B vocalist with one of deepest female voices in music, Toni Braxton, has returned. ‘I Heart You’ is the first single to be taken from her eighth studio album Gemstone, due out in May, and sees Braxton take on a brand new sound with this pop-dance track; a far cry from her traditional R&B and soul roots. After the disappointment of her poorly-received last album Pulse in 2010, Toni is need of a hit single to catapult her back into superstardom, and her recent TV show in the US, Braxton Family Values, has already set her back on the path to that. And ‘I Heart You’ may help her further.
Although the first thirty seconds of ‘I Heart You’ sound like a ballad, something Toni is well-known for being able to master, she soon kicks into the chorus and the thumping beat begins to blast. In the verses, she pulls words and notes out in such lines as ‘I feel your lips / Your tender kiss / Just ooh, ooh, oooooooh’ with such emotion, you can feel what she sings; her articulation and rich, warm tone are very reminscent of a younger Whitney Houston, but with a much deeper voice. Despite the song being called ‘I Heart You’, the lyrics in the chorus are actually ‘I love you, ooh, I love you / You drive me crazy thinkin’ about it, baby’, but the lines ‘I love you, but you love her’ and ‘Damn, I know it’s wrong / But you turn me on’ suddenly suggest that this love song is also about infidelity. By the middle eight, the song breaks down with heavy dance beats as Braxton croons slowly in her sexy voice ‘I think I’m gonna dance / Dance all my troubles all away’, before executing a crisp, Christina-esque run into the climax. However, that quickly fades and you’re left hanging with not much of a proper ending to the song.
‘I Heart You’ shows a different, more versatile and fun side to Toni as she takes on an uptempo track and yet manages to keep her vocals as smooth as ever, bar a few Etta James-like growls, whilst still singing at the same pace as if she were doing a power ballad. While dance music may be big right now, can Braxton separate herself from everyone else with this 90s-influenced and Crystal Waters-inspired song and sound? The answer, yes she could, but at the same time, we still miss the ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and ‘He Wasn’t Man Enough For Me’ Toni Braxton we know and love.