Toni Braxton Biography
Braxton topped the Billboard 200 with her 1993 self-titled debut album and continued that streak with her second studio album Secrets, which spawned the number-one smash hits "You're Makin' Me High" and "Un-Break My Heart". After filing for bankruptcy, Braxton returned with her chart-topping third album, The Heat. Her most recent albums were More Than a Woman, her last release under the Arista label, and Libra, her first and only release on Blackground. Recently, she returned to the spotlight with "Yesterday", a #12 R&B hit which serves as the first single off her new album planned for February 2010. Braxton was involved in the 7th season of the reality show Dancing with the Stars. Her professional partner was Alec Mazo. She was voted off in week five of the competition.
Toni's father was a clergyman, and the Braxton children were raised in a strict religious household. Braxton's first performing experience was singing in her church choir. She attended Bowie State University to obtain a teaching degree but decided to sing professionally after she was discovered by William E. Pettaway Jr., who heard her singing to herself while pumping gas.
Braxton and her four sisters (Traci, Trina, Towanda, and Tamar) began performing as The Braxtons in the late 1980s and were signed to Arista Records in 1989. Their first single, "Good Life", was released in 1990. Though the song was not successful, it attracted the attention of Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.
With Braxton's low register sounding similar to that of Anita Baker, Reid and Babyface recruited her to record a demo of "Love Shoulda Brought You Home", a song that they had written for Anita Baker for the soundtrack of Eddie Murphy's film, Boomerang. Baker, who was pregnant at the time, did not record the song but suggested that Braxton record it. Her recording was later included on the soundtrack along with "Give U My Heart", a duet by Braxton and Babyface. Braxton, meanwhile, was signed to Reid and Edmonds' Arista-distributed imprint, LaFace Records, and immediately began recording her solo debut album.
On July 13, 1993, LaFace Records released Braxton's self-titled debut album, Toni Braxton. The album, which was primarily produced by Reid, Babyface, and Daryl Simmons, peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart. The first single, "Another Sad Love Song", peaked at number seven and number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B Singles charts respectively. The album's second single, "Breathe Again" peaked in the top five of both the Hot 100 and R&B singles charts and no 2 in the UK. More singles from Toni Braxton were released in 1994, including "You Mean the World to Me", "Seven Whole Days", and "How Many Ways".
Braxton's debut album won her several awards, including three Grammy Awards (for Best New Artist and two consecutive awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1994 and 1995). She also won two American Music Awards (for Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist and Favorite New Adult Contemporary Artist) in 1994 and another one in 1995 (for Favorite Soul/R&B Album). Toni Braxton was certified 8x platinum in USA and has sales of over 15 million worldwide.
In 1996, Braxton released her second and most successful album, Secrets. Braxton has said about the album: "The motivation for this album was to include a little bit of everything. Our aim was to come up with material that would have a familiar 'feel' to the people who bought the first album without being musically redundant." Along with Babyface, Braxton also worked with R. Kelly, Tony Rich, and David Foster on the album. Braxton was the co-executive producer of the album and co-wrote two of its songs, including the 1997 single "How Could an Angel Break My Heart", which was also later included on Diana Princess of Wales Tribute, a Princess Diana memorial album.
With help from the album's first single, "You're Makin' Me High" (which became Braxton's first number-one hit on the Hot 100 singles chart), the album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart. "You're Makin' Me High" also topped the R&B singles chart for two weeks and saw similar success in Europe and Asia. The album's second single, "Un-Break My Heart" (written by Diane Warren)—which would later become the singer's signature song—became the biggest hit of her career spending eleven weeks at number one on the Hot 100 and also topping the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart for eleven weeks and the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart for four weeks as well as reaching no 2 in the UK The song is the second biggest selling single by a female singer in Billboard history behind Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You. Other singles from the album included the double A-side "I Don't Want To"/"I Love Me Some Him" (which peaked at number one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart) and "How Could an Angel Break My Heart" which featured Kenny G, with whom Braxton later toured. After 92 weeks in the charts, Secrets is certified 8x platinum, becoming Braxton's second straight 8 million seller. Internationally, Secrets sold more than 20 million copies, concreting Braxton's superstar status.
Braxton topped the Billboard Year-End Charts as the Top Hot 100 Singles Artist — Female, Top R&B Artist — Female (singles and albums), Top Hot R&B Singles Artist — Female, Top Hot Dance Club Play Artist, and Top Hot Adult Contemporary Artist, while "Un-Break My Heart" became the Top Hot Dance Club Play Single and the Top Hot Adult Contemporary Track of the year. She won two Grammy Awards; one for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and two American Music Awards for Favorite Female Soul/R&B Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album.
In early 1999, Braxton and LaFace resolved their legal conflict. Issued with a brand new contract worth a reported $25 million, a satisfied Braxton continued to record for the label. Though the legalities with her LaFace and Arista subsided, Braxton saw a steep sales decline with her forthcoming releases with the label.
In January 2000, LaFace Records released "He Wasn't Man Enough", the first single from Braxton's third studio album, The Heat. By June 2000, the song peaked at number two on the Hot 100 chart. Braxton's music video for "He Wasn't Man Enough", which also featured actress Robin Givens, was nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards including Best Female Video and Best R&B Video and a Billboard Music Video Award for Best R&B Clip of the Year.
The Heat was released on April 25, 2000. Debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart with first week sales of 205,000, it remained in the top 20 for fifteen consecutive weeks. Braxton again worked with producers Babyface and Foster; also included in the staple were Rodney Jerkins, and new beau musician Keri Lewis. Braxton herself also took a more hands-on approach, co-writing and co-producing a handful of the tracks. "Gimme Some", a track on "The Heat", featured a rap verse from TLC star Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes.
The albums second single, "Just Be a Man About It", peaked at number 32 on the Hot 100 and number six on the R&B Charts. The third single, "Spanish Guitar", peaked at number 98 on the Hot 100 and number one on the Hot Dance & Club charts. The fourth single, "Maybe", peaked at 74 on the R&B charts.
By the end of the year, The Heat was certified 2x platinum. Also in February 2000, Braxton performed alongside Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera during the Super Bowl Halftime show. Braxton topped the Billboard Year-End Charts as the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artist — Female, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Artist — Female, and Top Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks Artist — Female. She also received the 2000 Aretha Franklin Award for Entertainer of the Year at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. Braxton also picked up her sixth Grammy Award for "He Wasn't Man Enough" which won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and the album was nominated for Best R&B Album. It won Best R&B/Soul Album at the 2001 American Music Awards, her third win in a row.
In summer 2002, while gearing up for the release of her fourth studio album, Braxton discovered she was pregnant with her second child. Knowing that she wouldn't be able to promote the album properly, she unsuccessfully lobbied Arista Records to get the label to postpone its release until after she was to give birth. Arista Records refused and the album was released as planned in November 2002. It received very little promotion from Arista and Braxton herself, due to a complicated pregnancy that confined her to bed rest. Braxton accused the company of being unwilling to compromise and punishing her from not putting her career over family. On the show VH1 Inside Out — Family Comes First, she documented the hardships of being pregnant with her second child at the same time as promoting an album.
In November 2002, Braxton's fourth studio album More Than a Woman was released. Opening to an instant commercial disappointment, the album peaked at number 13, with first week sales of 97,000. The first single, the The Neptunes-produced, "Hit the Freeway", failed at radio and peaked at number 86 on the Hot 100. The two singles that followed ("A Better Man", "Lies, Lies, Lies") also failed to make a dent and missed the Hot 100 completely. Meanwhile, a promotional vinyl was sent out to DJs for "Give It Back"/"Let Me Show You the Way (Out)".
Prior to the release of the album, a dispute erupted between Braxton and Irv Gotti when he played a rough cut of "No More Love", a song that he produced for the album that was to be the first single. Disapproving of Gotti broadcasting the unfinished track, Braxton withheld it from being released. The same year, Braxton was further annoyed when Jay-Z used the same sample of 2Pac's "Me And My Girlfriend" that she had already used on her track "Me & My Boyfriend" for his and Beyonce's "'03 Bonnie & Clyde". Furious, Braxton lashed out in a radio interview, accusing Jay-Z and producer Kanye West of taking money out of her children's college fund.
In April 2003, Braxton abruptly left Arista Records, having been there for fourteen years, and immediately signed with Blackground Records—headed by Barry Hankerson, her manager at the time. The change of scenery, however, did not ultimately help her recording career. As had been the case during her final years at Arista—Braxton's fifth album, and first release on Blackground, Libra was released with scant promotion and accumulated poor sales.
In April 2005, Braxton's new label, Blackground/Universal, released "Please"—the first single from her fifth album, Libra. The album was originally planned for a June release, but it was pushed back several times and was finally issued on September 27. Unfortunately for Braxton, her troubles with weak album promotion and lack of label commitment weren't over. "Please" peaked at number 36 on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, while altogether missing the Hot 100. The album lacked promotion by Blackground, causing it to go under the radar of many.
Despite this, Libra still managed to debut at number four on the Billboard 200 selling 114,593 copies in the first week. Libra also peaked at number two on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Although that is strong for an album with little to no promotion, it became yet another commercial disappointment for Braxton. The album's second single, "Trippin' (That's the Way Love Works)" received less airplay and peaked at number 67 on the R&B chart. The failure was ascribed to the non-video presence of the single and lack of label support. The album was certified gold in late 2005 and has since sold 431,000 copies.
Braxton, meanwhile, recorded a song with Il Divo titled "The Time of Our Lives". The song was used as the official 2006 FIFA World Cup anthem and was performed at the championship's opening day in Berlin, Germany on June 9. The song was also performed at the closing ceremonies making Braxton and Il Divo the first artists to be asked to perform for the opening and closing ceremonies. The song peaked at number seventeen in Germany. As a result Edel Records decided to re-release Libra in Germany, including a new album cover, artwork, and the new anthem.
Braxton made an appearance on the season finale of American Idol 5 where she performed Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto" with soon-to-be winner Taylor Hicks.
On May 19, 2006, the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas announced that Braxton would replace Wayne Newton as the casino's new headlining act on August 3, 2006. The show, entitled Toni Braxton: Revealed, was to be performed six nights a week and was scheduled to run through March 2007. Braxton Later confirmed that she was extending her show through August 2007. The show became the first headlining show from an African American performer in Las Vegas to enter the top ten Vegas shows charting. Due to the success of the show, it was reported that Braxton would extend her show through August 2008. The singer subsequently took time off after being hospitalized for chest pains in April 2008. The show was later cancelled, and it was announced that the show was officially shut down in order for the singer to focus on her health.
Braxton has been released from her contract with Blackground after a number of disputes with former manager Barry Hankerson.
On January 12, 2007, Braxton filed a lawsuit in the U.S District Court in Manhattan against Hankerson for $10 million, alleging "fraud, deception and double dealing," in addition to mismanaging her relationship with Arista Records. According to Braxton, Hankerson placed his own personal financial interests ahead of hers by using "double-talk" to compromise the relationship between Braxton and her former recording label, Arista Records, with Hankerson allegedly telling Arista that "Braxton no longer wanted to record for Arista" and telling Braxton that "Arista was not interested in working with her anymore". Braxton also accused Hankerson of failing to send her on request copies of accounting statements, lying about deals that he made on her behalf and engaging in a vendetta against her by refusing to provide information to other managers that she sought to employ to manage her career.
The suit was settled with Braxton returning a $375,000 advance to Hankerson—who would also receive a percentage of the sales of her next album—and Hankerson releasing Braxton from her contract with him. The settlement also limits the companies in which Braxton can sign with.
In early August, various internet websites including TMZ.com and In Touch Weekly magazine began announcing that Braxton would be appearing on the seventh season of Dancing with the Stars. The full cast of the next season of the show was confirmed on August 25, 2008 on Good Morning America, which confirmed Braxton as a contestant in the season with her partner being Alec Mazo.
Braxton, Lance Bass, Maurice Greene and Marlee Matlin headlined Dancing with the Stars winter tour starting in December 2008 and finishing in February 2009.
In October 2008, it was announced that Braxton signed to Atlantic Records. In the November 2008 issue of Jet, Braxton discussed her time spent on Dancing with the Stars as well as dealing with her son's autism. Braxton also talked about being signed to Atlantic Records and the debut of her upcoming single. She added that the complete CD is scheduled to come out in some time in 2009. She also hinted at a cooking show with fellow Dancing with the Stars competitor, Rocco DiSpirito.
A new song titled "Yesterday" premiered on September 11, 2009 and features Trey Songz. It was released as the lead single from her as of yet untitled sixth studio album. "Yesterday" debuted at number 96 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the issue dated January 2, 2010, the song made a massive thirty-nine-spot jump and has now peaked at 12, making it her highest chart performance since her 2000's single "Just Be a Man About It", which peaked at number six. It is due for release in the UK on February 22, 2010 a week before the album.
The song is produced by DJ Frank E and has been released on September 18, 2009, being the first single released by Toni Braxton under Atlantic Records. "Yesterday" has been available to download since September 29, 2009. Toni Braxton announced in a live webcast on the September 17, 2009, that her album will feature 12 songs, and that it might include some of the leaked songs. The album will be released on February 2, 2010 in the US whilst it is set for release in the UK on March 1, 2009.