Tamar Braxton Gives ‘The Real’ R&B On “Calling All Lovers”
Tamar Braxton’s last album Love And War was critically acclaimed and earned her a few Grammy nominations. But after her highly publicized loss to Rihanna in the R&B category, Braxton doubled down on straight R&B on her new LP Calling All Lovers, and we heartily support it.
Ms. Braxton starts the album off with “Angels & Demons”, a reggae tinged heater that is 100% fire. As she laments the ups and downs of love, Braxton shows that she is much more than a belter. Mostly keeping to a limited range, she plays with nuance and subtlety for an understated yet masterful delivery.
The follow-up “Catfish”, which we already reviewed, flips things around for a song of strength and sass. This is where the bulk of Calling All Lovers lives, painting a complete picture of love with all its facets, positive, negative, and everything in between.
On “Simple Things”, Braxton crafts some true Motown moaning magic with an organ, drums, and classic harmonizing background singers. She even takes a break from blowing to talk through her feelings. The nostalgia is strong with this one.
If the album has any faults, it’s in playing the same notes too often. Most attention is placed on the ballads in this collection, while in contrast, the mid-tempo pieces feel like muddled afterthoughts. Songs like “I Love You”, “Makin Love”, and “Love It” are pushed into the obscure background by her frequent power performances, and “Free Fallin”, despite its impressive vocal delivery, feels like one power ballad too many.
Despite its minor weaknesses, Braxton manages to create a number of special moments on the album. “Broken Record” and “Raise the Bar” are simple in production, vocal, and lyric, but it is that simplicity that leaves a large footprint. Whether she is getting reflective about being caught in a relationship that seems to be going nowhere or lauding the magnificence of her partner, Tamar’s vocals are on full display, heavily laced with longing and desire.
Still, the album standout is “Never”, delivering all the hallmarks of 90’s R&B: sharp lyrics and crisp delivery set to a smooth mid-tempo groove.
You treat me like I’m nothing
You take me for granted, you’re trippin’
(walkin’ round here like I owe you somethin’)
Always going out my damn way
Just to keep you happy
Well since you wanna act like that I swear you’ll
Never kiss my lips again
I promise that you’ll
Never feel my love again
Never again, no never!
Yep. Go ahead and set this one to repeat.
And make sure that when you purchase the album, you get the deluxe edition. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on the addictive (and slightly ratchet) “S.O.N.” No this song is not about or for children. S.O.N. stands for “sex over nonsense”, and on the song, Braxton is all about moving past the nonsense and getting down to business.
Comparisons to the highly successful Love and War are inescapable, but outside of super ballad “Circles” (a “Love And War” clone with its far-reaching range and drum heavy production), Calling All Lovers is a near complete departure and maturation of the bombastic Tamar Braxton we once knew. She has traded her in your face nature and “vocal performance first” attitude for a more pointed focus on artistry. And to that effect, this body of work is much more Grammy-worthy than her last effort.
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