American singer, songwriter, pianist, record producer, actress, philanthropist and television personality, Toni Michelle Braxton was born in Severn, Maryland on October 7, 1967 to a Methodist Clergyman and Power company worker, Michael Conrad Braxton Sr., and a pastor, cosmetologist and former opera singer, Evelyn Jackson. She was one of the most popular and commercially successful female R&B singers of the ’90s, earning the title ‘Queen of R&B’.
Braxton and her four sisters began singing in church as girls, which allowed her develop her vocal style and prowess. As a result of her husky voice, she always used male singers such as Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald and Luther Vandross as models. Amid having fair success with some local talent hunt, Braxton continued to sing with her sisters, and after high school studied to become a music teacher, though she soon dropped out of college to sing professionally after she was discovered by William E. Pettaway, Jr., who was working as an attendant at the Annapolis service station where she was refueling and recognized her from local performances. With Pettaway’s help, Braxton and her sisters signed with Arista Records in 1989 as a group called the Braxtons.
The Braxtons released a single in 1990 called “The Good Life,” and though it wasn’t a hit, it did catch the attention of L.A. Reid and Babyface who had just formed their own label, LaFace, which was associated with Arista. Braxton became the first female artist signed to LaFace in 1991, and not only did her solo cut “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” become a substantial pop and R&B hit, but she also duetted with Babyface on “Give U My Heart”.
Her self-titled debut studio album was released by LaFace Records on July 13, 1993. The album which peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart sold over 10 million copies worldwide, with such hits as “Another Sad Love Song” and “Breathe Again”; and earned Braxton three (3) Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and two consecutive awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. In 1994, more singles from Braxton were released including “You Mean the World to Me”, “Seven Whole Days” and “I Belong to You/How Many Ways”.
Braxton’s second album “Secrets”, was released in the summer of 1996, and was another massive hit. It’s first single “You’re Makin’ Me High” became Braxton’s first number-one hit on the Hot 100 singles chart. The album’s second single, “Un-Break My Heart”, written and composed by Diane Warren, became the biggest hit of Braxton’s career, spending eleven (11) consecutive weeks at number one on the Hot 100 and also topping the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart for eleven (11) weeks. After 92 weeks in the charts, “Secrets” was certified 8x platinum, becoming Braxton’s second straight 8 million seller. Internationally, Secrets sold more than 15 million copies.
Toward the end of 1997, Braxton filed a lawsuit against LaFace Records, attempting to gain release from a contract she felt was no longer fair or commensurate with her status. Braxton and LaFace finally reached a settlement in early 1999, and the singer soon began work on her third album. “The Heat” was released in the spring of 2000 and was nominated for many awards. At the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards, the album’s lead-single, “He Wasn’t Man Enough”, was nominated for Best R&B Song and eventually won a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, while the album itself was nominated for Best R&B Album. Other singles include ‘Gimme Some’, featuring a rap verse from TLC star Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, ‘Just Be a Man About It’ and ‘Spanish Guitar’.
In November 2002, Braxton’s fourth studio album “More Than a Woman” was released but was an instant commercial disappointment due to lack of effective promotion.
In late 2013, Braxton teamed up once again with Babyface to record the duets album “Love, Marriage & Divorce”. Motown released the album in February 2014.