Song Reflections by A. Scott Galloway
For the lead single of her first album in seven years, Toni Braxton waxes cinematic…slow-riding’ bare back into town with “Deadwood” – one of the most tastefully dynamic and evocative Soul-Pop singles since Sade’s “Soldier of Love.” The haunting love song about picking up one’s pride in the face of abandonment is an about-face for Braxton, declaring she will most definitely ‘breathe again’… while the source of her sorrow may not. Her vocal performance scales the low and high ends of her range punctuated by mostly crisp diction with hints of her signature emotional word-slurring. All is clearly understood.
“Got me achin’ inside of my skin / No excuses and nothin’ to cling to / You will pay for the state that I’m in…” Moving her through the musical malaise is a sumptuous track beginning with the naked yin and yang of acoustic guitar and electric piano (plus bell tree) then builds with tastefully dispatched strings, darkened theater backing vocals and tight marching drums. Nothing is overblown. The pinnacles of the choruses feel like Thom Bell meets Ennio Morricone at the cinema with Toni starring in a creamy fettuccini western that could honestly work on open-minded Country radio as well. Note the cowgirl hat on Toni’s crown for the hot cover shot. The cherry on top is the 50-second ending vamp where Toni sinks into the track singing the sweetest of ear candy fills sans the overreaching riffing found on so much of today’s singing competition pop. We’re talking surround sound movie-for-the-ears mastery – that rare ballad you want to turn up really loud and float inside. As the first single from her January-slated album, Sex and Cigarettes, the song foreshadows freer more independent musical and thematic directions from Braxton. Indeed, the album is said to require a parental advisory warning. Toni co-wrote “Deadwood” with producer Fred Ball (of Rihanna’s neck-snapping “Love On The Brain”) with Royce Doherty and Kwame Ogoo. Kudos to all.
A. Scott Galloway
The Urban Music Scene
September 14, 2017