Favorites: Catfish, Circles, Must Be Good To You, King
Overall: A nice upgrade from Love & War; less silly, more vocal display and more memorable
Tamar Braxton has been saying for months that her newest LP, Calling All Lovers, would be much better than the breakthrough Love & War. Fans like myself, who found War to be a sleepy disappointment that didn't demonstrate her vocal ability, will be relieved to know she wasn't posturing. I say all the time that artists should analyze and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their previous works to ensure improvement every album, and it sounds like Braxton did that. War tried to rebound from and cover up hum-drum, routine R&B, Keyshia Cole echoes (although adequately written) with what I call "toy songs;" deliberately silly tracks for you to booty-pop to that are supposed to be "fun." Not only are hum-drum and silly not a great complimentary combination, but the" toys" were so fisher-price plastic and of a lower-quality than normal, they couldn't be taken seriously even as a mere club or novelty joint (I liked "Hot Sugar," but again, the novelty wore off at a shocking speed). Lovers has almost no up-tempos, and yet, it's more engaging than its predecessor. The songs have more character; for example, "Angels and Demons" is island-influenced, "Simple Things" and "Must Be Good to You" are old-school chic, and "Broken Record" and "Raise the Bar" are misty blue. Braxton herself seems more interested, flexing the vocal muscles we knew she had. The foolishness was cut down to 1 track and it was enough for the whole record. After the beautifully-written "King," comes "S.O.N.," which I assumed would double the beautiful and be a tribute to her toddler son, Logan. In actuality, S.O.N. was an acronym for "sex over nonsense." I might have forgiven the unfortunate reality and called it a humorously clever mislead if the rhythms weren't so basic and the lyrics and rhymes so elementary and Dr. Seuss: "Stop acting like you got the power while I'm in the shower...boy, stop frontin' and let's make this movie starring this booty."
While I'm on the subject of "S.O.N." and Braxton's actual one, where is the motherhood material? Sentiments of the heart is something she does well as a songwriter, so I would love to hear her exploration of that experience. The gorgeous "Free Fallin" needed to be 2 minutes longer; 3 wasn't enough. From what I read on Twitter, few people liked "Catfish" and I don't see why not. Yes, there are 1 too many SWV "Human Nature" samples in the world, social media references in popular music are cheesy and set songs up to sound dated later on, and Tamar didn't describe an internet catfish correctly, but it "must be good to me;" I've had it on repeat.
In summation, Braxton delivered with Calling All Lovers. The lyrics work, the tracks stick better and she is "SANGIN'!," as they say. It still takes the risk of being drowsy, but it's not a detrimental choice.