Traci Braxton - Crash & Burn (2014)

Traci Braxton
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Amiable, centered, and anything but a craver of the spotlight: that's how some folks perceive 'middle children' -- and it also describes Traci Braxton. Sharing a household, a stage and now reality show set with boisterous sister sibs would be a tall order for anyone, and given the drama levels that Trina, Tamar and Towanda manufacture on a regular basis, the married mother handles the challenge pretty well. Women who struggle with 'having it all' related to Traci's relationship woes and career missteps season after season, knowing it was only a matter of time before Ms. Braxton would follow her dreams music-wise and settle into her own distinct groove, an endeavor that listeners and will hear, and appreciate, on Ms. Braxton's debut release, Crash & Burn

Amiable, centered, and anything but a craver of the spotlight: that's how some folks perceive 'middle children' -- and it also describes Traci Braxton. Sharing a household, a stage and now reality show set with boisterous sister sibs would be a tall order for anyone, and given the drama levels that Trina, Tamar and Towanda manufacture on a regular basis, the married mother handles the challenge pretty well. Women who struggle with 'having it all' related to Traci's relationship woes and career missteps season after season, knowing it was only a matter of time before Ms. Braxton would follow her dreams music-wise and settle into her own distinct groove, an endeavor that listeners and will hear, and appreciate, on Ms. Braxton's debut release, Crash & Burn

One doesn't have to be more than  song or two in to recognize that there's no denying the familial lineage even if Traci wanted to: Her tone and delivery has the expected husk and depth that we hear in Toni's and Tamar's, but without their dramatic dips and runs. Her range ebbs from within, like charcoals that still glow from a recently-departed flame, and it allows for a poise and polish that most newbies lack. "Goodbye" is a strong example, with Traci pouring steely resolve into a 'dueces' scenario, with just a dash of Toni-level angst, and you can feel all of the  BFV and Marriage Boot Camp residue bubbling up in the stormy "What About Love," where she demonstrates she's all about the relationship but is unable to mend it alone: "I don't wanna love you the way I believe you want me to/I got my eyes wide open, hit me with the truth/and tell me if I matter to you." 

Traci's real-life marital discord probably can't help but flare up from time to time, but that doesn't mean it's soggy all the way through: her lone duet with Raheem DeVaughn, "Still Sippin,'" is a tangy tug-of-war that demonstrates her growing skills as an artist as she holds her own with the crooner and lyrically goes toe-to-toe against a man she can't decide to love or leave ("One drink, for the arguments and [expletive]/one drink, for the new one who you might deal with. One drink, I might be better off without you/one drink, do you feel as [expletive] up as I do?")  Traci is all but glib on the snappy "Reasons," one of the couple of songs Ms. Braxton co-wrote that lays out a litany of his sins and recalls Big Sister's "Another Sad Love Song," but retains a unique earthiness.  An upbeat, bubbly "Passions" manages to be forlorn yet  flirtatious, waxing rhapsody about the guy she's got the hots for, even as she doubts they can ever be: "...I'm alone in this passion, though I want I can't have him/I'm not used to not getting what I want, when I want, and I want him."

Simply put, despite the title, Crash & Burn accomplishes the exact opposite, demonstrating to the world that just because Traci is the most low-key of the Braxton sisters doesn't mean that she has little to say. The middle Braxton daughter may be unsure about the fate of her marriage and have some catching up to do with Toni and Tamar as far as polish goes (less Auto-Tune would also be a good start), but one listen to the CD will exemplify the title track's lyrical mission statement, a message that Traci sings as if her very life depended on it: have success in the fullness of time, and with the right intentions, or it isn't truly success at all: "If I fall then let me fall, even if I crash and burn/I will be shooting for the stars, but if you bring me down to earth, it's all good." Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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