The Unforgettable Comeback: How Toni Braxton Defied Retirement Twice

From contemplating retirement to Grammy glory, Toni Braxton's musical journey took unexpected turns, with iconic figures like Prince and Babyface urging her to stay in the game.

About a year before Love, Marriage & Divorce's release, Toni Braxton said she was no longer interested in recording new music. 

“For what I do I have to love it. I have to feel that excitement and it’s gone,” Braxton explained at the time to theGrio. “I’m just not going to do any albums anymore; maybe touring occasionally here and there because I love performing, but not as much as I did in the past. But no new projects.” The interview was done in promotion of her starring role in the Lifetime movie Twist of Faith – and Toni expressed that acting was where her head was.

“I would like to play a lesbian,” she noted. “I don’t know why. And do a whole make-out scene and the whole thing; just something completely different than people would expect from me. Not a lipstick lesbian, either.” I remember reading this interview and thinking, “I can write you a butch lesbian role someday, but please don’t stop giving me music.” 

Toni Braxton Celebrates Birthday With Sultry Instagram Post

Much as I enjoyed her in Kingdom Come, I did not support her abandoning music and settling for spot dots here and there hoping that some of the Braxton sisters would be there on doo-wop-pop duty. Fortunately, as we learned in a subsequent “Braxton Family Values season,” her longtime collaborator, Babyface, pushed her to return to the studio.

As did another legendary singer-songwriter, Prince.

In an interview with NBC News following his death, she shared: “Prince was one of the artists that called me when I was about to retire and he said, 'Toni Braxton, you cannot retire. It’s too early and you’re gifted to even think this.” The result was a celebrated duets album that spawned a hit single, earned Toni another Grammy, and propelled her to continue releasing strong music for years. 

The album, his first studio album in seven years and her first new album since her 2010 album Pulse, was originally set for release on November 25, 2013, but was delayed into the following February. 

Its lead single, “Hurt You,” topped Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart for four weeks and the album went on to win Best R&B Album at the 57th Grammy Awards. After its success, she said she had changed her mind about retiring and announced a sequel to the album.

That has yet to come to fruition, but Toni did release future solo projects: Sex & Cigarettes, which earned her another hit in “Long As I Live” and netted the singer another Grammy nomination. That was followed by Spell My Name, which features the song “Fallin’,” which went triple diamond in my house. Despite all this success, it sounds like we may not get more new Toni Braxton music.

In a bit of deja vu, while promoting another film role in 2022, Toni Braxton once again swore off new music – pointing to a shift in acting.

“I love music, and as Babyface once said, I can ‘not not do music,’” she said. 

She added: “Music is in my life forever. I could potentially do a single. But I’m loving doing something different, challenging myself,. I’m going to be honest — because you’re Shondaland, so I can be honest — when I was doing my character Hollis, it’s about how to get away with murder and scandal. Nobody can ever be Kerry Washington in Scandal. I’m not even going to climb that staircase! But what parts of her character can be borrowed for my character? I thought of her. Then I put my own spin on it. I thought, “What would Shonda have me do?” in that super-strong-woman-running-things kind of way.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Toni Braxton and Babyface's Love, Marriage & Divorce, let us recall that if the right people tell her to release new music, Toni Braxton will eventually give us new music. And as Toni fans can attest, it will be good R&B.  

Toni Braxton recently announced her return to Las Vegas for a music/comedy show with Cedric the Entertainer. While I contemplate this, can someone tell Toni that if she’s back on stage, maybe it’s time to be convinced to return to the studio again? Although I will never get over Toni Braxton blocking me on Twitter, I have been a faithful fan for as long as I can remember listening to music.

She’s so good at it, and she should never stop. And as she’s already proven, she’s pretty good at staging musical comebacks, too.

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