Artist: Tamar Braxton
Label: Epic Records
Released: September 3, 2013
Tamar Braxton has made a name for herself!
The reality TV star and co-host of the new show The Real has been best known as the youngest of R&B nobility, the Braxton family. And indeed, with this only her second studio album, Tamar faced the challenge of emerging from the shadow of R&B diva-sister, Toni Braxton. But with Love and War, Tamar demonstrates that she can control her own space and command her own respect on the music scene.
From beginning to end, this album transports us to a time gone by when R&B was free of the modern trappings of EDM, synths and snares. To that end, this is an album that any fan of real R&B could appreciate. But, to be sure, the album production quality does feature stirring touches of the 21st century via synths and snares. In Love and War, Tamar shows us that the R&B we love still has a space and place in music today.
Tamar opens with The One, a profession of love that relies on a double-sample of Juicy Fruit and Biggies Juicy, with Mr. Notorious himself periodically chiming that it was all a dream in order to show just how fantastic this love is. From the onset, she sets a mood that welcomes us to something that is at once familiar, yet fresh because of the vibrancy she brings to it.
Tip Toe, might be a song encouraging clandestine romantic relationships, but it features an infectious beat that is sure to have you winding in your car seat, or bouncing along on the dance floor. Any self-identified Tamartian would appreciate the brazen (and delightfully ratchet) interlude She Did That. In that brief seventy-seven seconds, Tamar reveals us a bit of her own colorful personality, while still being sure we take her seriously. Unfortunately, its immediately followed up by the grating Hot Sugar.
For all the playfulness of her up-tempo numbers, it is her vocal strength on her ballads that gives her credibility as a solo R&B act. Without a doubt, the albums title track Love and War perfectly demonstrates the duality of her sound aesthetic; 90s R&B flare, seasoned with a taste of modern snares to accompany her soaring chorus. Similarly, in Stay and Fight she advocates striving to surmount the struggles of a crumbling relationship, all in a melody that beautifully convinces us of the merits of this relationship.
With Where It Hurts, Tamar evokes a spirit of healing through her ability to love deeply and kiss away the pain. You can feel her vocal caresses in that sweetly romantic number. And it is followed up by the flirty Prettiest Girl which would resonate with women who feel blissfully in love and grateful to their partners.
For all the energy and beauty brought to this unapologetically R&B album, Tamar concludes with the gracious number Thank You Lord. While it is no doubt Tamars truest demonstration of gratitude, it must be appreciated that such a final note is true-to-form of 90s R&B when the album would end with a jazzy take on a gospel song, ala Destinys Child. Indeed, this choice of an outro does bring the full circle, as it demonstrates both Tamar and the genres roots in gospel music.
In general, Tamar brings R&B back to our lives in a way that is easily recognizable and identifiable. The sound, if not new, is certainly refreshing. Tamar is clearly doing all she can to take the entertainment industry by storm now; it only makes sense that she would lead the charge with Love and War!
Tracks We Like: Love and War, She Did That
Love and War Track 4: Love and War
Love and War Track 7: She Did That