By Sarah Godfrey
Here's a little taste of what Toni Braxton has been up to during the five years since the release of her last studio album: She starred in her own Las Vegas show, appeared on "Dancing With the Stars" and, once the show was over, participated in a "Dancing With the Stars" tour.
Those adventures should've helped push Braxton's music into the realm of full-on camp, but on her new disc, "Pulse," the singer mostly sticks to her trusty album architecture of scorching dance songs, soft-focused up-tempo ballads and "Un-Break My Heart"-style tear-jerkers without going too over-the-top.
(Club tracks provide the highlights, after the jump.)
Her club tracks (see "He Wasn't Man Enough," from 2000's "The Heat," and "Take this Ring," from 2005's "Libra"), though always few in number, are album highlights. On "Pulse," the offerings include "Make My Heart," which mixes horns and house-music elements, and "Lookin' at Me," which sounds like a Beyoncé "Single Ladies" rip-off in its first few seconds, but quickly settles into its own flirtatious groove. "My dress so short, it's borderline killer / I don't wanna hurt you, I'm more like a thriller," she sings.
The rest of "Pulse" is mostly straight-forward songs about love and love lost, including the breathy, laid-back "No Way" and the soaring super-ballad "Hero" - at least until "Wardrobe" comes along. The song compares men to clothes hanging in a closet, with Braxton announcing that she's "redoing her wardrobe in brand-new love," and finally submitting to the pull of camping out.
Recommended tracks: "Make My Heart," "Lookin' at Me," "Wardrobe"