On this past season of Braxton Family Values, Tamar Braxton spoke of the pressures of recording the follow up to 2013’s Love & War. The album has sold close to half a million copies, netted her a hit single in its title track, and even earned her a Grammy nomination. It essentially established her as a veritable music star in her own right. One can imagine the pressure to top such feats, only there was one problem: she said it was her second album.
It is not.
The album she is referring to, the newly released Calling All Lovers, is her fourth. For those of us who were fans of Tamar the singer long before reality TV introduced her to the public, who missed her first solo venture and her days as a member of the sister R&B group The Braxtons, we know of 2000’s Tamar. Very rarely does Tamar ever address that album. I’ve always wondered why because, despite not performing as well as it deserved to, nothing on that project is much of a detour from the music Tamar has created since then. It was sassy; it was themed on the bliss and unabashed annoyances associated with love and relationships; it was all gorgeously sung.
I bring up Tamar so much (too much?) because to me, it is a part of her story. And listening to Calling All Lovers in full is further proof that while Tamar’s journey to singing success took a while, it is well earned.
The album begins with “Angels and Demons,” a cute but no less by-the-numbers reggae-tinged R&B track. It’s a shift for Tamar sonically, but doesn’t represent the biggest change: in 2015, Tamar Braxton is releasing more sexual music than Janet Jackson. Some fans may miss the good old sexytime days of Janet, but for Tamartians, this is a welcomed twist.
On “Love It,” the youngest Braxton sings boastfully, “I got that comeback candy that ya never, ever get tired of/Just like a waterfall, run for cover, baby/I swear it’ll drown ya.”
In its immediate follow-up (a perfect one, two punch of sexual expression), “Must Be Good to You,” Tamar quips, “Ain’t you surprised? I done blew ya mind. Make ya roll eyes back like it’s ’95. Is it good? Is it good to ya?”
I am such a sucker for a song about getting that good-good.
Between those songs and “S.O.N.” (which stands for “sex over nonsense”), it sounds as if Tamar and her husband-manager Vincent Herbert have reached the perfect accord when it comes to conflating Tamar’s high energy and over-the-top personality with the more traditional form of R&B he’s pushed her to do on Braxton Family Values and its spinoff, Tamar & Vince.
And overall, it’s just nice to hear Tamar sing about the fun, joy, and yes, good sex that comes with love. (See also “Makin’ Love”). Likewise, I appreciate this album relying less on familiar samples, i.e., “The One” or “Let Me Know” with Future—which was released a year ago but is noticeably absent from the new album.
There are still gems about the struggles, too, like “Broken Record,” “Circles,” and “Never.” I especially enjoy “Coming Home,” which reminds me that, like me, Tamar is a Mariah Carey fan.
As happy as I am to see Tamar shine as a television star, Calling All Lovers serves as a strong reminder that she’s first and foremost a singer. Regardless if it’s sold as her second or third album, it is by far one of the best, most cohesive R&B albums released all year, and certainly Tamar’s finest musical achievement to date.