Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Toni Braxton: Secrets [LaFace, 1996]
Front-loaded with five pieces of sexy rocket fuel, including a miraculous Diane Warren ballad you'll want to hear again--the miracle being that it's by Diane Warren and you want to hear it again. Soon the air whooshes out except for the Waiting To Exhale hit and "Love Me Some Him" with its overdubbed yes, but by then her pop presence is established. The apprentice diva of the debut was modest, composed, virtually anonymous. I'll take the right It Girl anytime--especially one who insists on getting her props. A-