Tamar Braxton, Bluebird of Happiness | Album Review
In the 90s, the Braxton family had one clear star: Toni. “Un-Break My Heart” was enough to cement Toni’s legacy. However, in the 2010s, Tamar Braxton has proven that there’s more than one star within the Braxton family. On her fourth studio album, Bluebird of Happiness, Tamar remains a vocal force – she’s beastly throughout the course of 11 songs.
“My Forever” begins Blue of Happiness magnificently – heavenly. The record borrows the soul cues of the past, while maintaining an adult contemporary R&B identity. The concept is simple – Tamar Braxton has found her ‘end all, be all’ soul mate.
“Your love feels like no space or time / Feels like a dream come true / Cause my forever is you / No wonderin’ who I’ll be with / It’s like I’ve always known who / Boy, my forever is you.”
Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke provide fuel for the fire for “Wanna Love You Boy,” at least the sample of “Wanna Love You Girl.” Given the awesome sample, the production ends up being superb. Backing vocals add additional lushness and warmth to the sound on the chorus. The chorus isn’t profound, but catchy – it lifts off of the original, which is also repetitive and simple.
“Run Run” gives Tamar Braxton her tropical-tinged joint. Her previous album, Calling All Lovers locked this down as well, with opener “Angels & Demons.” The success rate of non-reggae artists tackling reggae is 50/50. In this instance, Braxton pulls it off successfully. Yo Gotti assists on “Hol’ Up,” an enjoyable, ‘clubby’ record. “Hol’ Up” has a younger, clubbier sound, it’s still within the context of the adult contemporary R&B idiom.
“The Makings of You”
Like “My Forever,” ‘old-school’ gives Braxton a lift on “The Makings of You.” Sure, the Curtis Mayfield classic is well travelled, but never grows old. Here, it is the Gladys Knight & The Pips edition of the Mayfield classic supporting her. Given the assist – it’s a lot of sample – Tamar delivers some of her best work on Bluebird of Happiness. The backing vocals sound marvelous in particular.
“Heart in my Hands” has the arduous task of following an elite record. Arguably not as ‘soulfully-charged,’ this percussion-less ballad is well-performed, showing off Braxton’s impressive, robust instrument. “Blind” trumps it, again looking to the past for inspiration (Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”). Like “The Makings of You,” Braxton exceeds the five-minute mark, yet makes it more than worth the listener’s while. Again, the lead vocals are ‘out-of-this-world,’ amplified further by the supporting vocals.
“My Man” is one of the most emotional songs from Bluebird of Happiness. That emotion includes some name-calling and profanity. Basically, this about a woman stealing a man away from another woman, in this case, Tamar. “Pick Me Up” is a great follow-up, contrasting heartfelt balladry for a looser, more fun number. The sound is reminiscent of 80s and 90s R&B, which is a good look on Braxton. “Pick Me Up” doesn’t possess the same depth or memorability of the best, but it’s enjoyable.
Bluebird of Happiness concludes with two ballads, “How I Feel” and “Empty Boxes.” Both are well performed, showcasing Braxton’s powerful voice. The only rub is that it may be too much balladry, particularly on a 40-minute album. Of the two, “How I Feel” gets the edge.
All in all, Bluebird of Happiness gives Tamar Braxton another solid, pleasant album. She doesn’t break new ground, but she flexes her best attribute hard – her powerful voice. Perhaps she’s underrated, particularly being an R&B artist, but Tamar has one of the best voices in the game.
Gems: “My Forever,” “Wanna Love You Boy,” “The Makings of You,” “Blind” & “My Man”