Photographers: Robert Ector; Marcelo Cantu.
Tamar Braxton's return to music in 2013 could not have gone much better. Love and War debuted at number two, featured a number one R&B hit and two additional singles that either scraped or peaked near the Top Ten. Three Grammy nominations resulted. Follow-up Calling All Lovers is wrapped up like it offers even more theatrics. Braxton isn't smiling in any of the photos contained in the booklet, which is made to look like a newspaper titled Tamartian Times. (Braxtonian Beacon was likely never considered; "Tamartian" is a nod to her followers). The album starts in scattered fashion with some neo-reggae, a retro-modern midtempo groove that evokes breakbeat-driven early-'90s productions, and a church-ified ballad. After those three songs, the album stabilizes, sliding between a number of plush ballads and sophisticated but bumping slow jams. Heartache prevails during the first half and crests with "Never," an authoritative and elegantly paced kiss-off of an inappreciative lover. The latter half is mostly about devotion and awe, while the back-to-back "Love It" (all booming bass, tapping keyboards, and rattling percussion) and "Must Be Good to You" (light and springy disco-funk) turn it up several degrees with Braxton offering firm declarations of her sexual power. Calling All Lovers doesn't merely offer more than what its packaging suggests. It might not feature a single as big as "Love and War," but it tops that song's parent album. ~ Andy Kellman