Secrets is the second studio album by American singer Toni Braxton, released on June 18, 1996 by LaFace Records and Arista Records. The album was nominated for Best Pop Album at the 1997 Grammy Awards. Secrets has been certified octuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Worldwide, the album has sold over 15 million copies. In support of the album, Braxton embarked on the Secrets Tour, playing dates in North America and Europe from August 1996 to October 1997.
The album's first song "Come On Over Here" is a "finger-poppingly upbeat", sultry groove track produced by Tony Rich. It was described as "a neo-Motown composition". The second track and lead single, the airily funky "You're Makin' Me High", was produced by Babyface and Bryce Wilson. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. The third track "There's No Me Without You" is a romantic song. The fourth track and second single "Un-Break My Heart" is a ballad written by Diane Warren. She played the finished song to Arista Records president Clive Davis. He thought it would be perfect for Toni Braxton. With background vocals by Shanice Wilson and produced by David Foster, the song spent 11 weeks at number one at pop and 14-week stay at number one on adult contemporary radio stations in late 1996. It also won a 1997 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It is a song of blistering heartbreak, as Braxton sings to her former lover, begging him to return to her and undo all the pain he has cause. The fifth track "Talking in His Sleep" is about adultery.
The sixth track "How Could an Angel Break My Heart" was co-written by Babyface and Braxton and features saxophonist Kenny G. Over a lulling ballad melody, the singer makes her agony a thing of beauty, pausing with daring vocal timing over the lyrics' details of a lover's wayward behavior. "Let It Flow", from the soundtrack to Waiting to Exhale, eventually became a staple of urban contemporary radio. The song is a sultry tune that requires the singer to reach down to her lowest register. In "Why Should I Care", Braxton ascends to a high, breathy croon, while on "I Don't Want To", R. Kelly provides the soft bump-and-grind sound, in a song about a romance in denial, and "I Love Me Some Him" was written by Andrea Martin and Gloria Stewart and produced by Soulshock & Karlin.
The first single released, "You're Makin' Me High", became a smash success earning Braxton her first number-one single on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Its B-side, "Let It Flow", was another radio airplay smash and was featured on the multi-platinum 1995 Waiting to Exhale. The second single, "Un-Break My Heart", became a monumental hit peaking at number one on the Hot 100 for 11 consecutive weeks, number one on the Hot Dance Club Play, and number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, besides topping the singles charts in several other countries. After the triumph of two consecutive number-one singles, Braxton offered her third single, "I Don't Want To", during the spring of 1997. The R. Kelly-written and -produced single made the top 20 of the Hot 100 and the top 10 of the R&B chart. Its B-side, "I Love Me Some Him", was a major radio airplay hit domestically. The fourth official single, "How Could an Angel Break My Heart", which features Kenny G on the saxophone, became another top 40 hit in the United Kingdom while failing to dent the charts in the U.S., but propelled Secrets to eight-time platinum status. The album was well-received both critically and commercially. Braxton also added more awards to her mantle, which included another two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. The track "There's No Me Without You" received a fair amount of airplay on lebanese radio stations.
The album received generally positive reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic gave to the album 4.5 out of 5 stars, writing that "her vocal talent is what unites Secrets and makes it into a first-rate contemporary R&B collection. Braxton is a singer who can cross over into the smooth confines of adult contemporary radio without losing or betraying the soul that lies at the foundation of her music, and her talent burns at its brightest on Secrets." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Taken together, this pair of songs not only demonstrates Braxton's technical range but confirms her ability to deliver Secrets' sermons of sensuality—little gospels of good and bad loving—with unusual eloquence." Robert Christgau, in his consumer guide for MSN, wrote, "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." David Frick from Rolling Stone wrote, "As designer champagne 'n' anguish R&B goes, Secrets goes down nice and easy."
Secrets debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 (behind Metallica's Load) and at number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 170,000 copies in its first week. The album was certified octuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on October 3, 2000, and as of April 2011, it had sold 5,364,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It sold an additional 927,000 copies through BMG Music Club. In Canada, the album peaked at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart, and was certified septuple platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) on December 31, 1997, denoting shipments in excess of 700,000 units.
The album debuted at number 54 on the UK Albums Chart for the week ending June 29, 1996, before peaking at number 10 in its 30th week on the chart, on January 25, 1997. On April 1, 1997, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certified Secrets double platinum for shipments of over 600,000 copies. In continental Europe, the album topped the charts in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, while reaching the top five in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, and Sweden, and the top ten in Ireland. In Oceania, the album reached number 11 in both Australia and New Zealand; it has been certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ). By May 2010, Secrets had sold 15 million copies worldwide.
Notes^a signifies an additional producer
^b signifies a remixer
^c signifies a remix producer
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Secrets.