Christmas time is coming, and a flock of Christmas albums are finding their way to your local record shops. One of them is Toni Braxton’s fourth album release, “Snowflakes.”

The newly married diva proudly shows her pregnant belly on the sleeve of the album.

Braxton is very brave to release a Christmas album without any promotion or even a single. Moreover, she is facing a lot of competition because the dynamic R&B trio Destiny’s Child are also releasing their own tribute to the season with “8 Days Of Christmas.”

Nonetheless, Braxton caters to a more mature audience. “Snowflakes” starts off with ambition. “Holiday Celebrate” is a starter to the highlight track “Christmas In Jamaica,” a collaboration with Mr. Bombastic himself, Shaggy. The result is a smooth, swift sound.

Then, in a Toni Braxton fashion, the album takes a merry turn into the mellow. “Snowflakes Of Love” and “Christmas Time Is Here” are both standard Christmas ballads ? the kind you hear at Wal-mart when the season takes affect.

All of the ballads are constructed simply with the piano and Braxton’s deep vocals, which is more of a showcase for Braxton’s vocal range than the fabulousness of the songs. A good example is the feeble “Santa Please?” and “This Time Next Year” ? a song that sounds like it could go somewhere but stops halfway through.

“The Christmas Song” is the only ballad that can really be listened to from start to finish.

It is the type of album you’d listen to while having a conversation ? definitely not a sing-along record.

It really consists of eight full songs, plus two remixes and an awkward interlude, “?Pretty Please” ? the effort to end the directionless “Santa Please?”

Christmas albums usually have an upbeat factor that this one lacks. Maybe releasing an album while recording another and starting a family wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Al-Qatami can be reached at

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