’90s No. 1s Revisited: “You’re Makin’ Me High” / “Let It Flow”
The one hundredth No. 1 song of the 1990s was two songs considered to be one song because of Billboard’s chart rules at the time: The Double A-sided release “You’re Makin’ Me High” / “Let It Flow” by Toni Braxton. As mentioned in our last installment in this series, three Double A-sided singles reached No. 1 in the ’90s. Braxton’s was the second, following 2Pac’s and preceding Elton John’s. The concept of a Double A-sided single has since evolved from a curious reality to a no-less-curious relic.
Prior to this chart-topper, Braxton had won three Grammys, including Best New Artist in 1993, and landed six titles on the Hot 100, most notably with three Top 10 hits from her 1993 eponymous debut album: “Another Sad Love Song,” “Breathe Again” and “You Mean The World To Me,” all of which were written or co-written by Babyface. “You’re Makin’ Me High” / “Let It Flow” (both also written by Babyface) was Braxton’s first No. 1 hit and was swiftly followed by another, “Un-Break My Heart,” which was written by Diane Warren and went on to become one of the most successful songs in history. Following those back-to-back No. 1s, Braxton has appeared on the Hot 100 five times, most exceptionally with the No. 2-peaking “He Wasn’t Man Enough” in 2000. Her most recent hit was in 2002, as of this writing, although she continues to release music that lands on the R&B chart and, in fact, released a new single called “Deadwood” as recently as September 2017.
“You’re Makin’ Me High” is a sexual mid-tempo R&B song about the physical effects of attraction. “Let It Flow” is a ballad about letting go after a heartbreak, from the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. Both tracks did well on the R&B and Dance charts, but “High” was a bigger hit on Pop radio, reaching No. 6, while “Flow” fared well as a Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit. In the context of the time, this flavor of Adult R&B was very mainstream and considered cool. During its one week on top, below it in the Top 20 were tracks by K-Ci & JoJo, Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, Total, Monica, The Tony Rich Project and 112. So this fit right in, and Braxton was hitting the peak of her mainstream fame.
Let’s listen to “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “Let It Flow”:
The pair of tracks above demonstrate some of Braxton’s best vocal capabilities. On “High,” she emotes a sly, self-assured but tastefully understated sexiness; Braxton took home a Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy for her work on the track. On “Flow,” her vocals are interwoven with the beautiful instrumentals to seamless effect. Both tracks would be album filler in the hands of a more by-the-numbers vocalist but become something more memorable because of Braxton’s one-of-a-kind delivery.
Does it hold up? Not especially. Toni Braxton has a vocal gift, clearly, but her delivery style sounds dated to today’s ears. Braxton’s emotional gusto is so transparent it borders on cheesy. The production on these tracks is unmistakably of the decade, and overall impact of these recordings is limp.
Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks
“You’re Makin’ Me High” / “Let It Flow”
1 week at No. 1, starting July 27, 1996
Preceded by: “How Do U Want It” / “California Love,” 2Pac f/ K-Ci & JoJo and Dr. Dre
Followed by: “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” Los Del Rio
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?