Popular singers Toni Braxton, Patti Labelle, and Jain recalled their first time hearing themselves on the radio in a recent interview with The Associated Press, a surreal experience that all three women characterized as simultaneously underwhelming and overwhelming.
Braxton, 51, said she was with her sisters — with whom she performed in the 1980s before her 1993 self-titled solo debut album made it to number one on the Billboard 200 chart — when they first heard their song “Good Life” on the radio. The moment, she recollected, was bittersweet — she was proud to hear herself on the radio, but as she listened she slowly grew convinced that the sisters’ debut wouldn’t make them a commercial success.
“I was in college — I was going to Bowie State University — and it played right after ‘Summertime,” Will Smith’s ‘Summertime,’” said Braxton. “And I knew it was not gonna hit, it’s like — it was that moment like, ‘Oh God, that’s not gonna happen.’ And I knew it wasn’t gonna happen. Not that it wasn’t a great song or a fun song — my family and I — but I knew it wasn’t going to be mainstream at all.”
Braxton’s instincts, it turned out, proved accurate. But despite the lack of sales, the song proved a valuable stepping stone for the young artist as it attracted the attention of famed producers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who went on to later publish Braxton’s hit debut.
“It was not mainstream at all. It sold three copies — my mom, my dad and my grandma,” Braxton recalled, smiling. “Me and my sisters, The Braxtons? The Braxtons, ‘Good Life’ — it got attention, it was a blessing in disguise because you know, we got with L.A. (Reid) and Babyface, and it worked out and the other side. But it was not gonna be a hit. I don’t think anything’s a hit following ‘Summertime,’ at that time.”
Patti Labelle said that hearing herself sing in “Lady Marmalade” on the radio “felt awesome,” but that nonetheless she found that she “wasn’t blown away” by the moment.
“I was excited because we have a song on the radio,” she said. “[It wasn’t like] a a lot of the moments when people in this industry first hear their music on the radio and they lose it. I didn’t quite lose it.”
For Jain, her first time hearing herself playing came while she was grocery shopping the supermarket. Nobody but her really noticed, she said, but she had a blast dancing by herself in a quiet aisle.
“I was watching everybody like, ‘Do you hear this? Do you hear this?’ and I was alone in the supermarket like. ‘Woo!’ So yeah, it was fun,” she said, laughing at the memory.
Watch The Associated Press’ interview with Braxton, Labelle and Jain below.