hurt you toni babyface

There was a minute there when Toni Braxton was considering retirement from the music scene. Mercifully, she slept on that idea for a night and then immediately wound up right back in the studio with her longtime collaborator Babyface, the superstar producer behind some of her biggest hits, including “Breathe Again” and “You’re Makin’ Me High.”

But the two didn’t just work together on tracks for a new Toni album — they’ve crafted an album of duets together due out on December 3 called Love, Marriage & Divorce (marinate on that title).

Yesterday (REFERENCE), the iconic pairing dropped the first track from their upcoming collection: “Hurt You,” a piano-led, gut-wrenching R&B ballad co-written by Daryl Simmons and Antonio Dixon. And it’s so, so, so good.

Together, their voices blend together seamlessly — oh, all that deep-voiced slinkiness and soul! — as they croon away their sad song full of pain, cheating and so, so many regrets: “God knows I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to break your heart,” they cry. (Are you seeing that subtle “Un-Break My Heart” reference?!) There are lots of special moments here — hearing Toni mournfully croon “I never meant to turn you on, turn you out” is one — and the melodies are really strong and beautiful. This is such a trite thing to say, but…this is real music! THIS IS THE TRUTH!

Perhaps “Hurt You” is just Toni’s formal apology for faking us out with that faux-retirement announcement. It’s okay. Never break our hearts again, Miss Braxton — this is way too good to ever let you go.

“Hurt You” was released on August 19. (iTunes)