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Tender Lover

Babyface

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Album Review

Babyface's solo debut yielded the first number one R&B hit of the 1990s while establishing Edmonds as a major personality and performer. He wrote or co-wrote much of the material and even played several instruments. It was a combination of slick production and nicely sung sentimental tributes and heartache ballads. [The 2001 CD reissue adds historical liner notes and three bonus tracks: a "Dub L.A." version of "Tender Lover," a 12" version of "Whip Appeal," and a 12" version of "My Kinda Girl."]

Customer Reviews

Shy Guy wins again

The sensitive approach isn’t the usual way to win black women, at least in regard to their leading male balladeers and artists in general Hip-hop only further complicates that issue of the “softer male” being a MAN. In this dimension of the black male role in music and in the late 80’s specifically, we have Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds’ sophomore solo album, Tender Lover. Face, as he really prefers to be called by men (soft or no, he ain’t gay), has already had to deal with looks that defied his age (nearly to fault) and a demeanor hardly Alpha Male on surface. Add to this, activator and makeup confidently worn in his team outfit, The Deele, and Face is really struggling to be the guy guy. He’s shall we say, the “shy guy.?” What he has to offset these hurdles this go around as opposed to his ignored Lovers debut is that within the last two years, Kenny Edmonds and fellow Deele member, Antonio “L.A.” Reid have managed to produce some of the biggest hits in r&b and pop music, most important of which are Bobby Brown’s five singles “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Roni,” “Rock Wit’cha,” “Every Little Step,” and “On Our Own.” These tunes help to catapult LA & Face’s profile and price nearly past Jam & Lewis’ in 1989. They are now, at worst, the 3rd ranking black hitmaking team. “It’s No Crime” as the first song and single made it evident, at least initially, the Tender Lover would be more aggressive. Though the pocket isn’t quite The Deele/Solar’s band/synth bottom, there’s enough savior in Kayo’s synth bass with a pluck or two in there for good measure. It was just funky enough to best any previous Deele or Babyface effort and went straight to number one. Having found some new luck on the up-tempo frontier, the title cut was actually released in succession to the same chart positioning (not hurt at all by Bobby Brown paying back a favor with a guest appearance on the single version). The backups on the album version helped out by Troop-this mirrored later in the album with the use of Kenny’s family, After 7. “Let’s Be Romantic” is the first emergence of ‘shy guy’ Tender Lover. Pretty evident here which pair of shoes is most comfortable on homeboy’s feet. What’s only recently been established with the live version of The Deele’s biggest hit, “Two Occasions,” is that Face is actually a vocalist. An acquired taste for some, as the crying/wailing style is his power dimension. His, so…, well his swe…, his left hook is actually his charismatic falsettos. The tune enters with these. Its other bonus is that it actually gets a chance to breathe. This is more reminiscent of the “I Love You Babe” Face we heard from a few years back. We kinda liked that ‘shy guy.” Is there more? Flip the tape or album and there was the quickly catching on ‘cool side.’ Al B. Sure! and few others had attempted this very same approach of keeping the jams separate from the grind tunes to keep their tape in the deck when hands were too full to be switching tapes or making mixes. “Whip Appeal” was the leader of the ballad side, but radio had already taken to the next tune as if it was a single. “Soon As I Get Home” was the radio favorite and definitive shy guy anthem simultaneously. It worked hearts or very last nerve for the community in attendance. “I give good love. I’ll pay your rent. I’ll cook your dinner too-soon as I get home from work.” What the hell?! Unless he’s a chef, ain’t no black man coming home from work to cook. Picture James Evans doing that. Florida would’ve left him in a heartbeat. But for the sake of argument, “Captain Save-a-H..” has always existed. Especially in music just for the fact that men love to feel they can baby a grown woman-and have her beholding to them. So ‘shy guy’ may very well be the slickest player there is. And for the sake of the ‘story’ we’re going to go along with the possibility of sincerity here. The tune was just enough controversy to keep it on the radio throughout TL’s full run and, hell, it did sound good. “Whip Appeal” was released as a single making sure it wouldn’t be missed in the midst of this alphaless-male discussion. Catchy as hell with its swing beat and lyric-a-plenty chorus, “Whip Appeal” was yet another take of Face putting ol’ girl on “top.” “Whatever YOU want, it’s alright with me. ‘Cause YOU got that whip appeal, so work it on me. It’s better than love-sweet as can be. YOU’ve got that whip appeal, so whip it on me.” Suddenly a John Witherspoon dinner table quote comes to mind. Dude, you’re killing us here! Yeah we’ve had it thrown on us before, but we ain’t trying to TELL nobody! However, this is the cat that wrote “Superwoman” for Karyn White. However a second conversation piece this may have become, it would be the biggest crossover hit for the project, complete with the heavily rotated video setting Face in the midst of a harem of ladies. Damn, that ‘shy boy’ stuff be working! The project was engaging through the very last track. Quiet storm lovers from teenaged to middle aged were sold on the project as the b-side was nearly flawless and would out last the new jack-ish ballads out immediately before and after its release. Arguably Face connected the deepest with the black audiences with tunes like “Soon As I Get Home,” “Whip Appeal” and the other album gems in “Given a Chance” and “Where You Will You Go.” The latter was the vocal performance that made it clear Face could more than carry a tune.

His Best Work

I absolutely love this album, although the version i own doesnt have the 12" cuts on it. I still think Its No Crime is the best song on the album. Its been almost 20yrs since this came out...wow...and its still something you can play and set the mood or dance to. Babyface is arguably one of the greatest producers of our time and this album definately showcases his talent.

Tender Lover

Best Album Ever!!!

Biography

Born: April 10, 1959 in Indianapolis, IN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As a singer, producer, and songwriter, Babyface was an inescapable presence in virtually every major facet of pop music during the '90s. His own recordings helped rejuvenate the R&B tradition of the smooth, sensitive, urban crooner and made him a staple of urban contemporary radio. Yet their considerable success was eclipsed by his songwriting and production work for other artists, which linked him with some of the biggest stars and hit singles of the decade (and not just in the...
Full Bio