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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

91 Ratings

Shy Guy wins again

Reg Jones,

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.


Big Nick the Chef,

this is what R&B needs to get back to!

About Babyface

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 realm of R&B). You'd be hard-pressed to name a '90s hitmaker with a track record more consistently successful and versatile than Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.

Kenneth Edmonds was born April 10, 1959, in Indianapolis and began playing in local R&B bands as a teenager. He served a stint in Bootsy Collins' backing unit (where he earned his nickname) and subsequently joined the funk outfit Manchild, who signed a record deal in 1977 and released three albums. After their breakup, Babyface and partner Antonio "L.A." Reid formed an urban funk group called the Deele in the early '80s, who scored a few sizable hits on the R&B charts. Babyface and Reid began producing and writing for other artists on the side, landing hits in Pebbles' "Girlfriend" and the Whispers' "Rock Steady"; following the Deele's third album in 1988, the duo left to continue their outside activities full-time, co-founding the LaFace label in 1989. Further hits followed in Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step," Sheena Easton's "The Lover in Me," and Karyn White's "The Way You Love Me" and "Superwoman," all of which performed well on both the pop and R&B charts.

Babyface had actually recorded a little-noticed solo album in 1986, titled Lovers, but with his newfound success having marked him as one to watch, his solo career now began in earnest. Released in 1989, Tender Lover caught fire, spinning off four singles over the next year, including the R&B chart smashes "It's No Crime" (number one) and "Whip Appeal" (number two; both also reached the pop Top Ten); the album also went double platinum. Now firmly established as a powerhouse, Babyface went on to co-write hits for Johnny Gill ("My, My, My," nominated for the Best R&B Song Grammy), Whitney Houston ("I'm Your Baby Tonight"), and Madonna ("Take a Bow"); his biggest success, however, came with Boyz II Men, whose recording of "End of the Road" became one of the longest-running number ones in pop history (the Babyface-penned follow-up "I'll Make Love to You" was also pretty successful in its own right). He was co-nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy for his production on the Bodyguard soundtrack and went on to work with artists like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, En Vogue, and Mary J. Blige. As if that weren't enough, LaFace had become a highly successful and lucrative imprint, breaking artists like Toni Braxton, TLC, OutKast, and Usher (often with input from Reid and Babyface).

It's no wonder Babyface wound up taking a break from his own career as a singer during the early '90s, releasing only a remix album, A Closer Look, in 1991. The proper follow-up to Tender Lover didn't appear until 1993; even so, For the Cool in You was an even bigger hit than its predecessor, going triple platinum and producing Babyface's first Top Five pop hit, the change-of-pace acoustic guitar ballad "When Can I See You Again" (which won him his first Grammy as a performer for Best Male R&B Vocal). In 1995, he scored another major success with the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, not only producing it but scoring the film itself and writing nearly all of its songs, including the Whitney Houston smash "Exhale (Shoop, Shoop)." The same year, he won the first of three consecutive Grammys as Producer of the Year. Successes just kept coming in 1996; the guest-laden album The Day spawned another Top Ten pop/R&B hit in "Every Time I Close My Eyes," and he solidified his crossover credentials once and for all by winning a Grammy for Record of the Year as producer of Eric Clapton's "Change the World."

Encouraged by the success of Waiting to Exhale, Babyface and his wife, Tracey Edmonds, formed their own film production company, which debuted in 1997 with the acclaimed urban family comedy/drama Soul Food. Babyface, naturally, masterminded the soundtrack. The next year, he contributed lyrics to the animated musical The Prince of Egypt, which went uncredited on the soundtrack album. With the movies taking up more of his time, his next musical releases were quick one-offs: an MTV Unplugged album in 1997 and the seasonal Christmas with Babyface the next year. His production and songwriting activities continued, though he remained silent as a performer for a few years. In 2000, Epic released the best-of compilation A Collection of His Greatest Hits, marking the end of his tenure with the label; he had elected to move to Arista, where L.A. Reid had been a high-ranking executive.

In 2001, Babyface released a new album, Face2Face, and also produced the punk-pop soundtrack for the film Josie & the Pussycats. The back-to-basics Grown & Sexy came in July 2005, also the year he and Tracey Edmonds announced their divorce. September 2007 brought the covers-oriented Playlist for Mercury. During the next several years, he worked with the likes of Lil Wayne, Vanessa Williams, Whitney Houston, Kristinia DeBarge, and Boyz II Men, as well as Anthony Hamilton, whose "Pray for Me" was nominated for a 2013 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Song. He co-wrote and co-produced several songs on Ariana Grande's Yours Truly, a number one album in the U.S. Love, Marriage & Divorce, an album of duets with Braxton, was released on Motown in February 2014. It debuted at number four and won a Grammy for Best R&B Album. Near the end of the following year, Babyface released Return of the Tender Lover (titled in reference to his second solo album), inspired by the "feel good" performing approach of touring partners Charlie Wilson and Maze. ~ Steve Huey

    Indianapolis, IN
  • BORN
    Apr 10, 1959

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