In the summer of 1988, I first heard the song “Two Occasions” on the radio. It was a beautiful ballad in which I was drawn into one of the lead singers voices. The voice in question was a singer named Babyface. The group he sang lead in was called The Deele. They would soon disband. A year later, Babyface would release his second solo album, “Tender Lover”, one of the greatest soul albums of all time and right at the inception of the “New Jack Swing” era, a legendary era that produced some of the greatest music in R&B history. There would be no looking back for Edmonds, as he also began an unprecedented run as both a songwriter and producer.
“Tender Lover” was both a commercial and critical success. The ballads “Whip Appeal” and “Soon As I Get Home” established Babyface’s signature sound; a man who loves his woman with unconditional love. The upbeat tunes, “It’s No Crime” and “Tender Lover” were songs that truly defined the upbeat tempo of the “New Jack Swing” era. Yet it was the final track on the era that was the unsung masterpiece of the album “Where Will We Go”. It’s a song about a man and woman in a platonic friendship. The minute the feelings became romantic, the woman bolted. Babyface sang with so much emotion in that song that to this day, I can’t help get a little emotional when hearing it.
1989 was also the year that Babyface would began his unprecedented run as a songwriter and producer. 1989 was the year Bobby Brown would dominate the music charts with songs like “Don’t be Cruel”, “Tenderoni”‘ and “Rock Witcha” from his album “Don’t be Cruel”. Babyface wrote and produced each hit, garnering him his first Grammy nomination. 1989 would be the precursor to the 1990s, a decade in which Babyface written songs dominated a decade like no other writer before or since.
The 1990s was a decade in which Babyface wrote and produced over 20 number one singles for acts like Whitney Houston, Madonna, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, and TLC. He would go on to win 11 Grammy awards for both his own solo releases and those that he wrote for other acts. The list of legendary songs he’s written and produced include “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men, “Shoop” by Whitney Houston, “Change the World” by Eric Clapton, “Take a Bow” by Madonna, and “Baby, Baby, Baby” by TLC.
As the 21st century began, Babyface stopped writing as much, only writing for selected acts. However, at this past Grammys, he won his 11th Grammy for best R&B album, “Love, Marriage and Divorce”, a duet album with Toni Braxton. This album was one of Babyface’s greatest works, as it was a concept album that dealt with how a marriage crumbles, ultimately ending in divorce. This is one of my favorite albums of the 21st century, an album that helped cement his place as the eighth greatest R&B male singer of all time.