Babyface: Music MagicianBy Miguel Wilson | 5/12/17 9:55am
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds not only has a stretch of Indianan highway named in his honor; he also has played a hand in creating countless R&B hits in his music career. What better way to show appreciation for R&B than to acknowledge someone that knows it best?
In my years of musical exploration, Babyface served as a true starting point. Watching Waiting to Exhale (1995), I was struck with the realization that each song that played had striking similarities. This was remarkable to me, seeing as how there were different artists that lent their voices to the movie’s soundtrack. To this day, it has held it’s standing as one of the best albums I have ever listened to. Huge industry names like: Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, and Aretha Franklin all could be heard clearly in their respective songs. Still, there was just something I could not place my finger on; a “thing” that stuck out in each and every song.
Thankfully, I have evolved to understand that the “thing” I was hearing was Babyface, himself. I had no idea at the time that someone could be so influential in their use of sound and lyricism that they could place their mark on music—even if that music happens to be sung by someone else. Babyface has made this idea his domain. To this very day, I can listen to a song and tell you that Babyface played a hand in its making.
I would venture to guess that part of Babyface’s depth as a producer, stems from being an accomplished singer. Thus, when dealing with the powerhouse singers that take on his songs he can work from a place deeper understanding. It’s widely regarded that he played a very influential role in the creation of new jack swing, a hybrid of R&B. As a rising artist, when he wasn’t creating his own hits like, Whip Appeal, Love Makes Things Happen, and Soon as I Get Home, he was busy writing for Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, Madonna, and Bobby Brown.
So, what makes words and musical arranging “Babyface’s”? For starters, the subject matter always has something to do with relationships. Musically speaking, his “sound” is oftentimes dynamic; incorporating a lot of drum and keyboard as well as various layers of background vocals during the chorus. This man has made his entire success around songs that tackle love (the good and the bad). Under his one label LaFace Records, he has credits on some of the best ‘cult classic’ R&B songs of the 90s ranging from artists like Tevin Campbell (Can We Talk), Jon B (Someone to Love), and TLC (CrazySexyCool).
Today, he continues to write and produce quality, enjoyable R&B music. In 2014, his joint album with songstress, Toni Braxton, was received well by critics and fans alike. Furthermore, this month, his newest single “IOU” dropped. Very few writers are able to reach their audience like Babyface does. Based on his 11 Grammy Awards, I think it is clear that he’s found his niche.