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It’s been a while since he’s had a big hit record, but that’s okay, as he’s already made so many great songs with his former partner, L.A. Reid, and as a solo artist, writer and producer. In a three-year stretch, Babyface reigned as the top music producer, taking home Producer of the Year Grammy awards from 1995 to 1997. He’s written so many hit songs for so many artists, you might as well call him black music’s kingpin for a good decade from the late ’80s through the mid-90s.
Even through he has a portion of a highway named after him in his hometown of Indianapolis, we thought we’d take a walk down Memory Lane to give this underrated artist his just due. Here’s our look at just some of Babyface’s best music.
Back before Reid and Edmonds were, well, L.A. and Babyface, they were the key ingredients in the band The Deele. This 1987 hit was a big one for the group, establishing them on the national scene. Their time in a group obviously paid off for L.A. and Babyface, as the two had a birds-eye view of the business and learned its ins-and-outs while achieving success that would help them down the road. Aside from all that, it’s just a great song. You may remember The Deele’s “Shoot ‘Em Up Movies” as well. Yup, that was them, too.
Bobby Brown has a lot to be thankful for these days, with a new woman, a sober lifestyle and a new baby. But back in the day, he could count L.A. and Babyface among his blessings, as they were a key part of the reason Brown soared to solo success. Although Brown had several hit records in the New Jack Swing era, “Don’t Be Cruel” was one of his biggest, and yes, it was penned by the production wizards. The title track of Brown’s third and best-selling CD, it went number-one in 1988.
Among the many contributions that L.A. and Babyface made to the industry was simply LaFace Records, the Atlanta-based record label founded by the duo that started the careers of TLC, Toni Braxton, OutKast, Cee-Lo Green, Usher and more. (You may remember that Pink started out on LaFace.) Not only did the label find and develop those great artists, but it also trained several music executives, songwriters, musicians, engineers and others who have all gone on to successful music business careers. Call it the Uptown of the South, but arguably LaFace Records and its eclectic roster don’t get their just due for their contributions to the music industry.
The song from Babyface’s “Tender Lover” album came out in 1989, but it’s still sounds brand new. We have no idea who Babyface didn’t share the troubles at home with, but we know it made for a fantastic song – and a great video. If you’ve ever yourself experienced “Whip Appeal,” then you know exactly what Babyface was talking about in this enduringly great song. If you haven’t, well, then, we’re sorry.
He doesn’t deserve you, and Babyface knows it. Because if he was your man, he’d be taking care of you. He’d be giving you good lovin,’ taking you shopping, paying your rent – and even cooking your dinner just as soon as he comes home from work. Are you kidding? A …..
working, faithful man who can cook? Sign us right on up! For all those reasons, not to mention Babyface’s beautiful vocals, we had to count this among his best work. When Babyface called his 1989 album “Tender Lover,” where this song appears, he obviously meant it.
Yes, Babyface, along with then-partner L.A. Reid, wrote and produced one of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits and a couple of other major stars’ biggest hits too. This is the title track from the 1990 album, Houston’s third and the one that truly established her as a worldwide, multi-platinum selling superstar. Houston would ultimately sell 12 million albums worldwide, and certainly credit has to be given to the single that started it off.
It may seem like a distant memory now, but at one time, Johnny Gill was known for more than just and endless sources of rumors. One of the reasons why was his debut solo self-titled CD, released in 1990. This song was a number-one for Gill, and it’s be no surprise if it dramatically increased the sales of red dresses. L.A. and Babyface also wrote the less-successful single “Fairweather Friend,” which is still just a great song.
The magical partnership of Babyface and L.A. Reid would net many hit singles for several artists, not the least of which was “End of the Road” for Boys II Men. This song would set records in 1992, ultimately spending 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts – beating out Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” which had held the record for 36 years. (It is one of three record-breaking Boyz II Men singles, including “One Sweet Day” with Mariah Carey, which remains the longest number-one record on the charts.) And who couldn’t relate to this regretful tale of lost love? Apparently, no one.
As a solo artist, Babyface had his share of hits – the abovementioned “Whip Appeal,” among other huge songs. His 1993 LP “For The Cool In You” gave him several more. But there’s something about this ode to a lover from a faithful, good man that is just a little bit above the rest. Maybe it’s the transparency that Babyface implies on this record, something that any woman could appreciate. Maybe it’s his heartfelt delivery. Either way, it’s among his best songs.
You could pick almost any song from Toni Braxtons’ 1993 debut, but “Breathe Again” may be the one that stays with you most. Six of the 12 songs were co-written and co-produced by Babyface, and of those six, five became chart-topping hits for the young singer who would sell 10 million albums worldwide and earn three Grammys for her efforts. But it’s truly L.A. and Babyface’s creative contributions that would make the song and the album one of their fledging LaFace label’s early hits. Babyface is the sole writer on “Breathe Again,” and it’s his poetic ode to a lost love that is the emotional centerpiece of this gorgeous debut.
THE “WAITING TO EXHALE” SOUNDTRACK
Maybe you’ve heard of a little movie called “Waiting to Exhale?” Well, Terry McMillan wrote a great best-selling book; Forrest Whitaker directed the 1995 hit movie, and Babyface decided to go for self on the seven-times-platinum-selling soundtrack. Yup, Babyface alone wrote 15 of the soundtrack’s 16 songs, including hits for Toni Braxton, Brandy, “Exhale” star Whitney Houston and Mary J. Blige, whose “Not Gon’ Cry” may be one of her best songs ever. Babyface truly showed his genius on this project. But he’d been doing that for some time