Babyface: Return of the Tender Lover

Posted December 14, 2015 by in r&b



3/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: ,
Genre: R&B, soul
Producer: Babyface, Darryl Simmons
Label: Def Jam
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 42:41
Release Date: 4 December 2015
Spin This: "We've Got Love," "Something Bout You, "Walking on Air"


Vibrant musicanship, live drums and grown folks R&B pushed to the front on Babyface's latest solo disc


The magic of Babyface's crossover pop is strongly missing here

Babyface is all grown up now, replacing familiar New Jack swing formula with robust live instrumentation

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Babyface is all grown up now, replacing familiar New Jack swing formula with robust live instrumentation

The broad talented canvas of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds includes an array of things: producer, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. And it is that beefy palette that has giving him the longevity he has, stretching from his solo breakthrough LP Tender Lover to his Grammy-winning duet collaborative disc with Toni Braxton (Love, Marriage & Divorce). He returns to the studio to cook up his tenth solo album, Return of the Tender Lover (a careful nod to his 1989 LP). Inside, Babyface, 56, only shows off nine selections, barely stretching across the forty minute mark, but it’s a pleasant journey marked by live R&B-soaked instrumentation and using hues of grown-folks jazz. It doesn’t dance with the New Jack swing of his earlier career, which is a shame since La’Face made that the blueprint of their legendary sound, but he’s aging like a true 21st century musician walking in a field of Maxwell and Jill Scott soul. The album highlight is probably “We’ve Got Love,” a song that rings with the inspiration of Maze’s “Feel That You’re Feelin’.” “Walking on Air” pairs his falsetto with El DeBarge on the sunny Motown-hued “Walking on Air” while the members of After 7 dress up “I Want You” like a multi-colored dreamscape playing with Marvin Gaye struts. More old school nods flutter to the surface as “Something Bout You” shakes like a groovier take of Al Green’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” But the album is clearly missing that pop aesthetic that made Babyface the go-to guy of his generation. “Our Love” tries to reach for it using the sweet keyboard tinges of his past, but is left feeling like a Quiet Storm vault track from the era. The songs are so hued with 40-and-up professionalism that it never draws on the powers of crossover appeal. But Babyface’s “return” is a neat package of decent urban soul, even if it misses the mark of returning him to his place of prominence.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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