Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Babyface

  • Tender Lover [Solar, 1989] B
  • The Day [Epic, 1996] A-
  • A Collection of His Greatest Hits [Epic, 2000] A-
  • Face 2 Face [Arista, 2001] A-
  • Grown & Sexy [Arista, 2005] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tender Lover [Solar, 1989]
Though Teddy Riley got the credit, the streetwise sweets of new jack love man Bobby Brown were mostly this producer's doing, and for his star turn he dispenses with the new jack--comes packaged as the title concept, with no prerogatives and not too many fast ones to spoil the fantasy. I mean, after he gets home from work, fantasy enough in the age of structural unemployment, he promises to cook dinner too. This would have serious attractions as a corrective to the sexist fantasies of hip-hop if there was any reason to think neo-B-boys would listen. But it's my guess they'll just take "Whip Appeal" literally and figure the guy for a bondage freak. B

The Day [Epic, 1996]
Softly, cornily, oh so subtly, Kenny Edmonds hangs real songs off the big pop statement new jack pretenders pretend to. Playing a woman-loving, male-proud guy with ordinary domestic problems, pressing romantic emotions, and infinite sexual patience, he remains alive to black achievement and black pain--you think he doesn't know what it signifies when he runs the elegant "All Day Thinkin'" off hip-hop shading and the Ebonic "be"? Deploying Eric Clapton, L.L. Cool J, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, and Kenny G, dipping his well-mannered falsetto into a growl on "I will be down" or marshalling dulcet studio rats for a tribute to the golden age of postdoowop, the man is in such command it may take you half a dozen plays to notice. A-

A Collection of His Greatest Hits [Epic, 2000]
Forget R. Kelly if you can get him to bug off already--when it all comes down, Kenny Edmonds will be remembered as the most interesting love man of our era. Only females of a certain mindset can be expected to sit still for all his palaver, but he's got a hell of a line. Duplicating but three tracks from his superb worstseller The Day, this is the distillation of woman-friendly romanticism; there's even a song that accurately and effectively deploys the jargon term "abused." The new one he didn't write advances instantly to the head of his repertoire: "Poured one for you but I drank that too," laments the bereaved wino-in-progress. The new one he did write lacks a killer hook. But is it ever outspoken about fortysomething males who leave their wives primping at home. A-

Face 2 Face [Arista, 2001]
Five years ago his best album exploited his superstar connections with cameos from Stevie, Mariah, Kenny G. Here he updates on a new label newly headed by his old partner with coproductions utilizing the Neptunes, Tim & Bob, Heavy D. Beat mechanics don't guarantee a thing, of course. But for all his platinum balladry, Kenny Edmonds has been funky on demand since the Deele, and the showcase tracks up front are as tricky as any to surface all year--just when you think you've balanced all five or six elements in your mind's ear, up pops number six or seven. He leaves the tricks behind eventually, if only so as not to alienate his normal market share, and after bottoming out briefly returns with enough ballads to make you stop humming "What If" until it goes platinum. A-

Grown & Sexy [Arista, 2005]
Pretty smart for a love man, less so for a deposed record exec who worships Curtis Mayfield and toured with Vote for Change ("Sorry for the Stupid Things," "Good 2 Be in Love"). ***