Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Babyface: Baby Love

Babyface Babyface Babyface Babyface

With the combined global single and album sales of his compositions, productions and solo recordings amazingly totalling a staggering 500 million plus (phew!), 11-times Grammy-winning singer / songwriter / producer / musician/entrepreneur Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds this month releases his eagerly-anticipated tenth studio album “Return Of The Tender Lover”. Which, with its title marking a nod to his 1989 Triple-Platinum breakthrough LP “Tender Lover”, is currently being pioneered by its refreshingly exuberant and vibrant offshoot single “We’ve Got Love”.

Interestingly boasting eight new original songs, “Return Of The Tender Lover” introduces a freeer, less structured Babyface putting his own unique stamp on a contemporary sound he himself describes as “unapologetic R&B”. Which, finding his mellow tenor fronting musical moods ranging from the soulful- yet-sophisticated, midtempo “Exceptional” to the bright’n’breezy “Walking On Air” and sumptuous balladry of “Our Love”, sees multi-instrumentalist Edmonds (who plays on every track) jamming alongside his touring band plus such special guests as legendary keyboardist Greg Phillinganes(Michael Jackson; Stevie Wonder) and bassist supreme Nathan East (Quincy Jones; Daft Punk) in addition to his longtime lyrical collaborator Daryl Simmons plus fellow writer/producer Kameron Glasper.

Indeed, with his own solo recording career in itself impressively encompassing such landmark multi-Platinum albums as 1989’s aforementioned “Tender Lover”, 1993’s “For The Cool In You” and 1996’s “The Day”, passionate philanthropist Babyface is of course best known for his multi-award-winning extensive writing and production work for bona fide megastar artists ranging for Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin to Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey and Pink (including such worldwide smashes as Madonna’s “Take A Bow”, Eric Clapton’s “Change The World” and Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You”) while his most recent productions include collaborations with Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Jenniferudosn and Arina Gra Hudson and Ariana Grande.

All of which finds the prolific music man’s trailblazing CV incredibly boasting more than 125 Top 10 R&B and Pop hits, 42 Number One R&B hits and 51 Top 10 Pop hits (Including 16 chart-toppers)! While his role as co-founder - alongside L.A. Reid - of LaFace Records in 1989 would in turn in the Nineties find him going on to sign and nurture the careers of such then-future superstars as Usher, TLC, OutKast and Toni Braxton!

...Cue late 2015 and, with his last project - his 2014-released duet album with Toni Braxton, “Love, Marriage & Divorce” - having earlier this year given him his eleventh Grammy Award (Best R&B Album) ,an ever-humble and soft-spoken Babyface (who is set to tour the UK in 2016) reacquaints himself with “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a revealing interview, centred largely around his aforementioned new album, which interestingly marks his first solo LP since “Playlist” seven years ago.

Titling his new album “Return Of The Tender Lover” as a nod to his 1989 triple-Platinum breakthrough set “Tender Lover”

“Well, when I was making this album I kinda went back and listened to a lotta the records I’d done before. And with “Tender Lover” being kinda like the breakthrough album for me in terms of finding my mojo, when I realised how just how honest it was and how it was purely about love, though I didn’t want to COPY it I definitely wanted to revisit the good FEELING it had. Which is why I titled this new album ”Return Of The Tender Lover” as a nod to it and why musically I’ve termed this record ‘unapologetic R&B’.”

What he wanted to achieve musically this time around

“As I say, the whole idea of this record - and the biggest thing I was trying to achieve with it - was to just make a FEELGOOD album. And by doing it with live musicians I think I was able to DO that. Plus while I have done the programming thing in the past, what I have found is that when you go out and play live the music does then have a very different kinda FEELING compared to what you originally did in the STUDIO... So yeah, this time around I definitely didn’t want to lose any of the feel of the original tracks when I did eventually take this album to the STAGE. Because as I say, when you’re in the studio and you’re programming everything, what you’re doing doesn’t always translate LIVE.”

The main ways Babyface feels “Return Of The Tender Lover” represents a difference and/or progression from his previous albums

“The main difference I’d say with this album compared to most of my OTHER albums - whether we’re talking about ballads or more upbeat tracks - is that it doesn’t so much have a TEMPO as it has a GROOVE. Which is something that I hadn’t really played around with before and is something that really came out of being out on the road performing with Charlie Wilson and with Frankie Beverly and MAZE. Because it was actually after watching their shows that I was like ‘OK, maybe I need to add some groove to MY show’. Which is why on several of the songs on “Return Of The Tender Lover” - from “We’ve Got Love” to “Fight For Love” to “Something About You” - there are those long intros where you have sax solos, guitar solos - and just a lot of those very musical things that we never really HEAR that much any more in R&B. You know, I wanted it to be one of those type of records that we USED to listen to and we USED to groove to in that way, where it was about being a MUSICIAN’s record as much as it was about just a person that’s looking for a Number One HIT!”

The album “Return of The Tender Lover” and single “We’ve Got Love” are both out now through Def Jam Recordings.

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You can read more from our exclusive interview with Babyface in our latest print issue... including Babyface's thoughts on the background to his Grammy-winning 2014 duet album with Toni Braxton , “Love , Marriage & Divorce” and what we can expect from the live shows due here in March 2016.

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