|Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds|
Several weeks ago I made the careful decision to feature Kenneth Edmonds. As the moment approached for me to actual start writing I wondered what words would I use to describe one of the most influential musicians of all time? What could I possibly say about Babyface, tagged by funk musician Bootsy Collins because of his cute face while playing with Collins as a teen? A 10-time Grammy winner with 11 solo albums of his own, more than 125 Top-10 R&B and Pop hits, 42 #1 R&B hits, and 51 Top- 10 Pop hits (including 16 #1’s), which have produced single and album sales in excess of 500 million units worldwide. Take a look at a short list of just a few of the vocalists from which his music can be heard: Whitney Houston, Boys II Men, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, TLC, Toni Braxton, Celine Dion, Anthony Hamilton, Brandy, Aretha Franklin, Fall Out Boy, Pink, Charlie Wilson, and Chrisette Michele. There are so many more names and songs that in my words, it’s almost ridiculous. Easy to understand why I gave this post the title, The Face of Popular Music.
Looking back I first noticed Edmonds when he was a member of The Deele, the light funk, R & B group who came to prominence in the early 1980’s. Edmonds and drummer Antonio L.A. Reid would later form a very successful writing and producing partnership. By the end of the 1990’s music either written or produced by Babyface could be heard around the world in every venue in which music was played. My start in the music industry and subsequent music production efforts mirrored Edmonds’ work time wise. Like many other aspiring songwriters and music producers I greatly admired the musical accomplishments of Babyface throughout the 80’s and 90’s and even down to today.
However, there were some musicians with whom I worked that did not appreciate Edmonds’ music. Their remarks reminded me of the statements made by John Lennon about Paul McCartney’s silly love songs. We all know how that objection played out as well as objections of Babyface love songs. The fact remains that the world will always have a preference for good love songs. Even though both McCartney and Edmonds wrote more than just love songs, it is the romantic music that is noticed and somewhat defines their work. I feel that the overall musical legacy that Edmonds will leave is that of a romantic musician. The problem in our society today is that the word, romantic is sometimes associated with weakness. As a society we are learning that there can be strength along with sensitivity.
Nevertheless, Babyface continues to work in the music industry, although not at the pace he did during the 80’s and 90’s. He produced many songs for young singer Ariana Grande’s debut album Your’s Truly released in 2013 and he is about to release a duets album with Toni Braxton entitled Love Marriage and Divorce. The album was originally due for release on November 25, 2013; however, it has been delayed and will arrive just in time for Valentine’s Day on February 4, 2014 as announced by Motown Records. It’s been 21 years since the Grammy-winning diva and legendary producer worked together on 1992’s “Give U My Heart” off the Boomerang soundtrack. The album will be Babyface’s first new studio album in nearly seven years and Toni’s first new album since 2010’s Pulse.
It seems very appropriate that Edmonds and Braxton have come together again. Toni Braxton easily can look back to her first album as evidence of the effect Edmonds can have on any musical venture. Braxton’s debut album won her several awards, including three Grammy Awards (for Best New Artist and two consecutive awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1994 and 1995). She also won two American Music Awards (for Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist and Favorite New Adult Contemporary Artist) in 1994 and another one in 1995 (for Favorite Soul/R&B Album). Toni Braxton was certified 8x platinum in USA and has sales of over 10 million worldwide. Trust me; the album has a permanent place on my MP3 player. The twenty-one years between their last joint efforts has brought about a variety of life experiences for the two entertainers. Braxton stated, “I think because Babyface and I have both gone through divorces, we can relate and we can collaborate together on this topic and make it so others who have gone through this situation can relate.” There should be no shortage of material if that’s the way the two approached this project. As for Kenneth Edmonds, if he still has his musical touch, he will remain the face of popular music for years to come.