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Babyface

Babyface

b. Kenneth Brian Edmonds, 10 April 1958, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Babyface’s achievements as a songwriter and producer throughout the late 80s and 90s, especially with L.A. Reid, sometimes overshadowed his own efforts as a performer, that go back to the mid-70s with the funk outfit Manchild. His early solo efforts showed a sophisticated, adult-orientated strain of urban soul, going against the current grain of rap-influenced explicitness and raunchy swingbeat; wisely, perhaps, as his light, pleasant voice could not really compare to earthier singers such as R. Kelly. It was not until 1995, when the single ‘When Can I See You’ won a Grammy, that he could claim the commercial success that had been heaped on his own protégés such as Boyz II Men (Edmonds wrote and produced the massive US chart-toppers, ‘End Of The Road’ and ‘I’ll Make Love To You’), Bobby Brown and Toni Braxton.

Edmonds’ association with Reid was cemented in 1989 when the two men formed LaFace Records. The label quickly became one of the most successful of the early 90s, with Braxton and TLC among the artists enjoying major commercial returns. Edmonds’ production and writing credits during this period were impressive, with artists such as Paula Abdul, Mary J. Blige, Bobby Brown, Brandy, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, En Vogue, Whitney Houston, and Madonna queing up for his services. Following his split with Reid and LaFace, Edmonds’ main outlet has been as a solo artist and producer and writer of movie soundtracks, following on from his involvment in the multi-platinum successes The Bodyguard (1992) and Waiting To Exhale (1995). With his wife Tracey, he set up the Edmonds Production Company and worked on movies such as Soul Food (1997) and Josie And The Pussycats (2001).

Expectations were high for Babyface’s 1996 solo album, which should have sealed his claim to be taken seriously as a contemporary soul performer. Unfortunately, The Day turned out to be something of a back-slappers’ showcase; guest spots by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, LL Cool J, Mariah Carey and even Shalamar could not obscure the fact that the songs Babyface kept for himself were simply not as strong as those he provided for other members of the R&B royalty.

Following an unplugged MTV set and a seasonal release, Babyface signed a new recording contract with Arista Records. His 2001 debut for the label featured collaborations with Snoop Dogg and the Neptunes, but apart from the R&B hit ‘There She Goes’ was a largely anodyne affair. He attempted to toughen up his image on the 2005 follow-up Grown & Sexy, but the album received mixed reviews and shot under the radar. Babyface switched to Island Records for his next album, Playlist.

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