Before Ne-Yo and Bryan-Michael Cox rose to prominence as the leading R&b songwriters of the 2000s, Babyface dominated the 1990s as one of the most prolific hit-makers of the era. So, to commemorate his contributions to the industry on this day – his 55th birthday – we’ll use Way Back Wednesday to reflect on his incredible legacy.
Alongside LA Reid, Babyface helped to shaped the sound and style of the 1990s R&B movement, thus laying the foundation for the next generation of songwriters and producers. As the masterminds behind LaFace Records, the duo helped to launch the careers of several superstars, such as the great Toni Braxton.
However, similar to many of the singers he helped to propel into the spotlight, Babyface has since lost his footing among the top composers of his day. Before we discuss why that happened, let’s check out some of the songs that he wrote and/or produced below:
Babyface – “Every Time I Close My Eyes”
Boyz II Men – “End of the Road”
Brandy – “Sittin’ Up in My Room”
Johnny Gill – “My, My, My”
Karyn White – “Superwoman”
Madonna – “Take a Bow”
Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston – “When You Believe”
Mary J. Blige – “Not Gon’ Cry”
Toni Braxton – “Breathe Again”
Whitney Houston – “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”
When people talk about music in the 1990s, it is impossible to overlook the work of Babyface. Alongside R. Kelly, Diane Warren, David Foster and LA Reid, he was one of the most important songwriter/producers of his age. Yet, as R&B became more infused with Hip-Hop elements, thanks to the clever Jermaine Dupri and
Puff Daddy Diddy, and Bubblegum Pop returned to the top of the charts at the turn of the century, Babyface simply failed to properly adapt.
Similar to artists, songwriter and producers also face of the risk of being dated to a particular time. Babyface is definitely a brilliant writer but his style failed to relate to new generation of music fans that emerged in the mid-2000s. Also, when he tried to adjust, he was forced to weaken his own lyrics, and what resulted was the embarrassing “you showed yo’ ass” line in Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had”.
Could Babyface reclaim his spot at the top? It is unlikely but with a catalogue of hits like his, I doubt he is very concerned. Just imagine the amount of royalties he collects every year. You know, the cheques that Toni Braxton and the TLC members wished they got at the end of every month but don’t because they never claimed the publishing rights to all of their hits.
What is the best Babyface-crafted song? What is the best tune from those listed above? Vote in our Way Back Wednesday poll and share your opinion!