Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is one of the most influential figures in the recent history of R&B and pop music. Though he has had a successful career as a multi-platinum selling R&B artist, he has earned his highest accolades in song writing and producing.Babyface wrote and produced some of the biggest hits of the '90s including Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and the Boyz II Men mega-hits "End of the Road" and "I'll Make Love to You". His label, LaFace Records, has produced albums for the likes of Toni Braxton, TLC, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Madonna. Grown and Sexy is his first fully-fledged album since 2001's Face2Face.
With this kind of ability and a proven track record you might expect that Babyface's big comeback album would be, if not brilliant, at least extremely good. And while everything around the songs - performance, production, packaging and PR - is indeed extremely good, the only extreme thing about these bland songs is their ordinariness.There's nothing essentially wrong with the album, except perhaps a vaguely misogynist streak in a few of the tracks, and a tendency to overproduce. They are as pleasantly smooth, sultry and sex obsessed as a hundred other R&Btracks, and this is where the real problem lies.Babyface may ooze confidence and talent, but that doesn't exactly make for interesting listening. R&B's current avatar - the all conquering Usher (who Babyface himself first signed) - also overflows with self esteem, but at least he still seems eager to prove himself, to make his mark. Babyface, on the other hand, takes the fact that you're interested for granted.It seems then that the old adage is true - too much success is not good for an artist. Babyface is clearly so comfortable, so insulated from any pain, that his soulful songs just sound lazy while his sexy songs come across as self indulgent sleaze. The man needs a bit of turmoil or bankruptcy to wake him up.Too harsh? Perhaps, if were we discussing some young pup just starting out, but this is the man who broke records for winning consecutive Grammy awards. He doesn't need our charity - he needs our honesty.Should you buy it? Not unless you want to encourage this sort of laziness. New listeners will be unimpressed and fans disappointed. Better stay away and send Edmonds a message: wake up your majesty, your crown is slipping.
- Alistair Fairweather
"[His] mature eroticism is undone by overwrought production, eventually drowning every track in layers of instrumentation, vocals and other sonic drama."- Los Angeles Times "Grown feels more like an extended elevator ride than a true adult movement. "- Vibe"Like a lot of current pop, he could use a middle ground between thuggishness and sentimentality."- The New York Times
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