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Talent, Timing Put Babyface on Top

Posted in MusicWorld on April 30, 2001 by

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds has fashioned one of the most successful writing and producing careers in the history of pop music. His ability to tailor material and arrangements to a wide roster of clients, including Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men is due, in part, to Babyface's ability to handle production on his own work.

Gifted with an evocative voice, Babyface nonetheless had to sculpt a production style for himself that started with the understanding that his tenor is light. Working to his strengths, he developed a unique production style that featured spare percussion parts, uncluttered keyboards, crisp guitar hooks, and lush background vocal pads. Against this texture, Edmonds's voice stands out on such instant classics as "When Can I See You Again" and "Never Keeping Secrets."

His openness to the talents of others has led Babyface to some extraordinary partnerships. With L.A Reid, he has produced a number of successful albums. The pair's first hit single was the Whispers' beat-box driven "Rock Steady," and hits by Sheena Easton ("The Lover In Me") and Bobby Brown ("Don't Be Cruel," "Every Little Step") followed in short order. Their work for soul diva Whitney Houston yielded the phenomenally successful "I'm Your Baby Tonight."

Babyface has also brought a deft touch to the business side of the music industry. In 1989, at the ripe age of 30, he and LA Reid co-founded LaFace Records. Headquartered in Atlanta, the label (a subsidiary of Arista Records) launched the careers of Toni Braxton and TLC.

Not content to simply enjoy the fruits of his gifts, Babyface has recently joined lyricist Carole Bayer Sager and producer/composer David Foster in an online attempt to give back some good fortune to the artistic community. Website Tonos.com is dedicated to seeking out and giving a forum to talented musicians and artists around the world.

In 1992, Babyface's skills as writer and producer came together in the Boyz II Men smash single "End Of The Road, which remained at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 13 weeks. Edmonds and Reid would ride the success of this track to win Grammy Awards for Best R&B Song and Producer of the Year.

But Babyface and Boyz II Men weren't finished piling on the hit records. "I'll Make Love To You," written and produced by Edmonds, garnered the 1995 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, as well as Song of the Year at the BMI Pop Awards. He has won the BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year trophy seven times, adding to his total of 51 BMI Awards, which includes Song of the Year kudos for his Toni Braxton hit, "Breathe Again," in 1994.

After turning his production talents on other artists, it was time for Babyface to revive his own performing and recording career. When production was completed on the soundtrack to Waiting To Exhale, He went to work on The Day, his next solo album for Epic. This double-platinum album would eventually yield a pair of hit singles: the platinum hit "This Is For The Lover In You," and "Every Time I Close My Eyes," which featured background vocals by Mariah Carey and Kenny G on sax.

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds has achieved success by molding a composing and producing style that works for him, and then placing other performing artists in the spotlight and tailoring his skills to highlight their talent.

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