They Didn’t Name A Highway After Him For Nothing: Songs You Probably Didn’t Know Babyface Wrote And Produced
Okay, so it’s just a 25-mile stretch of a highway in Indianapolis, but nonetheless, that’s a really big deal! Seriously though, what would R&B music, as well as pop, sound like if it weren’t for Babyface? The man has been writing classic jams and put together much loved soundtracks since the early ’80s. He gave Bobby Brown some of his biggest hits, helped make Toni Braxton a star, and managed to write some of music’s must-hit-repeat jams when we weren’t paying attention. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, sometime alongside writing partner LA Reid, other times with an array of other talented writers, but often on his own, has helped pen and produce songs that have made us dance, cry, and break up with shady folks. Your iPod wouldn’t be the same without the brotha. Here are a few songs by the legend that you might not have known he was behind.
“Baby-Baby-Baby” by TLC
Perhaps one of my absolute favorite TLC songs, the track, which has been sampled over and over, was written by L.A. Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons. “Baby-Baby-Baby” was one of their biggest hits too, the most successful song from their debut album, Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. The song wound up peaking at number one on the Hot R&B charts, and number two on the Hot 100. The song was later sampled on the Bow Wow song, “You Can Get It All,” which was produced by Jermaine Dupri. Coincidentally, Dupri appeared in TLC’s college campus-life themed video for “Baby-Baby-Baby.”
“Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyoncé
Babyface wasn’t just making jams for folks in the 80s and 90s now! He has teamed up with Beyoncé a few times (including for the song “Broken-Hearted Girl” for the I Am…Sasha Fierce album), and to help write this song, he collaborated with the singer and talented songwriters Patrick “J. Que” Smith (main songwriter), Symbolyc One, Caleb McCambpell, Antonio Dixon, and Shea Taylor. He also helped produce this track for the 4 album. Though it took a while for people to warm up to the song, it did pretty well around the world, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four on the R&B charts. It also went platinum in Sweden and Australia.
“My My My” by Johnny Gill
Okay, so when you think about Babyface, he doesn’t necessarily scream sex like that. But he sure has a knack for writing sexually alluring songs, such as this Johnny Gill classic. The song was a huge hit for Gill, and “My My My” was the second single from his debut. With his growling at the breakdown, the beat, and that great songwriting, it only makes sense that the song stayed at number one on the R&B charts for two weeks, becoming Gill’s signature song and a must for any slow jam played at the end of a party.
“I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston
Love this classic! And may I add, it’s so much better than the European version (no disrespect to those who like that version better…but it pales in comparison). The song was written by LA Reid and Babyface and produced by the team as well. It was featured on Houston’s third album of the same name and showed a more…let’s just say “street” version of Newark’s finest. While the song did well, hitting number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 charts as well as the Hot R&B charts as well, critics tried to claim it was too similar to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” While they might be similar in showing a different side to these pretty lovable artists, it’s hard to even compare such classics.
“These Are The Times” by Dru Hill
One of the few songs that allowed Jazz of Dru Hill to shine through the most, “These Are The Times” wasn’t their biggest hit, but it definitely was played over and over on the video channel, The Box (maybe because I was the one calling in for it). With its somewhat random but cool Man In The Iron Mask-inspired video (that featured Lark Voorhies), it was entertaining enough to help the song peak at number five on the Hot R&B charts and reach the 21st spot on the Hot 100. I just want to know if Babyface was really behind the hilarious Sisqo lyrics, “Tear you up in little pieces /Swallow you like Reeses pieces /Come on girl you know I need it.” Classic.
“Rock Steady” by The Whispers
Babyface has even been writing jams for some of your mother’s favorite groups, and this one was definitely a shocker for me. A single from their 18th (count ’em!) album, it was actually the Whispers biggest hit of all time, peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles and then doing number five on the Hot 100. The song was produced by LA Reid and Babyface, while Babyface collaborated with Reid, Bo Watson, and Dwayne Ladd on the writing for the song, which has been sampled (especially the beat) many times.
“Can We Talk” by Tevin Campbell
Who didn’t love Tevin Campbell? And who didn’t love this song? The lead single off of his double platinum second album I’m Ready, “Can We Talk” was co-written (with Daryl Simmons) and produced solely by Babyface. I’m pretty sure he can even be heard singing on the chorus on the low-low. The song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Hot R&B charts. It was certified gold and is still a song that makes people clown when it comes on at parties or even on the radio. A true ’90s gem.
“My First Night With You” by Mya
When Mya wasn’t dancing with Sisqo or dating Silkk The Shocker, she was trying to be taken seriously as a singer out in these streets. To make that happen, she enlisted the help of Babyface and Diane Warren, who penned the popular jam, “My First Night With You” for Deborah Cox, and allowed Mya to re-record it for her debut album. The song, about an experience with a man she’s feeling that doesn’t have to do with sex, received some criticism because, honestly, Mya’s voice just wasn’t the strongest on it. However, that didn’t stop it from being certified gold and showing a new side to the baby-voiced singer.
“Never Gonna Let You Go” by Faith Evans
Written by Babyface and Damon Thomas (and produced by Babyface as well), “Never Gonna Let You Go” was a winning ballad for the Bad Boy first lady, and was featured on her second album, Keep The Faith. While slower jams usually don’t do as well on the charts (unless you’re Mariah, Celine or Whitney), the song peaked at number one on the Hot R&B charts and number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Blame it on the great writing and Faith’s impeccable vocal capabilities and that chart success makes sense.
“Dial My Heart” by The Boys
“I call my baby on the phone/Got to leave a message/Just to let her know /That if she ever feels alone/To dial my heart.” I know you remember this one. If you don’t though, I wouldn’t be mad because we haven’t heard from this group in a minute, and “Dial My Heart” came out in ’88, so we’re talking damn near 30 years ago. But the young men who once made up the group “The Boys” definitely remember it, as the track was one of their bigger hits. “Dial My Heart” was their debut single and it was written by Babyface, LA Reid and Daryl Simmons, and was produced by Reid and Babyface. The track peaked at number one on the Hot R&B charts and 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Take A Bow” by Madonna
They’re an unlikely pair, but the collaboration of Babyface and Madonna was the definition of a hit. “Take A Bow” manages to sound like something you could hear either one of the legends releasing on their own, and maybe that’s why it did so well. It was her longest running number one hit on the charts, winning big time for seven weeks straight. From her sixth studio album, the song also did well on charts around the world. Babyface’s vocals were also featured on the track, and in 1995, the two performed the popular song at the American Music Awards. Truly a beautiful song off of a very underrated album (Bedtime Stories had jams for days!).
“Most Girls” by P!nk
If you can recall that time when singer P!nk was known for R&B music and her fuchsia hair, she released this jam written by Damon Thomas and Babyface, and produced by the latter fella of course. It was off of her debut album Can’t Take Me Home and was released in 2000 (that seems so long ago!). The song went on to do pretty well, peaking at number five on the Billboard 100 and number two on the US Pop songs chart. “Most Girls” was heavy on the bass, and though it did well on the pop charts, it was definitely straight R&B. To think of the music she puts out now and her image these days, it’s like listening to two different artists. They literally had this girl doing choreography in this video when she clearly didn’t need to…
“Superwoman” by Karyn White
Yaaaaasssss to this song! If you’re feeling taken for granted by your man, this is the song you need to send to your partner because not only does it get the point across, it sounds hella good! Written by LA Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons, “Superwoman” is definitely a fave of many women and has that Deele ’80s feel. While it did very well with a wide audience, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, it did very well with black folks, peaking at number one on the Hot R&B charts (aka, “Hot Black Singles” chart as it was formerly known) back in ’88. The song went on to be heavily covered, and was certified gold.
“Girlfriend” by Pebbles
This might not be too big of a surprise, seeing as how Pebbles and LA Reid were dating at the time she released this jam, and because she later brought him TLC (even though we all know that ended badly monetarily). The song “Girlfriend” was written by Reid and Babyface, and was originally intended for Vanessa Williams. Both men actually provide their vocals to the song and helped the song sell well, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and at number one on the “Hot Black Singles” chart. The men can even be seen in the video as part of their group Deele.