Babyface and Toni Braxton release their much-delayed new album Love, Marriage & Divorce on February 4th, and in typical Babyface fashion, the album’s first single, “Hurt You,” reached #1. Hard to believe, right? It’s only the twenty-sixth song Babyface has written or produced to hit the top of the chart, including one that took down the 36-year record for consecutive weeks at number one, which was held by none other than the King himself. (No, not Jerry Lawler or the creepy Burger King mascot. Uncle Jesse’s King.)
Like Desmond Child, over whose extensive songwriting catalog I gushed earlier this week, Babyface is a factory of magic, a master bottler of lightning, and both the number and quality of the hits for which he’s responsible is staggering. In celebration of his righteous bad-assedness, we take a look at some of Babyface’s most notable hits and give thanks to him for providing us with so many moments of pure smoothness.
Whitney Houston – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”
“I’m Your Baby Tonight” was the first notch on Babyface’s #1 belt, and right away, we see what kind of sorcery we’re working with. Whitney’s a juggernaut in her own right, and her signature performance style just accentuates what a great song this is.
Madonna – “Take A Bow”
Babyface co-wrote, co-produced, and contributed backing vocals on Madonna’s 1994 album Bedtime Stories, which featured the #1 hit “Take A Bow.” The song and its super-hot video were the album’s sultry sound at its best. I’m a sucker for break-up songs, and “Take A Bow” is among the very finest. I’ve never seen animal cruelty look sexier.
Boyz II Men – “End of The Road”
Now we’re cookin’ with gas! “End of The Road,” the most baleful and desperate plea for feminine mercy disguised as a slow jam ever to be written, is the Babyface/Boyz II Men force that stayed at #1 for 13 weeks in 1992. That stint broke the 11-week record that Elvis Presley had held for 36 years. When I was last at the Santa Monica Pier, I tied the third-highest score on the Addams Family pinball machine in the arcade, so I kind of understand how that must have felt for them.
Unfortunately, due to the punk kid who took it upon himself to teach me a lesson that day at the Pier, I’m also familiar with the disappointment of short-lived triumph, much like Boyz II Men and Babyface may have experienced after Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” immediately toppled their record, staying at #1 for 14 weeks. I’m sure I can speak for myself, Babyface, and Boyz II Men when I say that it smarts. However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes (and like myself after stuffing that middle school reject into a smelly trash can when I couldn’t beat him), Babyface and Boyz II Men would even the score. How?
Boyz II Men – “I’ll Make Love To You”
By tying Whitney’s record with their next single, “I’ll Make Love to You,” which stayed at #1 for 14 weeks, just as “I Will Always Love You” had. Man, Boyz II Men were awesome, weren’t they?
Eric Clapton – “Change The World”
Finally, Babyface produced and sang backing vocals on Eric Clapton’s 1997 hit “Change The World,” which spent an impressive 13 weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. What’s even more impressive is that the song sat on that chart for eighty weeks. To be completely honest, I was never a huge fan of “Change The World,” especially as far as Eric Clapton songs go, but I’m clearly missing something. Eighty weeks? You could gestate two children in that time. Kim Kardashian could fit nearly eight marriages into the length of time “Change The World” stayed on the chart. (Editor’s note: Ugh. Did she really make a Kim Kardashian marriage joke? What is this, 2011? Hey, Meg, while you’re at it — got any good ones about the royal wedding, or maybe some ultra-relevant shots to take at Charlie Sheen?)