Album review: Babyface, ‘Return of the Tender Lover’
After 2014’s underrated collaboration with Toni Braxton, “Love, Marriage & Divorce,” Babyface makes a welcome and assured return as a solo artist with his first record in eight years. One of the architects of new jack swing, Kenny Edmonds does what he does best here, staying true to the song-based, romantic R&B that influenced a generation. The singer, writer, and producer smartly realizes he can’t compete with the obsessive, bedpost-rattling Ty Dolla Signs and Weeknds of the world and instead offers a satisfying mix of adult pop-soul love songs that evoke his early work. These amiable, adroitly produced and arranged songs confirm his inimitable knack for graceful melodies and effortless hooks. Few artists create songs as lithe and engaging as “Walking on Air,” where El
DeBarge adds just the right color. Babyface remains polished yet funky (“We Got Love”); on the fine ballads he’s unabashedly devotional (if perhaps, a bit corny). Throughout he proclaims his love for women for who they are, instead of what they can do for him. Remember that?
ESSENTIAL “Walking on Air”