Babyface, "Grown & Sexy" (Arista)
Compared to today's generation of R&B studs, Babyface seems a little old fashioned on his latest offering, "Grown & Sexy."
The romantic troubadour sounds as genteel as ever: There are no songs dedicated to baby mama drama, getting trapped in a closet of a married lover, or all-night grinding. In fact, while the title of the opening cut, "Tonight It's Goin' Down," hints at a night of reckless passion, the lyrics talk about the culmination of a long-wait for love -- a couple in the "making babies" stage of a relationship instead of the one-night hookup.
But while Babyface might a bit old school, "Grown & Sexy" hardly sounds outdated -- just classic. "Good 2 Be In Luv" is a soulful, uptempo celebration of commitment, while "Sorry For The Stupid Things," is prime Babyface, as he gallantly offers an apology for all the dumb stuff men are apt to do. Yet the man who so famously crooned about paying his girl's bills and cooking the dinner on the '80s hit "Soon As I Get Home" isn't without a backbone: "Goin' Outta Business" is a brush-off to a gold-digger.
Babyface's alluring tenor is in fine form here, with emotion that never boils over, but simmers with steady heat. And musically, the album offers some of the prolific singer-songwriter-producer's best work. Though Babyface has a tendency to stray to the sappy side, most of the disc avoids the saccharine (with the possible exception of "She," a tribute to his mother of his child, which is definitely on the borderline). Instead, it's full of irresistible, luscious, romantic tunes that frame love and lust in a decidedly adult fashion.
-- By Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer
Various Artists, "Whatever: The '90s Pop & Culture Box" (Rhino)
Everyone loves lists, and compilation boxed sets are essentially a list-making project. The Rhino label's best-of-the-decade packages always stir debate regarding what should be included, and their new seven-CD '90s compilation is no exception.
Rhino opted primarily for radio favorites on their sets from the '70s and '80s, but the "Whatever" producers changed tactics. In the liner notes they say their goal was to skip stupid songs that were hits in favor of more obscure, ambitious tunes, and the music might be better as a result. But it's also more limited.
"Whatever" goes heavy on guitar, and missing from the 130-song playlist is a lot of dumb fun in a decade full of it.
-- By Steven Wine,
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