Babyface - Playlist (2007)

Babyface
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You know that the trend of mature artists creating "covers" albums of 70s hits has gotten out of hand when even the great contemporary songwriters are doing it.  And so, Babyface, a decent singer who was arguably the most influential pop/soul songwriter of the 90s, has jumped on the bandwagon and released Playlist, yet another in the seemingly endless stream of retread CDs.  To his credit, he's gone to a different well to draw the water here -- 70s soft rock -- but that choice serves as a double-edged sword on this minor mess of an album.

You know that the trend of mature artists creating "covers" albums of 70s hits has gotten out of hand when even the great contemporary songwriters are doing it.  And so, Babyface, a decent singer who was arguably the most influential pop/soul songwriter of the 90s, has jumped on the bandwagon and released Playlist, yet another in the seemingly endless stream of retread CDs.  To his credit, he's gone to a different well to draw the water here -- 70s soft rock -- but that choice serves as a double-edged sword on this minor mess of an album.

Babyface has clearly shown a strong pop influence in the infectious melodies of his songwriting, but it wasn't until a decade ago that he released his inner James Taylor on the hit "When Will I See You Again" and his subsequent work with Garth Brooks.  But he gets downright Kenny Nolan-ish on Playlist.  It is said that an album of remakes is only as good as the material covered, and unfortunately the choices on Playlist are absolutely head-scratchers. It is suspicious for Face to be covering artists like Jim Croce and Dan Fogelberg, but it is completely inexplicable to opt for their most saccharine, manipulative pap such as "Time In A Bottle" and "Longer."  It would have taken a Luther Vandross or Ann Nesby to salvage the plethora of bland ballads here like Dave Loggins' "Please Come To Boston" and Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," and Babyface, particularly with the straight up acoustic arrangements, simply doesn't have the chops to raise them above the banal.

The album fares significantly better on songs with a pulse such as Taylor's "Shower the People" and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," and Face even manages a surprise save on Bread's "Diary" (actually sounding better than the treacly original). But it probably shouldn't be a surprise that, even in the confines of an acoustic pop album, the best song here is Babyface's own "The Soldier Song," an earnest salute to fallen men and women in the armed forces and a breath of originality on an otherwise unimpressive affair.

The covers album industry trend has long since worn out its welcome, but Babyface should at least get minor kudos for taking a road slightly less traveled in his approach on his most recent disc.  Sadly, different isn't always better, and Playlist will unfortunately go down as perhaps the least notable project in the discography of one of this musical generation's most important figures.

By Chris Rizik

 

 

 

 
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