Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds has written and produced 200 R&B songs, more than 50 pop Top 10 hits, and won 12 Grammy Awards throughout his career. Singer, songwriter, and producer, Babyface has written and produced artists within the pop and R&B genres, including Whitney Houston, Usher, Toni Braxton, Bobby Brown, TLC, Paula Abdul, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and more. Many songs were written and produced along with Edmonds’ longtime collaborator, co-writer, and co-producer Antonio “LA” Reid.
Of the hits that Babyface wrote or co-wrote, some of the songs that reached No. 1 include Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You,” Whitney Houston’s 1990 hit “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and her 1995 release “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”—off of the soundtrack to the film Waiting to Exhalewhich was also written and produced by Babyface—and Madonna’s “Take A Bow,” written by the Edmonds and the Material Girl for her 1994 album Bedtime Stories.
Born April 10, 1959, writing songs was a natural gift for Edmonds who started songwriting in the sixth grade before progressing to write on piano and guitar and stockpiling a collection of songs—even penning Tevin Campbell’s 1993 hit, “I’m Ready,” back when he was in high school.
“Writing songs were definitely comforting,” said Babyface. “It was kind of my voice. The truth is, [when I was young] I was too shy to say something to the actual girl I was in love with, so I just wrote it in a song. I didn’t play it for her, but just to do it in a song, it felt good to do it that way.” He added, “You might feel good about [writing songs], but I didn’t know whether I could write a hit or not. In the beginning, I don’t know if I was trying to write hits. I was just writing love songs.”
After joining the group Manchild as a guitarist with later collaborator Darryl Simmons and the Deele, which also featured his other writing partner Reid, Edmonds got one of his first writing credits for the Midnight Star song “Slow Jam” in 1983 and continued writing and producing for other artists as well as releasing his own material from the late ’80s through the present.
As an artist, Babyface has released eight studio albums, including his most recent Return of the Tender Lover in 2015, and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.
Though his catalog of songs runs volumes, here are 10 songs that Babyface wrote, and often produced, for other artists over the past 35 years.
1.“Rock Steady,” The Whispers (1987)
Written by Babyface, L.A. Reid, Bo Watson, and Dwayne Ladd
Just Gets Better with Time was the 18th album for the R&B group The Whispers. Co-produced by Babyface and LA Reid, “Rock Steady” was the group’s highest-charting single, hitting No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
2. “Don’t Be Cruel,” Bobby Brown (1988)
Written by Babyface, L.A. Reid, and Darryl Simmons
Babyface wrote six tracks off Bobby Brown’s second album Don’t Be Cruel and produced the album along with L.A. Reid. The title track was Brown’s second single to reach the top of the R&B chart and also crossed him over into the pop category. The album peaked at No. 1 on Billboard 200 and included five top 10 hits, including “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step,” also written by Babyface and LA Reid.
3. “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” Whitney Houston (1990)
Written and produced by Babyface and LA Reid
Whitney Houston’s 1990 hit, “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” the title track off her third album reached No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot 100 charts. In the black and white and color video, directed by Julian Temple, Houston is seen paying homage to inspiring women of film and music, including The Supremes, Marlene Dietrich from the 1930 film Morocco and a Funny Face-era Audrey Hepburn.
4. “Giving You the Benefit,” Pebbles (1990)
Written and produced by Babyface and LA Reid
Babyface and L.A. Reid worked with Pebbles—who was also married to Reid from 1986 through 1996—in the late ’80s through 1990. “Giving You the Benefit,” the lead single off the singer’s 1990 album Always, hit No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and earned her a Grammy nod for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
5. “My My My,” Johnny Gill (1990)
Written by Babyface and Darryl Simmons
Johnny Gill heated things up with the hit “My My My,” off his third self-titled album. The song even features some jazzy sax played by Kenny G and remains Gill’s signature song.
6. “Another Sad Love Song,” Toni Braxton (1993)
Written by Babyface, Darryl Simmons, and L.A. Reid
Released as the lead single and opening track on Toni Braxton’s self-titled debut album, also produced by Babyface, Reid, and Simmons, “Another Sad Love Song” was her breakout hit, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1994. Lyrically, the song talks about the sad love songs playing on the radio as reminders of an ex-love—It’s just another sad love song / Rackin’ my brain like crazy / Guess I’m all torn up / Be it fast or slow / It doesn’t let go / Or shake me / And it’s all because of you.
7. “Most Girls,” P!nk (2000)
Written by Babyface and Damon Thomas
The second single off P!nk’s 2000 debut Can’t Take Me Homealso co-produced by Reid and Edmonds, the empowering “Most Girls”—Most girls want a man with the bling bling / Got my own thing, got the ching ching / I just want real love—was one of three tracks Babyface also co-wrote on the album.
8. “Best Thing I Never Had,” Beyoncé (2011)
Written by Babyface, Beyoncé, Antonio Dixon, Larry Griffin, Jr., Caleb Sean McCampbell, Patrick Smith, and Shea Taylor
Babyface had already collaborated with Beyoncé on “Broken-Hearted Girl” off of her 2008 I Am… Sasha Fierce album, and again off of 4 for track “Best Thing I Never Had,” which he also helped produce.
9. “Baby I,” Ariana Grande (2013)
Written by Babyface, Antonio Dixon, and Patrick Smith
Ariana Grande’s debut album Yours Truly It features several tracks written and produced by Edmonds, including “Baby I,” which was Grande’s second single ever released. The album was recorded over a three-year period and features the late rapper Mac Miller, along with Big Sean, The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes, and Mika. Grande’s former Victorious co-star Leon Thomas III also co-wrote several songs on Yours Truly.
10. “Stronger Together,” Jessica Sanchez (2016)
Written by Babyface, Bruce Roberts, and Carole Bayer Sager
Babyface co-wrote the song “Stronger Together” for Jessica Sanchez, which appeared on her 2016 album of the same name. The song title was pulled from the slogan Hilary Clinton was using in her presidential campaign and was also played following Clinton’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
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