May 29, 2010
The 90's: Babyface vs Tevin Campbell
The state of modern r'n'b is piteous. Tragic. Hip-hop's marketability has overtaken song-craft and we're left with Nicki Minaj types doing superfluous "features" on otherwise good songs. There was a time in the 1990s when Babyface ruled the planet with songs that Madonna likened to Mercedes. They were classics that could hold up over time. In my mind's eye, I imagine them as sleek, silver cars moving in slow motion, if that makes any sense.
One of my favorite singers was Tevin Campbell, a child-prodigy protege of Babyface, Quincy Jones and Prince. Only a kid could navigate that ego war. He first appeared in 1991, but it was 1993's double platinum I'm Ready - recorded when he was 12 years old - that blew him up big.
Some of you will remember that Campbell's pop career abruptly halted in 1999 when, in his early twenties, Tevin was picked up by an undercover cop in a "gay garden" Oh Tevin, as if we didn't already know. That is no excuse to stop making music. I'd like to think if this scenario happened in 2010, bigmouth Kanye West would defend him in the press, citing a "crime with no victims" and making a pioint about homophobia in hip-hop culture.
Tevin was last seen performing in Hair on Broadway a few years back (here he is) so maybe there is hope still that he'll record again.
Other superb Tevin Campbell tracks, most of them ballads or mid-tempos: Can We Talk, Strawberry Letter 23, Just Ask Me To, Dandelion, Back To The World, Don't Say Goodbye Girl, The Only One For Me
XO's Top Ten Plus One Babyface tracks:
Tevin Campbell I'm Ready
Toni Braxton Seven Whole Days
Whitney Houston Why Does It Hurt So Bad
Whitney Houston Exhale (Shoop Shoop)
TLC Diggin' On You
Bell Biv Devoe Something In Your Eyes
Toni Braxton Let It Flow
Madonna Take A Bow
Toni Braxton Breathe Again
Tevin Campbell Can We Talk