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
Pebbles Girlfriend
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


D'luv said...

You gay.

I always liked "Can We Talk."

xolondon said...

Well, I left out the part about how it was your dick he was sucking. D'luvly. Come clean... so to speak, as it were.

Anonymous said...

Good post about Tevin. I'm with ya on the state of R & B. Its turgid.

Your top 10 Babyface is almost mine - I'd swap Exhale and Bell Biv Devoe for Gladys Knight's "I Dont Want to KNow" and Karen White "Superwoman". Otherwise you're bang on.

John said...

For some reason, I never expected to see a Babyface Top 10 + 1 on your blog, but I'm glad to see it. I think history probably won't be too kind to him, but he really provided a breath of fresh air at the time in comparison to the more rap-oriented R&B that was coming up at the same time. The Waiting to Exhale soundtrack is a testament to what s soundtrack SHOULD sound like...cohesive, and not just a random collection of songs. Here's my top 10+1:

Karyn White "Love Saw It"
Jon B "Someone to Love"
Babyface "Whip Appeal"
Toni Braxton "Love Shoulda Brought You Home"
Tevin Campbell "Can We Talk"
Madonna "Take a Bow"
The Deele "Two Occasions"
Sheena Easton "The Lover In Me"
Brandy "Sittin' Up In My Room"
Mary J Blige "Not Gon' Cry"
TLC "Baby Baby Baby"

countpopula said...

My favorite Tevin song is a Prince song, "Round & Round". Excellent.

Thanks for the Tev update--I had no idea. He was pretty talented, so from that standpoint, it is alarming how quiet he is these days as a man still in his early 30's.

I generally agree on the state of R&B, and have some theories as to why this is, which I won't bore everyone with here. Needless to say, Babyface has created some timeless pop songs, yes, but I always found his solo work a little bland. I always think when a song of his starts, it's so predictable as to where it's gonna go. So. many. slow. jams.

I actually think it's great how R&B artists have now incorporated much more pop, electro, and retro into their music. You have to admit, the genre had worn itself out, and all those interchangeable rappers sampling the songs of the true artists did nothing to further the cause.

xolondon said...

Count, that was the Prince song wasn't it? Everybody wants to find Graffiti Bridge...

Could be true about r'n'b. I just feel like the money men got too involved. Song selections on albums are based on fiscal rewards, not whether the song is any good or not. :(

kazzle said...

jUST SOME Correction Tevin Recorded Im Ready Album when he was fifteen and he first Became know for singing "Tommorow" written by Quincy Jones in 1989.