From the Heart
There are several good songs on From the Heart, but by the end of the album, I was sick of the slow, languorous ballads that Babyface does so well. There’s nothing wrong with most of the songs; they’re just bland, and the delivery becomes monotonous after sixteen tracks. Such is the peril of putting together a compilation of a particular type of song: we lose the variety that makes an album great.
That said, Babyface’s smooth, soulful delivery helps lift mediocre material to the next level, and From the Heart has several standout tracks. “Lady, Lady,” with its undeniable catchy refrain, is among my favorites. Retaining the soft sound Babyface is known for, there’s more emotion and a faster pace in his vocal delivery. A syncopated drum track is also added to get your feet tapping.
“For the Cool in You” is another funky track, with a more prominent rhythm section and polished but slightly sped-up vocals. The saxophone also gives a bit of flavor. The song is original lyrically: Babyface praises his lover for being even-keeled and not giving up easily in the face of difficulties. “This Is For the Lover in You,” a duet with LL Cool J, has a more hip-hop vibe than the rest of the album. LL Cool J raps between Babyface’s sung verses, and Jody Watley provides supporting vocals. Other stars lending a hand are Mariah Carey and Kenny G, who make an appearance on “Every Time I Close My Eyes.”
It’s easy to see why “When Can I See You” was a top-ten hit; the acoustic guitar-dominated, plaintive tune is so different from the rest of Babyface’s oeuvre. The poetic and simple lyrics (“When can my Sunday begin? When can my heart beat again?”) are memorable. “Whip Appeal,” another hit, is an appealing tune on which Babyface lets loose vocally.
While technically the slow ballads are well-done, too often the music and sentiment are tepid, and the lyrics trite. On “I Said I Love You” Babyface croons, “I promise you I will be true,” and on “A Bit Old Fashioned” he proclaims, “I believe a woman is the most precious thing on earth.” My personal animus was “Lovers,” which opens with the precoital dialogue of a man and a woman about to have sex for the first time, which I found disconcerting and condescending. The music itself has little personality, and the patronizing lyrics about how the man will be gentle made me want to gag.
My main complaint is that the material is too polished. Keeping a few of the rough edges would have added diversity and interest to his romantic work. There are enough good songs—and several great ones—to make the album a worthwhile overview of Babyface's love songs.