When the nominations for the 2014 GRAMMY Awards were announced, super-producer Pharrell Williams found himself garnering seven nominations for work with several artists that spanned across genres. And while Pharrell has been putting in work for over a decade now, the multi-talent may owe a bit of his successful blueprint to another super-producer, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. Babyface pretty much ruled the '90s R&B landscape with deft songwriting and production skills. However, 20 years ago Babyface also made a significant mark as an artist with his fourth album For the Cool in You. Featuring some of the crooner's best known songs, this 1993 collection further established what was obvious from the start: When it comes to crafting love songs that move you, Babyface was that man.
Like most of Babyface's material, For the Cool in You was essentially yet another collection of love songs. But to say that Babyface simply creates love songs is like saying that Starbucks simply makes coffee. His previous album of original material, 1989's Tender Lover, was a veritable hit factory of love songs, namely "It's No Crime," the album's title track "Tender Lover" and, of course, the quiet storm staple "Whip Appeal." For the Cool in You was no different. Four of the album's five singles were very well received -- with tender ballads "Never Keeping Secrets" and "And Our Feelings" and the jazzy groove of "For the Cool in You" each peaking in the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles Charts.
The album's true runaway success, though, was the heart-on-his-sleeve acoustic ballad "When Can I See You." The ballad stripped down Babyface's usual wall of production to reveal just Kenny and his guitar as he sang sweetly about the pain of wanting lost love back. The song resonated with more than a few lovelorn fans, propelling the song to No. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100. But it didn't stop there. The song was nominated for, and subsequently won, the singer's first GRAMMY Award in 1995 for Best Male R&B Vocal. Needless to say, "When Can I See You" has been included on Babyface's A Collection of His Greatest Hits and has become one of the crooner's signature songs.
Outside of the singles, For the Cool in You was well in Babyface's early '90s wheelhouse. Having come off Tender Lover and the runaway success that his label LaFace had with the 1992 soundtrack to Eddie Murphy's Boomerang, he had found a sound that worked and ran with it. This sound was evident in tracks like "Lady, Lady," "Illusions," "A Bit Old Fashioned," "Rock Bottom" and even the mid-tempo "Saturday," with slower melodies, drum programming, keys and rhythms that provided a nice counterpoint to the hard hitting and bass-heavy stylings that could be found in New Jack Swing at the time while still slightly mirroring the genre to keep it just relevant enough.
As well, like title track "For the Cool in You," this album found Babyface playing around with elements of smooth jazz. His cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful," though sometimes showing the limits of his vocals, added a small bit of verve to the now-standard. But he really combined the influences on "I'll Always Love You," which begins with Mr. Edmonds scatting throughout the track as he melds jazz with his signature brand of R&B.
Like Pharrell and his rollercoaster 2013, For the Cool in You wasn't Babyface's only musical contribution of 1993. He had a major hand in his LaFace artist Toni Braxton's eponymous debut, provided Tevin Campbell with more than a few hits for his sophomore effort I'm Ready and even found time to contribute a song (For the Cool in You's "Well Alright") to the Poetic Justice soundtrack. It's no surprise, then, that he kept up that output, contributing to some of R&B's greatest successes of the '90s and well into the next decade. It's also no surprise to see his name still popping up to this day on some of our favorite singles. And now, as he and one-time protégé Toni Braxton prepare to take center stage once again with their upcoming Love, Marriage & Divorce, we can't help but take a look back at the cool behind it all.