Babyface

Playlist

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Covers albums tend to be dashed off as a way to fulfill an artist's last remaining contractual obligation to his or her label. However, Playlist is Babyface's first release for Mercury, following 2005's Grown & Sexy, and he put a lot of heart and soul into the material, all of which connected with him as a youngster listening to '70s AM radio. Most of the sources are anything but cool: James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, Dave Loggins, and Bread. (Then again, Bread were sort of like the Coldplay of their day.) Apart from Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," everything is suited for Babyface, often to the point where the songs don't sound tremendously different from what he has written during the last several years. While you could go back as far as the first Deele songs for indications that he had more than soul and funk in his background, this album really conveys how much he owes to '70s singer/songwriters. In addition to the eight covers, there are two new songs, both of which fit into the album's scheme sonically while being far from lightweight subject-wise. In "Not Going Nowhere," he talks to one of his sons in the wake of divorce ("I've got a room with your name on the door/Your favorite things you could ever ask for"), and "The Soldier Song" addresses those who have had their lives taken by war ("Hope was all he had to cope/But he never made it home").

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