“Everyone falls in love sometimes”…with Babyface’s Instagram page.
Released on November 14, 1995 by Arista Records, the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. So, to honor the beloved work, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds decided to host a track-by-track music session where he shared behind-the-scenes stories. The session, initially set to occur on Mother’s Day, was postponed after Andre Harrell’s untimely death.
However, last Sunday, the show was back on and it was quite the endearing treat. If you missed it, I feel sorry for your weekend, but luckily, that’s what recaps are for! So, here I am. Because, just like Mr. Kenny Edmonds, “I Care About You.”
Let’s get to it…
Channeling a bit of his fun shade from the previous Instagram Live Verzuz with Teddy Riley, Babyface waited a bit before starting, holding up signs to assure that there were no technical difficulties and that he was simply waiting for more people to join to ensure that the bulk of listeners didn’t miss anything.
Occasionally reading from the film’s script (with his score in the background like a true producer), Babyface reminisced about working with the iconic group of artists (he included a fun tidbit about TLC being “silly,” as expected!) and admitted how nervous he was to serve as the composer of the film when director Forest Whitaker approached him about it. In hindsight, of course, there is no other person who could’ve done it.
Before committing to sing on the soundtrack, Whitney Houston first asked who else would be a part of the project. Yes, she basically asked “who all gon’ be there.” Babyface recalled that he initially wrote “Why Does It Hurt So Bad” years prior, but Whitney wasn’t up to singing it at the time. Lo and behold, he sat on it for a few years and realized the song was perfect for the soundtrack. And it was.
He also revealed that they started scoring “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” the very day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted on two counts of murder in 1995. Wow. Further, I must mention here that the way Babyface said “shoop shoop” was so funny and adorable.
With the previous blessing of Mr. Harrell himself (Babyface confirmed Harrell had texted him to tell the story), Babyface told the story of when he first played “Not Gon’ Cry” for the late music mogul in his car right outside The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, Calif.
“After we finished playing the song, then [Andre] goes, ‘I don’t think that’s for Mary. I don’t think that works. That don’t work for Mary,’” Babyface recalled, noting that Andre argued she had not lived the life of a long marriage and raising kids to be able to channel the emotions of the song adequately. But, Babyface knew what we all realized after hearing the song—Mary is a storyteller and as the “voice of pain and love,” she did just that. Imagine Mary—who singlehandedly changed the way we said “eleven” and “secretary”—not being the voice of this song! The horror!
“She came in ready,” Babyface recalled of their recording session, before introducing “Sittin’ Up in My Room.” “She was prepared. She did the backgrounds in three seconds. I got chills from the way she sang the song. Trust me, I’ve worked with so many singers over the years—and the best—and I have to say this little girl was one of the best singers I’d ever worked with and seen. [...] I think that she’s underrated and I don’t think people appreciate her voice enough. I was so glad Whitney Houston said yes to Brandy being on this because she made a difference.”
The two music partners further showcased just how close they were by joking around a bit—Toni did an impersonation of her sister Tamar Braxton impersonating her before singing a few lines from “Let It Flow.” Toni even admitted that she was a bit possessive over Babyface working with other artists, jokingly exclaiming, “That’s my producer!”
First off, Babyface said Aretha brought peach cobbler to their recording session for “It Hurts Like Hell,” which is iconic in and of itself. But the pièce de résistance came in the form of dating advice.
“Five years ago, I performed with Aretha...I sat in her [dressing] room and she told everyone to leave....then she said, ‘You be writin’ all these love songs and I want your advice.’ She said, ‘I’m seeing this gentleman and I’m gonna tell you some of the things he’s been doing,” Babyface said. “And I’m trying to decide if I want to date him or not’...I said, ‘I wouldn’t trust this gentleman.’ About a month later I got a call and she said, ‘You were right, ‘Face. He wasn’t the one.”
That’s right, the Queen of Soul was still getting her groove on and made each day of her life count until she went on to glory. What a life. What a legend.
Shortly after the session ended, I realized I had a lingering smile on my face. Thanks to the calming sensation of Babyface’s voice and his overall disposition, I just felt so good afterward. It was nice. Thank you, Mr. Edmonds.