Some people want to fill the world with swoony love songs, and Kenneth ”Babyface” Edmonds is one of them. On The Day, the songwriter, producer, and now late-blooming recording star immerses himself in the same hot-tub soul he’s applied to everyone from Toni Braxton to Eric Clapton. All the Babyface trademarks — the crisp, unobtrusive percussion, the silky guitars, the harmonies that blanket the melodies like a quilt — are laid out like a three-piece suit. But more so than any previous album he’s made, The Day is chockful of luscious, gently persuasive songs, from doe-eyed testimonials to his devotion (”Every Time I Close My Eyes”) to misty childhood reminiscences (”Simple Days”).
The album, his fourth, isn’t merely Babyface’s most cohesive and confident work. In its own modest way, it demonstrates how he’s transformed modern R&B. If new jack swing was the genre’s version of grunge, then Babyface’s mellow soul is R&B’s equivalent of the folksy Hootie brigade. Despite cameos by everyone from Kenny G to Clapton, nothing detracts from Babyface’s earnest, demure voice and guitar. When he pushes beyond pillow talk, the results are mixed: ”How Come, How Long,” a domestic-abuse saga sung with Stevie Wonder, needs tougher music to make its point, and Babyface’s sentimental side overwhelms him on the delivery-room ballad ”The Day (That You Gave Me a Son).” For the most part, though, The Day is a sumptuous blend of elegance and sensuality — a warm musical bath after a long day at the office. A-