Ranking the Best Babyface Albums

A few months back when social media was at each other’s throats debating who was the undisputed King of R&B fans were attempting to crown everyone from R. Kelly and Keith Sweat to Usher and my Cousin Chris Brown as the owner of the throne.

But there was one name that occasionally was tossed into the convo, one that has a LOT of validity to it: Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.

Arguably the greatest R&B writer of my generation, Face’s pen is the stuff of legend – it’s launched careers, crafted classics and he’s even produced some of R&B’s most iconic songs as well. And along the way, he’s amassed an incredible catalog of hits for himself as well.

I don’t exaggerate when I say this – this was the most difficult ranking post I’ve done yet. With a couple of exceptions, all his albums are equally stellar. It’s almost impossible to pick THE best.

But y’all know I gave it a try anyway.

Today, we look back at Face’s entire solo run from bottom to top, judging his LPs based on quality, consistency and impact on the industry. For you Face purists out there, keep in mind that this list excludes his group work with The Deele and Manchild; his 98 Christmas albums and shelved album A Love Story; all those remix and greatest hits albums; and compilations like the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack that he produced but didn’t perform on.

Whether or not you crown him king, Face’s legacy is royalty.

return of the tender lover

9. Return of the Tender Lover (2015)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Face’s most recent release was also his first solo LP of new material in a decade. And he slid back into the scene like he never left. As expected, the songwriting is great, the vocals are pitch-perfect and guest stars bring their A-game. But the lack of a standout track slightly hinders this one. Solid, but not up to the standard of his earlier releases.

Forgotten favorites: “Exceptional,” “I Want You,” “Something Bout You”


8. Playlist (2007)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Well, this one is different. Face steps out of his comfort zone on Playlist, a collection of folk and rock covers. But here’s the (probably not) shocking part – Face sounds amazing over these tracks, absolutely owning them. We also get a couple of original Face-penned songs, but surprisingly, those are the weakest offerings. R&B fans might be indifferent to the sound of this one but Face’s boundless talent is on full display.

Forgotten favorites: “Fire and Rain,” “Please Come to Boston,” “Wonderful Tonight”


7. Face2Face (2001)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: This album is infamous for two reasons: First, it was released on Sept. 11, 2001, and second, this is one of the first times (outside of a random remix here and there) that we heard Face with a completely different sound. Babyface’s gentle vocals meshed with the Neptunes’ video-game sound effects seems like it would be a total sound clash. But it works! Some of the more upbeat tracks may feel a little dated today but his traditional ballads stand the test of time.

Forgotten favorites: “Outside In/Inside Out,” “I Keep Callin’,” “Work It Out”

grown and sexy

6. Grown & Sexy (2005)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Face’s longevity can be contributed to his ability to change with the times. Grown & Sexy shows that he can adapt his sound and songwriting to a changing climate – it’s kinda funny hearing him go off on his girl on ‘Goin’ Out of Business.’ The Tender Lover shows a little bit of toughness on this one but is still able to maintain his cool demeanor. Change ain’t so bad when the music still sounds good.

Forgotten favorites: “Tonight It’s Going Down,” “Mad Sexy Cool,” “She”


5. Love, Marriage & Divorce (2014)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: This teamup was 20 years in the making. Face’s pen made Toni one of the biggest stars of the 90s and their 1992 duet became stuff of legend. Finally together on the same LP, Face and Toni share undeniable chemistry as they croon about the ups and downs of romance. Even though this album snagged a Grammy, it’s still vastly underrated – this one needs to be on your playlist. And man I love that album cover.

Forgotten favorites: “Sweat,” “The D Word,” “Roller Coaster”

For the cool in you

4. For the Cool in You (1993)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: By 1993, Face was THE MAN in R&B, celebrated as its best songwriter and producer. So there’s no question that For the Cool in You was destined for greatness. This album was a hitmaking factory, producing four Top 10 R&B songs, many of which would become signature tracks. The album is a little too mellow in spots – pretty much my only criticism of Face’s solo work in general – but it’s still an exceptional collection that proved Face was at the top of his class.

Forgotten favorites: “Saturday,” “Illusions,” “Well Alright”


3. Lovers (1986)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: When Babyface blessed us with his 1986 debut, a star was truly born. Filled with incredible ballads, stellar covers and impeccable songwriting, it was the perfect showcase of all the tools in Kenny’s toolbox. It often gets overshadowed by Face’s later hits but don’t sleep on this one. It’s my personal favorite Babyface LP and by far his most underrated.

Forgotten favorites: “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “Chivalry,” “Faithful”

tender lover

2. Tender Lover (1989)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: If you like New Jack Swing, this is the Face album for you. Released smack dab in the middle of the NJS movement, Face’s breakout album established him as a bonafide solo star. A combo of memorable production and well-crafted ballads made Face, and this album, a standard in R&B.

Forgotten favorites: “Let’s Be Romantic,” “Sunshine,” “Soon as I Get Home”

the day

1. The Day (1996)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: I mentioned before how difficult it is to rank Babyface’s best work. Honestly, any of my top four could make a VERY strong case for the top spot. But I slight lean toward The Day as the best simply because it showcases Face’s versatility. From standing shoulder-to-shoulder with an icon like Stevie Wonder on “How Come How Long” to essentially creating his own hip-hop posse cut on “This is For the Lover In You,” Face’s creativity is boundless. There’s no such thing as a bad Babyface album, but The Day shines just a bit brighter than the rest.

Forgotten favorites: “Simple Days,” “All Day Thinkin,” “Seven Seas”

What are you favorite Babyface albums? Let us know in the comments below. 



  1. Great list! Makes me want to check out his albums. I always loved his voice and songwriting

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.