Last year, I joined Popdose‘s Jeff Giles and Robert Cass for a column called “‘Face Time,” in which we discussed essential (and some non-essential) cuts in the catalog of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of the ’80s and ’90s. ‘Face and his partner Antonio “L.A.” Reid were one of the big 3 production teams that ruled pop and R&B during that era. There was also Teddy Riley and his New Jack Swing camp, and perhaps most notably, Minneapolis’s James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis. The former members of Prince offshoot band The Time turned out to be legends in their own right, composing and producing hits for a who’s-who of the music industry and proving to be as (if not more) influential than their purple-clad benefactor.
MJ: Let’s get smoooooooth.
Rod Stewart-“If We Fall In Love Tonight” (from If We Fall In Love Tonight, 1996)
Written & Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | Purchase On Amazon
Michael Parr: The issue I take with this is the fact that it sounds like absolutely everything else that Rod Stewart produced in the ’90s—let alone nearly every one of his contemporaries. (I’m looking at you, Bolton.) That this is a Jam and Lewis record only diminishes my opinion, in this case, as I know they are capable of much better!
Jeff Giles: Latter-day Rod is a tractor beam of mediocrity whose inexorable pull draws all objects in its path directly to the middle of the road.
MJ: I have to disagree strongly.
I think it’s well written, well-sung and a nice sequel of sorts to “Tonight’s The Night,” which I think they were going for.
MP: But this is as drippy as Jesse’s Jheri curl!
JG: I’d forgotten how lazy this album was, too. Of all the half-assed stuff Rod put out in the ’80s and ’90s, the If We Fall in Love Tonight record ranks among the most perfunctory. That track listing is tragic.
MJ: “If We fall In Love Tonight” was released in the wake of Eric Clapton’s (Babyface-produced) “Change The World.” The narratives are similar, British rock star works with popular producer (or production team, in this case) best known for-although not limited to-R&B. I wonder if the hooking up was coincidental or a conscious case of potential one-upsmanship.
MJ: Babyface will not save you from GLAAD (which is now staffed by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Queen Latifah, and Madonna.)Besides-‘Face didn’t write “Change The World,” I don’t think.
Dr. Z: I’m with Jeff on this one – I’ll take “Change the World” over “If We Fall in Love Tonight” any day of the week. And I say that as someone who just barely tolerates “Change the World.”This song isn’t bad for what it is, but it sounds very by the numbers to me. As mentioned by Parr, it fits squarely within an ocean of mid ’90s soft rock/r&b ballads that run high on fructose and low on substance. A large part of that might be the production style on the track; I’m not willing to write off the composition itself. Particularly when the backing vocals come in, part of me thinks that with a different performer and modified production aesthetic, this could potentially win me over. But this…this is some classic Delilah material right here.
MJ: It’s cool. I’ll be the guy who defends this record!
MP: Yeah, I’ll rep the Delilah almost any day of the week (shit, did I just write that?); but this is too much. I’ll concede to Zack that with the right production and a different artist this could be… well, something I wouldn’t immediately skip.