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'Sexy' Appeal

FaceIn addition to Anita Baker, the underserved adult R&B market has something else to cheer about: Babyface is back. Luther Vandross' heir apparent returns with the long-awaited follow-up to "Face2Face." That 2001 project found Babyface upping his hip quotient through collaborations with the Neptunes and Snoop Dogg, which left some fans scratching their heads.

But it is the classic Babyface they'll encounter on "Grown & Sexy" (J): the sultan of smooth, whose ballads ("Tender Lover," "When Can I See You") were '90s staples. Dipping back into his familiar love and relationship zone, Babyface orchestrates a pleasing collection of midtempo songs and ballads brushed with, but not obscured by, a contemporary sheen. The steppin' groove of the title track gives way to the tongue-in-cheek "Goin' Outta Bizness," with references to Vandross and Usher.

"Grappling with problems, that's just being responsible and that's part of the way this album feels to me," Babyface says. "It's a grown record. And grown is sexy right now. You're tired of running around; you're tired of trying to do everything else except be who you are."