A pair of “polite rivals” are collaborating on a song for BET’s new Bobby Brown biopic.
Babyface tells Billboard that he and fellow R&B/pop hitmaker Teddy Riley are joining forces to write a “theme song” for the project, which is currently in pre-production. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to do that,” Babyface says. “We’ve already started looking at some tracks he’s got. It feels like it’s going to be natural. We both kind of know what we do, so there’s not really much figuring out to do, that’s the cool thing about it.”
Babyface acknowledges that during the ’90s, especially, he felt both a rivalry and a kinship with Riley, who both wrote for Brown and, between them, piled up hits for themselves and other artists. “I guess back in the day we were kind of like polite rivals,” Babyface recalls. “We were all going against each other. Everybody was trying to stay on top of the charts and be the No. 1 team. You had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and me and L.A. (Reid) and Teddy. I remember the day when I first heard Keith Sweat’s ‘I Want Her;’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s over!’ It was just so new and fresh, so I was definitely inspired by Teddy as well.
“So it’s nice at this point in our lives for us both to still be in music and doing music and be able to work together and respect each other and really love what each other does and be able to have fun with it.”
Babyface says that although other singers — including Woody McClain, who’s portraying Brown in the new film as he did in 2017’s “The New Edition Story” — are re-recording some of Brown’s hits, the track he and Riley create will be sung by Brown himself. Brown may also appear as “the older Bobby,” though that’s still up in the air. “Bobby was just in the studio,” Babyface reports. “He’s working. His voice is in good shape. He’s getting in really good shape and he lost a lot of weight and he’s on a road to getting it good, getting it right again.”
The film, based on Brown’s 2013 memoir Every Little Step, is slated to start filming during March, and Babyface predicts “the movie should be ready to come out about September.”
Meanwhile, Babyface is working on a variety of other projects, both musical and for television. An album of his own is in the works, too, to follow up 2015’s Return of the Tender Lover. “I’m working on that as we speak, and I’m pretty close,” he says. “I was far away for a little bit, and then all of a sudden the last week it got close, so I think I might get something out this year.” And the sound, he promises, will be familiar.
“I’m trying to make good-feeling music again and not be afraid of who I am and who I’ve been,” he says. “Fortunately, Bruno (Mars) made it easy for us to be ourselves again, and then you have so many cool artists like Daniel Caesar and Khalid who are doing feel-good R&B that makes you not afraid to be R&B and just let the heart lead again. That’s the biggest takeaway that I take with music at this point. I think that’s a great thing.”
Babyface was also “humbled and honored” to be name-checked by Mars during his Grammy Award acceptance speeches on Sunday and was thrilled with Mars’ trophy sweep.
“I’m very proud of him and his accomplishments,” Babyface says. “I had the opportunity to go into the studio and work with and write with him, and I had so much respect for his work ethic ’cause it was very close to how I did it, and how I do it. I think he’s genius in his approach and one of the best entertainers we’ve had in a very, very long time. I consider Bruno in the same category with Prince and with Michael Jackson; He’s one of those guys who can actually stand with those artists, and there aren’t a lot of artists I can actually say that about and say it with confidence and feel like he would deserve to be on that same stage as them.”