Home > Music > Looking back at "Baby Please" music

Looking back at "Baby Please" music

Thanks to the miracle of XM radio, I often get in my car, turn the key and hear songs that I have long since forgotten. Like the time I heard Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” about five minutes before another station broke out Rick’s “Affair of the Heart.” I mean, I can imagine hearing the former every so often, but to hear the latter within the same car ride? What are the odds on that? 100,000 to 1?

By the way, “Affair of the Heart” must break some record for repeating lyrics. Think about it… Rick sang, “It’s an affair of the heart” over and over for a good two minutes at the end. Was his producer being paid by the second?

Anyway, my XM experience has allowed me to reflect on several immutable truths. Like, “For every U2 from the 80s, there were 20 Wang Chungs.” Or, “The career of Dan Hill can never be adequately explained. Except maybe some record producer said, ‘We need a Dan Fogelberg, but with less soul.'”

But, one thing that I have been noodling around lately was the wonderful era in the early-to-mid 90s when male R&B singers unveiled what I’m calling the “Baby Please” phase. When I turn to the soul/R&B stations, I occasionally catch a good tune from that era, and it’s amazing how much of that is a departure from today’s R&B artists.

You know who I’m talking about. Boys II Men was probably the first of the genre, but the clones soon started to come out after the Boys’ groundbreaking debut album, “Cooleyhighharmony.” In a year or so, we got Jodeci, All-4-One, Soul for Real… and when it really got played out, we bled the soul out of the idea and came up with Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC.

Of course, it could be said that since Michael Bivins from New Edition produced Boys II Men, that makes New Edition the logical originator of Baby Please music. I’m arguing that although New Edition set the table, Boys II Men truly developed the cuisine. Or some such metaphor.

I’m getting ahead of myself. What defines a Baby Please song? Well, it had to be sung by a group of guys… pining for a girl… and showing an utter disregard for their own personal dignity. The last part is the key. Kinda like how a good country song has to have a reference to drinking.

The actual singing style featured lots of vocal acrobatics — the diva-esque flourishes that Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston were just beginning to explore (turning 4-minute songs into 7-minute marathons). Videos typically showed the guys singing in the rain… wearing matching suits… with camera fades to the woman who done them wrong… flashbacks to the once-happy couple. Just good stuff.

In fact, the term Baby Please comes directly from a Boys II Men song, “End of the Road.” In the middle, the bass singer of the Boys, Michael McCary, just unleashes an unforgettable… well, rap isn’t exactly the term. More of a pleading. Let’s dissect this…

Girl I’m here for you
All those times of night when you just hurt me

OK, not a bad start… it’s always good to be there for her. And maybe she didn’t mean to hurt you.

And just run out with that other fella
Baby I knew about it, I just didn’t care

Whoa, Nelly!! So, dude, she cheated on you? And you didn’t care? That sound you hear are his testicles running off into the night.

You just don’t understand how much I love you do you?
I’m here for you

At this point, the “rap” has gone over to self-parodly. But please continue…

I’m not out to go out and cheat on you all night
Just like you did baby but that’s all right
Hey, I love you anyway
And I’m still gonna be here for you ’till my dying day baby

This is getting cringe-worthy. She cheated on you (all night, actually), you caught her, and you’re not even going for a “make-good?” Who is this skank? Can’t you do better? Are you co-dependent?

Right now, I’m just in so much pain baby
Cuz you just won’t come back to me
Will you? just come back to me

Hmmm, I’m thinking that if she’s cheated on you, and now you’re begging to get her back, you’ve lost a lot of your bargaining power. You’ll be standing in the rain with your boys, singing in harmony for a long time, before she’ll take you back. And why would you want her anyway? Unreal.

And here’s the capper. Whilst the other three Boys II Men sing the word “lonely,” Mr. McCary drops the a-bomb of Baby Please pleadings.

(lonely)
Yes baby my heart is lonely
(lonely)
My heart hurts baby
(lonely)
Yes I feel pain too
Baby please

That’s just… jaw-dropping. But, it’s a good tune, and Boys II Men were such good vocalists that you forgot about what they were saying and just enjoyed the music. Quite a feat, because I’m thinking my four-year-old son could pick up on just how whipped these guys were.

Oh well, I won’t say that the Baby Please era was the best part of musical history. There were some really bad moments. Jodeci remade Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” and butchered the living hell out of it. I highly recommend that you find it, because it’s rare that you can actually hear true, unadulterated badness. By the way, if you’re a member of Napster, click here.

On the good side? Well, Boys II Men begat *NSYNC, who begat Justin Timberlake, whose relationship with Britney Spears begat Matt Damon’s SNL version of the Britney-Justin dance-off. I’m sure there are other positive things, but I’m tired right now.

So, next time you’re down in the dumps… feeling blue about “the one that got away”… throw some Boys II Men into the CD player. Go out into the rain and sing. End every sentence with, “Baby, please” when possible. Worked for several dozen bands in the 90s. Might work for you.

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Categories: Music
  1. Carmen
    July 18, 2006 at 12:43 am

    As a cousin to this type of song, my favorite is the “angry jilted rant” genre. As made famous by Oran Juice Jones’ classic “The Rain”. Like to hear it? Here it go:

    What were you thinking?
    You don’t mess with the Juice!
    I gave you silk suits, blue diamonds and gucci handbags.
    I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce!
    But now I can’t give you nothing but advice.
    ‘Cause you’re still young, yeah, you’re young.
    And you’re gonna find somebody like me one of these days . . .
    Until then, you know what you gotta do?
    You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with.
    ‘Cause you dismissed!

    That’s right, Silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don’t you know that?
    You without me is like corn flakes without the milk!
    This is my world.
    You’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut!
    Now get on outta here. Scat!
    Don’t touch that coat!

  2. Kevin
    August 21, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    I love this post, and agree with the Boys II Men as the masters of the genre. I would say Babyface probably gave them a run for their money, as he got so good at it he ended up leaving the group behind and making a whole solo career out of not only making his own baby please songs, but also ruining the careers of dozens of other artists by writing and producing what seemed like thousands of other baby please songs for others. For other egregious (sp?) examples, listened to Babyface’s “Soon as I Get Home” and “Whip Appeal”

  3. fendie
    October 18, 2007 at 8:06 am

    this is hillarious. I used to call this genre “Pussy Whipped”. Haha. And Babyface was the maestro of it all “hello Whip Appeal!”. And didnt End Of The Road came out of LaFace OST to Boomerang…Which Babyface & La Reid mostly produced, filled with Boy’s Baby Pleases and Girl Done Wrongs.

    Great post.

  1. October 16, 2007 at 10:05 pm

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