Babyface knows a thing or two about catching flies with sugar. He almost single-handedly sweetened Nineties pop music with a string of hits that delighted audiences and angered critics. The then-derided, now-ignored, and consequently underrated super-songwriter/producer's seventh album, Grown & Sexy, is a tasty, subtle rebuttal to pop culture's youth obsession. Of course, Babyface's sour grapes come off more like aged wine. Whether he's stepping ("Good 2 Be in Luv" and the title track), sexing ("Can't Stop Now"), or splitting ("Goin' Outta Business"), Babyface's songs have never held more hooks or sounded more sincere. As the greatest living pop songwriter of the past twenty years approaches 50, it's only right that he should make growing old gracefully so palatable.

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Rich Juzwiak