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Songs For Scenes Writer Composed Music For Specific Scenes On ‘Waiting To Exhale’ Soundtrack

Neil Strauss New York Times

‘Waiting to Exhale” (Arista) is not like other pop-filled film soundtracks.

Instead of throwing together a grab bag of songs by well-known names whose careers need a boost, the producers of the movie, coming out this month, put the music in the lap of somebody with a musical winning streak: Kenny Edmonds, also known as Babyface.

Though he is among pop’s top songwriters and producers, having written hit love songs for Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Boyz II Men and dozens of others, Edmonds had never worked on a project like “Waiting to Exhale.”

“Not only is this the only soundtrack I’ve ever done,” he said in an interview, “but other than my own two albums, this is the first album I’ve ever produced myself.”

Initially, he and Whitney Houston, who stars in the film, wanted to try to find producers each singer was used to working with.

“But as I was seeing different scenes of the movie,” he said, “I just started writing songs until I had written everything. Then I had to produce it all.”

The album seems likely to jump to the top of the pop charts. It features the first new singles by Houston since the success of her songs from the 1992 film “The Bodyguard” as well as numbers by top divas, new (Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Brandy) and old (Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan).

The female trios TLC and SWV also appear on the album. Edmonds, who also scored the movie, happens to be the only man featured on the soundtrack.

“It was partly Whitney’s idea doing all the women,” he said. “She feels like ‘Waiting to Exhale’ isn’t her movie, but an ensemble movie about the friendship of four women. So the soundtrack has a lot to do with the film.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see another project that includes all these women at the same time. That’s a lot of egos to deal with.”

Faith Evans, one of the newer voices on the pop charts, said she had never worked on a film soundtrack before.

“Babyface made a tape of the song he wanted me to sing for my manager, and I learned it and shot over to L.A.,” she said.

“I went into the studio and knocked it out in 15 minutes at the most. Babyface was really cool and really quiet. I had no idea whether he liked my version of the song or not.”

Edmonds, who finished working on Houston’s third and final song for the album last week, plans to take some time off in Rome before completing an album by Braxton.

“It will be a long time before I do a whole soundtrack again,” he said. “This one is special, but it was a lot of work.”

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