When Anita Baker released her Rhythm of Love album in 1994, she had already had four solid albums and seven Grammy Awards under her belt.
After releasing her Compositions in 1990, the Quiet Storm forerunner gave music a rest to devote time to her growing family. During her time away from the spotlight, new players emerged on the R&B field and began redefining the traditional sound of soul music.
Rather than evoke a risk-taking spirit and incorporate the edgier new ideas of R&B on Rhythm of Love, Baker chose to reflect on her past works and present a sophisticated record for her longtime followers to receive with open arms.
For Rhythm of Love, Baker kept a duplicate love scheme from her previous albums, noting to Los Angeles Times in 1994 that she “wasn’t going for anything different.”
“It’s not as jazz-oriented or melancholy as [Compositions],” she described to LA Times. “There are some contemporary pop things on it, but it’s mainly ballads with an R&B, jazz, and gospel feel to them.”
One thing that was an upgrade for Baker on Rhythm of Love that wasn’t noticed on her last releases was the modification to technical pitch.
“In the studio, you can adjust the knobs and buttons to compress the sound to get it technically perfect, but you lose some of the emotion,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done on past albums but not on this one. You get a stronger emotional feeling from the songs on this album.”
One month before premiering the entire album — which was her first record besides The Songstress without Michael J. Powell behind the production — Baker released “Body and Soul” as the first radio single in August 1994.
A week before Rhythm of Love hit stores, “Body and Soul” soared to the number-one spot, three weeks after its debut (No. 15) on the newly launched Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. Baker extended her chart-topping streak with “I Apologize” and notched a top-five hit with “It’s Been You.”
Less than a year after its release, Rhythm of Love earned double-platinum certification. This marked Baker’s first LP to exceed platinum status since 1988’s Giving You The Best That I Got.
Beyond her platinum plaques, Baker went on to win countless awards, including an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist and a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (“I Apologize”).
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Rhythm of Love, Rated R&B takes a look back at the full album to rank each recording from least epic to most epic.
Aside from a cliché song title, this heartfelt record’s standout parts are Baker’s sweet vocals and the exquisite production.
11. “The Look of Love”
Even though Baker’s polished voice on this cover sounds lovely, it’s the mixture of live instruments that steal the thunder.
10. “Rhythm of Love”
While it is not a dream title track or album opener, it does showcase Baker’s magnificent range. It’s also a mature nightclub tune that evokes a message about the contentment love brings to a steady pace of life.
9. “Only for a While”
Taking her focus away from romantic tales, Baker renders a moving performance for those enduring times of hardship. Until a glimpse of hope falls upon listeners, her soothing range makes for a perfect remedy in the meantime.
8. “Plenty of Room”
There’s a void in Baker’s heart, and she fills it with this inviting score. Blending her buttery alto range with soft rock and smooth jazz, the vacancy of love she vocalizes will never go without a standing reservation again.
7. “Wrong Man”
Letting go of an inconstant lover never sounded so sweet until Baker laced us with this empowering breakup anthem to help fans dry their tears.
6. “My Funny Valentine”
Baker is a master of covering already popular songs. Her jazz accented voice here seamlessly melts in the rich instrumentation of this interpretation, making it hard to resist repeating it.
5. “Sometimes I Wonder Why”
This elegant piano standard reminds one of the late-night performers from yesteryear serenading a pocket-sized crowd in a jazz venue.
4. “You Belong to Me”
Baker takes another effortless stab at a classic. She slows down the tempo of the original by Carly Simon, embellishing her endearing version with a more intense jazz flair and an abundance of soul.
3. “I Apologize”
In no position to jeopardize her relationship for a war of words, Baker wholeheartedly regrets putting a strain on a love affair. The sincerity behind this heartfelt plea is heard in her sultry phrasing.
2. “It’s Been You”
This rekindling ballad opens Baker’s eyes in awe to love that’s been there from the beginning. With a smooth, warm delivery, she belts every note with a newfound sense of sureness about romance.
1. “Body and Soul”
It is hard to decide on what part of this phenomenal composition shines brightest. The power of her caressing, velvet tone is well intact. The outpouring of emotions is there, too. In all fairness, Baker made the right choice going with this superior number as the kick-off single.
Stream Rhythm of Love below.