First issued in 1994, Naomi Campbell’s Babywoman is regularly ridiculed as one of the worst albums ever. The album was a commercial flop here in the UK, although it did better in some other countries (especially in Japan) and has sold over a million worldwide. Not bad. It was not her first foray in to the music biz: three years earlier she had appeared on the lead track to the Vanilla Ice flop film (and soundtrack album) Cool as Ice (Everybody Get Loose).
To be honest, it’s not as awful as it could be. Helped by a stellar line up of guest musicians, writers and producers (including Chrissie Hynde, Luther Vandross, PM Dawn, bits of it are passable pop of the period. The Millie Jackson-esque photo adorning the front is a nice piece of self-depreciation. But it is seriously patchy, and that’s not helped by having eight different producers and using six different studios to record in. Opener Love and Tears (a Top 40 hit in the UK) starts off ok, with Naomi’s breathy vocals luring you in. Co-written by Bomb the Bass’s Tim Simenon and Gavin Friday of the Virgin Prunes, this really doesn’t sound too bad, you reason. In all fairness Naomi’s years of stage training (her mother was a dancer, and from the age of three, Campbell attended the Barbara Speake Stage School and, later, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts) mean that she knows how to sing, even if she’s not a ‘natural’. The reviewers were probably just being snobbish.
But then she starts to shout. Well, bray like a sick donkey would be a better description. The voice that tempted you in over the first verse goes to pieces, and by 3:45 - when she mangles ‘tee-hee-hee-hears’ it’s all over.
Her cover of Marc Bolan’s Ride a White Swan is truly horrific. She sounds like a a million other women attempting the song at a karaoke session after a particularly hard-drinking weekend. It’s given a vaguely trip-hop sheen by producer Youth - whose credits include Killing Joke, The Fireman (with Paul McCartney), Kate Bush, Bananarama, The Orb, Pink Floyd and Yazz – but, and let’s be honest here, it’s dreadful, as most vanity projects usually are. Campbell once made headlines for hitting her maid in the head with a mobile phone; after listening to this you’ll wish that the offending instrument had been travelling in the opposite direction.
Download LOVE here
Download SWAN here