Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Jam & Lewis x Babyface – He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It

If you’ve ever wondered what a Jam & Lewis song might have sounded like, well, we’re none the wiser after this either…


Katherine St Asaph: As advertised, a Babyface song — and syrupy even for him.

Edward Okulicz: On paper, the idea of the 80s titans teaming up with an artist who defined a large part of 90s pop is confusing and a little bit unappetising. The way “He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It” squares this circle is to sound exactly nothing like Jam and Lewis and quite a lot like Babyface, who I have never liked as much as a performer as a songwriter. And oh no, the song marries its most gooey, glorious hook (the middle eight) with the grossest bit of its crappy poor-shaming lyric. Maybe her man has had to move back in with his family due to COVID-19, Kenneth? Kenneth? Maybe this man doesn’t have that Toni Braxton money. So what stays with me is how this makes the kinda offensive sound inoffensive.

Thomas Inskeep: Fascinatingly, the first-ever single credited to Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis sounds less like them and more like their guest vocalist (and ’80s/’90s rival as a superproducer/writer) Babyface. “He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It” has the elegant feel of many of ‘Face’s best ballads — on one hand, I suppose that says that Jam & Lewis melded well with Babyface’s own style, but on the other hand, where are they on this record? 

Rachel Saywitz: There is always something that bothers me when straight men feel the need to tell a woman what to do with her current partner, as if a woman can’t make her own choices in a relationship. “But ‘he’s still living at his momma’s home!'” Babyface might croon, not realizing that he’s a celebrity who probably lives a life similar to someone who lives with their mother. “He ‘can’t even get a loan!'” Well, maybe not everyone can afford to live in a capitalist society that prioritizes individual greed over mutual aid! Anyway, the song’s fine. 

Leah Isobel: A rich slab of harmonic precision with a generous helping of cheese on the side.

Tobi Tella: I didn’t expect to make such an alliance with the oldheads, especially on a song that shares a conceit with a Shawn Mendes song, but there’s something addictive about this. What saves it from the black hole of nice guys is positioning; they’re not asserting themselves as the Normal Man she needs, more like a Greek chorus of acknowledging abuse and well-meaning misogyny. The groove is ultimately what matters, though; it’s slow and ungainly but that might make me enjoy it more. There’s something meticulous here, planned out and unconcerned with chasing the perceived taste of The Youths. It doesn’t feel like it’s pandering (unless you’re the girl the song’s about, in which case letting both that man and Babyface go might be the best option).

Samson Savill de Jong: Sounds like the Lonely Island parody of itself. Which essentially means it’s completely generic. “How can a guy think he fly/When he’s still living at his momma’s home?” cuts deep though.

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