Babyface Originally Wrote the Entire ‘Waiting to Exhale’ Soundtrack for Whitney Houston but She Changed His Mind at the Last Minute
It’s been 25 years since Terry McMillan’s iconic book about four Black women was brought to the big screen. Directed by Forest Whitaker, Waiting to Exhale followed, Savannah (Whitney Houston). Robin (Lela Rochon), Bernadine (Angela Bassett) and Gloria (Loretta Devine) as they navigate life, love, divorce, and their friendship.
The 1995 film was a massive financial success grossing over $14 million in the first week alone, making it one of the first times, modern-day Black women had seen themselves centered on-screen.
Not only was the film itself an iconic hit, the soundtrack, was also a huge success. Producer Babyface initially wrote the songs on the soundtrack for Whitney Houston to sing. However, at the last moment he switched things up.
Babyface wrote every single song on the ‘Waiting To Exhale’ soundtrack
When the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack was released in 1995, a review from the Los Angeles Times read, “Babyface has captured what it can mean to be a woman in 1995.”
In fact, the year prior when Forest Whitaker approached Babyface to do the film’s soundtrack he had no idea where to begin. “That was new territory for me, so I was very nervous,” he told Billboard in 2015. “But [Forest] said, ‘You can do it, I’ll help you get through it and we can make it happen.’ I had a huge responsibility on my shoulders because Waiting to Exhale, the book, was huge, and so the film was very important. And then, this was Whitney. I was taking it in, but I kind of wasn’t all the way there when it was happening.”
When undertaking the extensive endeavor of capturing the movie, Babyface watched the scenes over and over until the lyrics came to him, “Every song was written to the actual film,” he explained. “When I looked at the clips, I had to write what I kind of heard at that point.”
Whitney Houston’s last Number 1 hit was on the ‘Waiting to Exhale’ soundtrack
The impact of the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack was profound. The 16-song album topped the Billboard charts for five weeks and would go on to sell over seven million copies earning 11 Grammy nomination, and Houston’s very last number one hit with “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”
“I actually didn’t know that history, so wow, but it certainly makes the experience more special,” Babyface explained. “You know, I was just so nervous putting it all together and making sure that everyone was happy with the songs they got, and Forest [Whitaker] was happy with the music he got, and Clive [Davis] was OK with it. I wasn’t in any mode to trying to pat my back on anything.”
Whitney Houston was supposed to sing the entire ‘Waiting to Exhale; soundtrack
As he was writing the music for the film, Babyface wanted Houston to sing the entire album as she had for the majority of The Bodyguard soundtrack. However, the legendary songstress had another idea.
“With Whitney, the idea to sit..and come up with what the music was going to be, Whitney had just come off The Bodyguard, so I thought ‘…ok, this is going to be rough'” he revealed. ” I thought it would be great – since it was an all-female [lead] cast, why don’t we make it an all-female cast for the album? Whitney was down for the female artist thing, but she said, ‘yeah, I get the last say-so of who will actually be a part of it.’”
The Waiting to Exhale soundtrack would include Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, TLC, Toni Braxton, Faith Evans, Shanna, Chante Moore, For Real, and Brandy. It was the first all-female soundtrack and it produced number one hits for Houston, Blige, and massive hit for relative newcomer Brandy.