Let me take you to a time before Auto-tune, when this crew of fresh-faced teens from the Boston projects first came together. Starting with Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, and Ricky Bell, the group would then be joined by best homey Ralph Tresvant who became their lead singer. With Ronnie DeVoe rounding it out, the new R&B singing/dancing group would call themselves New Edition, signifying they were the new edition of the Jackson 5, and would perform J5 songs at talent shows around Massachusetts. One such show was run by music producer Maurice Starr, who despite them winning only 2nd place was so impressed by their performance, he had them in his studio the next day.
Starr also served as their mentor, and through clever songwriting and marketing, their debut album Candy Girl burst onto the scene in 1983 with the hits “Is This The End,” “Popcorn Love,” “Jealous Girl” and the title track. “Candy Girl”, a remake of the Jackson 5 hit “ABC” went to number one on both the American R&B singles chart and the UK singles chart, putting these five young men on the path to fame. NE would then part with Starr (who later formed New Kids On The Block) over legal issues yet their stars continued to rise. The mid 80’s would see the departure of bad boy Bobby Brown, but with the addition of Johnny Gill’s strong vocals, NE would mature, leaving their bubblegum sound and taking a more adult tone. They continued to top the charts with further hits like “If It Isn’t Love” and the song featured here.
The group would break up in 1990, with Tresvant and Gill pursuing their own solo projects and the remaining members forming Bell, Biv, DeVoe, but then would reunite with Brown in 1996 for the Home Again album, which at the time was Billboard’s #1 album in the US with the platinum hit “I’m Still In Love With You.” This was followed by a disastrous world tour where old rivalries resurfaced, and we wouldn’t see the sextuplet perform together again until 2005. Now after various solo projects, appearances in court and stints on reality TV, all six members have recently announced that on July 3rd of this year, they will reunite yet again to celebrate their 30th anniversary.
The contributions of New Edition to Pop/R&B are twofold. In their time as a group, NE reinvented the boy band genre, bringing freshness and youth when the Osmonds and Jacksons had grown from boys to men. This paved the way for successive boy bands such as Backstreet Boys, NSync, and Hi-Five to name a few. NE would later reinvent the sound, image, and harmonies of the R&B group, and the music itself. It’s obvious that pop/R&B artists from Justin Timberlake to Robbie Williams to Usher owe some gratitude to the five squeaky clean kids from Boston who for me have become my generations Temptations.