Legendary Groups: New Edition

One of the greatest groups of all time, New Edition. Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ronnie, Ralph, and Johnny. The group came onto the scene officially in 1983 and created an amazing legacy for themselves as a collective and some side or solo projects as well. Today, we reflect on them.

When I'm not completely immersed in amazing rap lyrics, verses, and flow over some pretty dope beats, I can be found singing along to my amazing R&B playlist, and no playlist is complete without New Edition. This group has been around forever and has an incredibly intricate history. I didn't know New Edition from the very beginning, in fact, I became a fan of New Edition in 1996, so I missed out on the majority of their work upon release, but of course I went back and familiarized myself with all of their entire catalog.

Naturally, I divide them in 2 eras- "Bobby Brown - New Edition" and "Johnny Gill - New Edition" and to be honest, both are fantastic in their own way. Although I lean towards the latter, the classics like "Candy Girl" "Is This The End" and "Popcorn Love" would gain the group a ton of success and be obvious favorites. These singles all made top spots on the charts and definitely piqued the interest of record labels. Much like many groups in the mid-late 80's, labels were skimming earnings from the artists and in the case of New Edition it was so severe, they had to take out an advance to end the relationship with the label. This forced them to have to put out albums and tours to pay off this loan. Tragic really. This incurred debt would ultimately result in the change of membership, as Bobby Brown was becoming problematic as a result of the pressure, so he split, and the group would go on to represent themselves as a quartet.

1986, New Edition as a 4 man group would release "All For Love" and "Under the Blue Moon" which happen to be my favorite throwbacks from them. The "Earth Angel" cover will hold a special place in my heart because it appeared in Karate Kid Pt. 2 and in Back to The Future 1. Even though it was a cover, I think NE did it better and their voices added a newer vibe to the 1957 original. I do have to mention that 1988 would see my absolute favorite track from New Edition in "Can You Stand The Rain", as this is the ultimate R&B track. The words, the beat, the harmonization in their voices, the meaning, this is a perfect song. I also believe this was a much more mature and "adult" image unlike the previous albums the group had released.
Let's jump a little...I'm sure everyone knows of the hiatus of the group and the solo/breakout group projects. It seems like everyone involved in NE had something going on. Bobby Brown was gaining immense popularity for "Don't Be Cruel" and Ricky, Michael and Ronny formed Bell Biv Devoe and released the "Poison" album. Everyone was hitting platinum status with their solo projects so the group continued on with this momentum until 1996. "Home Again" would be the reunion album of the decade. First week saw #1 on Billboard for album and both singles "I'm Still In Love With You" and "Hit Me Off" would  crack the top 10. This album would be their most successful album on the charts and with good reason. They came back with a very fine tuned, perfectly complimentary and revamped sound that was angelic to say the least. I think when you look at New Edition being around for 21 years (breaks included) and facing intense challenges that essentially forced them to not only change members and their image, but also redirect marketing efforts and such, I think this group really came out on top. They gave us classic after classic and having been influenced by Jackson 5, New Edition had a hand in paving the way for groups like Boys II Men, 112, Jodeci and others. Their success is absolutely undeniable.

When it comes to boy bands and R&B groups, in my humble opinion, New Edition stands behind only the Jackson 5. They basically took over the 80s. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, and Ralph Tresvant were heartthrobs to teenage girls everywhere. They had hits like Mr. Telephone Man, Cool It Now, and Candy Girl.

A few years into their fame, Bobby Brown was removed from the group and began his solo career. New Edition went on without Brown and added Johnny Gill to the fold. Later down the line, a few members worked on other projects. Bell Biv DeVoe was created while the other two members had their own solo albums.

In 1996, all six members of New Edition came together for their sixth album, Home Again. My favorite track is “I'm Still In Love With You.” The group essentially re-emerged as THE boy band. They were now grown men and their maturity showed. It was an opportunity for their first fans to fall in love again while gaining new attention from an upcoming generation.

New Edition’s harmonies are unmatched. Each singer brings a different style and they find a way to make it work. They showcase each voice in a way that isn’t over the top and fans are able to distinguish who’s singing what. My all-time favorite New Edition song is “If It Isn’t Love.” The video was based on rehearsing for a performance featuring their manager(who resembles Jamie Foxx). The production of the song epitomized the 80s sound – just enough pop, just enough R&B, just enough edge.

What I like most about this group is they stayed consistent with where they were. They sang age-appropriate songs. You never had to question what stage of life the young men were in and that’s a plus to me. New Edition is simply one of the greats. Boy bands used them as the standard and they remain as icons to me.

I remember watching Krush Groove when I was younger and they'd randomly show it on, like, Fox 45 or something (Hey Baltimore!) every now and then. Towards the big finale, New Edition pops out and performs "My Secret." Even as a kid, I knew two things:

1) While they could sing their asses off, their earlier stuff was pretty much the definition of bubblegum pop.
2) While it was bubblegum pop, it still managed to have a soulful edge to it.

But, cheese factor aside, it was some classic tuneage being provided by the group. For me, however, what the group's best gifts seemed to be was giving us BBD, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill (later of LSG), etc. Essentially, the solo careers that sprung up/were revived in the numerous breaks the group took were a thing of amazement. That's obviously not to say "oh, New Edition's group career was trash" or some other hipster bullshit. They're legends for a reason. But, without New Edition telling folks to "Cool It Now," we wouldn't have "Poison," "My Prerogative," "My Body," etc.

Back to the group. The last album, One Love. Man...that joint was...meh to the highest degree. Its only saving grace was "Hot 2 Nite". At least it wasn't as weird as the most-recent Boyz II Men release (sorry guys, but that joint was also just like "what?"). But, it was very misguided and felt more like a missed chance than a return. Still, New Edition remains legendary.

New Edition remains one of the greatest groups of all time and one of the more vital pieces to R&B and pop music in history. My first experience listening to them was as a very young child and hearing their first album(years after it released). I remember thinking they had a similar sound to Jackson 5, with a bit of a pop flavor to it. At the time, I never imagined they would have grown to become responsible for some of the greatest moments in music, but they were. As a group, they managed to make so many classics. "If It Isn't Love" and "Mr. Telephone Man" remain to be two of my all time favorite songs from them, as well as "Can You Stand The Rain".

We watched the maturation of New Edition happen right before our eyes and it was truly a sight to see. The solo careers speak for themselves as Johnny, Ralph, and Bobby especially all became stars on their own as well. The remaining members formed Bell Biv Devoe and created classics as well. When talking music history and branching off along with group success, New Edition is the greatest group of all time. Hands down. Platinum albums as a group, solo ventures were successful and they could reunite and still set the world on fire. That is something that could never be duplicated. New Edition is truly the GOAT.

What are your opinions on this legendary group? Post them below in the comments.



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