DAR Music: New Edition's Heartbreak

By @TrueGodImmortal

1. Introduction 
2. That's The Way We're Livin 
3. Where It All Started 
4. If It Isn't Love 
5. Skit # 1
6. N.E. Heartbreak 
7. Crucial 
8. Skit # 2
9. You're Not My Kind Of Girl 
10. Superlady
11. Can You Stand The Rain 
12. Competition 
13. Skit # 3
14. I'm Comin Home 
15. Boys To Men 

I wanted to do this review months ago (really 2 years ago when I reviewed Bobby Brown's Don't Be Cruel, and when we did our group look at New Edition a year later), but I opted to take a look at the overall discography of the group instead soon after the biopic debuted on BET. I'll be honest, from day one, New Edition was always enjoyable for me. Though I grew up in the era where Boyz II Men and Jodeci reigned supreme, New Edition was always a favorite due to my mother playing their music when I was little. For young True, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, The Whispers, and New Edition was all my mom would play and allow me to hear. So, it's no surprise that if I list my all time favorite artists that those 6 all make the cut. With New Edition, after their first few albums and the loss of Bobby Brown to a solo career, they seemed destined to get things back on track after what felt like a slip. With their mind focused on making their next album even bigger, Johnny Gill was added to the group (and as we saw on the biopic, he wasn't necessarily welcomed with open arms by Ralph), helping to give the youthful vibe of the music a more mature sound. Gill, who has a resounding and strong voice didn't seem like the easiest fit for the group, but it would prove to be a huge win for the next and greatest chapter of New Edition.

With success being the biggest goal, the label enlisted the production and songwriting talents of the iconic duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, infamously known for prior work with Prince and of course, Janet Jackson's Control album. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis could craft smooth ballads, pop appeal hits, and R&B anthems at the drop of a dime and with New Edition by their side, it seemed as if this was a perfect marriage of artist and producer. As they went into the studio in Minneapolis to create something special, no one could have guessed the long standing legacy that this album would have. Today, we take a look back at the classic Heartbreak album from New Edition and what it means to music. Next year, this album will be 30 years old, and it still sounds great today as it did then. Let's get into it.

When we look back at this particular album, there's so many things to remember about it, but what became the X factor here was the duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They knew how to structure the songs to fit what the group wanted and the production style ranged in variety from slow ballads with funk and soul elements in it to upbeat New Jack Swing tracks to make you dance. There can be no denial that the group owned each song vocally, but the production is what it takes it over the top. Every melody, guitar riff and keyboard hit seemed to blend together so well with the vocal arrangement. Though the group themselves are the ones to thank for this album being such a classic, the true power rests within the production. The MVPs of this album are Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and they are true geniuses.

Song By Song
There are a number of skits and an intro on the album, but we won't discuss those. These are the songs in order that make up this classic album. Let's get into it.

*That's The Way We're Livin
-In what could be seen as an official intro song, this was the introduction of the brand new New Edition with Johnny Gill at the helm as the second lead singer next to Ralph. The song itself had a nice and smooth New Jack Swing groove in the production, and vocally the group does what they do best. This song has virtually no purpose other than welcome you to the album and let you know that New Edition is back better than ever essentially. Johnny does seem slightly out of place in this song with his resounding vocals, but this track still works overall. It's a good opening track and the crowd noises in the background help the vibe as well.


*Where It All Started
-Surprisingly, this song just doesn't do it for me. I love that the New Jack Swing sound is here, but this is one of my least favorite tracks on the album. It's hard to pinpoint why I'm not really fond of the track, but it's missing something. Perhaps the production itself starts too slow and never picks up like I wanted it to. The lyrics are solid and vocally Ralph carries it as usual, but it's just not one of my favorite tracks. It's technically a good song, a very good song at that, but it just feels like another retread of a welcoming intro like song, and after a near perfect track of the same vein with "That's The Way We're Livin", this song just doesn't feel necessary. In a hilarious twist, many felt that this song was a shot at Maurice Starr and New Kids On The Block, which is funny yet a bit sad. Pop group or R&B beef just never makes sense or seems very legit and takes away from the song. Regardless, this is still a good song, it just feels unnecessary after the intro track was executed so well.


*If It Isn't Love
-One thing I have always loved about this album is how early this song was placed in the sequencing. This is one of the best New Edition songs and the marriage between vocals and production is honestly near the best it has ever been in New Edition's career. The repetitive riffs atop the slick drum patterns gives way to the infectious verses and hook, and the way Ralph structures his vocals on the chorus makes it a song you can't help but sing along to. The breakdown in the middle is a classic one, and when Ralph stops after singing "I really love her" and the rest of the group sings "you love her?? What", the song somehow picks up even more in pace, which makes for a perfect ending of the song. The adlibs from Ralph are perfect through the repeating hook at the end as well work and that note he hits towards the last minute or so is definitely memorable. The way the song cuts off is also done expertly as the ending of the vocals smoothly slides into a bit of the instrumental before it ends rather abruptly. This is the first flawless execution of this album for N.E.


*N.E. Heartbreak 
-This track is really dope to me and still a favorite from New Edition. The way the production was handled and the rap verses from both Ronnie and Ralph to start it off set the tone very well. The song is a look into their lives and dealing with fame, groupies, and the stress that all comes with it. There's a ton of pressure on the group and this song is one of the most accurate depictions of how it affects them and their lives. The final bridge when Johnny starts taking over is another example of Johnny just taking it over the top, but it works here. You'd think it didn't fit on the song with how his voice is a bit too strong, but it somehow works really well here. It's served much better for him to be used for adlibs and a bridge instead of an actual verse. The outro from Mike and his rap was slightly unnecessary, but it still fit within the song itself. This is a definite classic track and I think it's one of the most iconic songs from the group considering what it represents.


-I love the way this song transitioned in after the end of "N.E. Heartbreak", and this is one of my favorites. The production just has one of those majestic sounds as the guitar and keyboard work leads the vibe of the song and takes the New Jack Swing groove to an even more melodic place. Ralph leads the song of course, and his vocals are flawless throughout the song itself, but it's really perfect on the hook. The melody and the cadence of the chorus are both infectious, making this song one that you'll find yourself singing along to every time. The best part of the song? The guitar breakdown before the bridge begins. It's a simple yet effective lead back into Ralph and his vocals and it really works. N.E. continues their hot streak with yet another classic track here.


*You're Not My Kind Of Girl 
-I was a bit late to the party on how good this song really was. I loved it years ago when I first heard it, but this is seen by many as the "girl you fine, but you ain't my type of hype" song. In essence, it's exactly that type of song, or as the people in this generation might call it, a "curve anthem". Sometimes, the chemistry just isn't there no matter how much you try and make it happen and this song is perfect for describing that feeling you have. The group makes sure to let the girl in question down easy and Ralph has his best vocal performance through the entire song and every lyric he sings is felt.

To be honest, this might be the most perfect song on the entire album from the smooth "I'm sorry" to start it off, to Ralph coming in with "oh girl, I know that you're attracted to me... and I should feel the same about you", it builds up as it goes along before reaching the highest peak of the song near the end when Ricky takes over with his bridge following Mike and Ronnie having their conversation about the girl in question. The way Ricky comes in is honestly one of the best moments on the album with "I'm not trying to put you down... but you're just not that girl", and he sings my favorite line of the track with "even though you're not my kind... you're still so fine", and Johnny and Ralph close it with beautifully blended harmony and superb adlibs. Not to mention, the production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is beyond perfect here. There's not much more I can say about this song. It's just absolutely flawless and a top 5 all time New Edition song, and honestly, I debate between this song and "Can You Stand The Rain" as the best overall. Recently, this song has taken the title. It's easy to hear why.


-It's as if the group just couldn't miss on this album. This song has a slower and smoother groove, but it still works just as well as you'd expect. The opening of the song has some really soulful vibes in the instrumental and Ralph starts the track perfectly. The harmony in the hook is also flawless on this track and Ricky also shows up with a nice bridge as well. Ricky is always an underrated component of the group and here he shines alongside Ralph. Overall, though this isn't my favorite song on the album, this is a really dope track and the harmonies throughout are some of the strongest on the album.


*Can You Stand The Rain 
-When we speak of the greatest ballads of all time, this might be the greatest of them all. The drum introduction that leads into the drop with the instantly classic melody is so iconic. Johnny Gill leads this song and is the first voice heard and he was the perfect choice to kick it off. Every time that opening line of "on a perfect day.... I know that I can count on you" hits, it brings a great feeling for me as this is one of my favorite songs. Ralph also has a big role in the song as he handles the bridge as he comes in with "cause I need somebody who will stand by me", which leads into the iconic hook, and it's a great blend of harmony and their distinct voices. Ricky also has a great moment on the song with his adlibs near the end of the track. Mike has a small role on the song too, but this song is truly the best showcase of how well Ralph and Johnny sounded together. Whoever came up with the idea of them singing alongside the repeated chorus as the song nears the end is a genius. That has to be the work of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. A flawless song and one of the greatest New Edition tracks.


-Ralph penned this track and the production is some of the best on the entire album. This track feels like it's speaking on the disappointment felt after the departure of Bobby Brown and the lyrics speak from what feels like a genuine and honest place. There's also the possibility that Ralph was speaking about the falling apart of the group when he was about to leave and go solo. The song has a bigger vibe for the world, but one who listens closely would have to feel like this comes from a personal perspective. Especially when he talks about friends fighting with friends. It's not one of the best songs here, but it is a really dope listen regardless. Ralph leads this song over the very jazzy production. This is his song through and through.


*I'm Comin' Home
-After the final skit of the album, this track is another smooth ballad and it's executed nearly to perfection, much like most of the tracks on this album. The 808s to start off the song leads into Mike making a call to his woman and getting the voicemail and when that leads into the song, we hear yet another infectious chorus. Ralph leads the song, and the smooth production is perfect for his vocals. Another very good song, but I can't say that this is one of my favorites on here. Still, if there's a song that's needed to set the mood during the late night on this album, this might be the go to track.


*Boys To Men 
-This is infamously known as the song that Johnny Gill hated and didn't want to sing, but he ends up killing it as usual. It was seen as a bit juvenile by him and the opening line definitely doesn't suggest otherwise. However, whenever I hear Johnny start with "Growing up can be a pain", the youth inside that line is seemingly lost and the vibe of the song just takes over. The song was written with the idea of showcasing how much is really on the shoulders of the group and Johnny being the lead vocalist was the smartest decision because Ralph singing these same lines would have still given off that older more youthful New Edition feel. The hook is more so rooted in this same youthful growth, but Johnny makes it something entirely different when he goes off at the end with his adlibs. Johnny essentially sings his ass off as the song and album nears the end, and honestly that was the perfect end of the song and the album itself. This song was so special and epic that it inspired one of the greatest groups ever to exist just based on this title. That's how powerful this song was.


When speaking of the greatest albums to come from the New Jack Swing era, this is a top 3 album. When speaking of R&B albums from the 80s in general, it is certainly a top 10 and probably top 5 if we're being honest. What makes the album so legendary is because it was New Edition at their finest. After the departure of Bobby Brown, the addition of Johnny Gill, and the possibility of Ralph leaving and going solo, the group stuck together and made an album that has stood the test of time. Heartbreak is not only the best New Edition album, but it's one of the best R&B albums ever. Period.

Rating: 9.5/10



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