Friday, July 11, 2008
FLASHBACK: CLASSIC ALBUM FROM BOY BAND WHO MADE THE TRANSITION FROM BOYS TO MEN
PRODUCERS: JIMMY JAM & TERRY LEWIS, NEW EDITION, JELLYBEAN JOHNSON, RALPH TRESVANT
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: JUNE 20, 1988
10 ON A SCALE OF 1-5
In 1987, R&B singing group New Edition had reached the crossroads in their career. Orignal co-founder Bobby Brown was voted out for his wild on stage antics, and scored a number one R&B hit with his single “Girlfriend” while remaining members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant carried on as a quartet. Their first post-Brown release “Under The Blue Moon” failed to reach the gold mark, though they received an American Music Award for Best Male R&B group, but many critics had began to count them out saying that they would no longer be successful. After taking a year off to relax, and regroup, they decided they wasn’t going to be counted out of music history, so they teamed up with hit making writing and producing team, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis of The Time, to work on their comeback release “Heartbreak“, which not only went multi-platinum, it also helped them make the smooth and bold transition from bubble gum stars to sexy mature adults with songs about joy, pain and life as entertainers. That and the recruitment of R&B singer Johnny Gill. Born in Washington DC, Gill started singing Gospel with his brothers, but later began performing R&B. later teaming up with childhood friend and neighbor Stacy Lattisaw on the classic “Perfect Combination” winning fans with his strong baritone voice. That was the missing puzzle the group used to help them attack the adult market.
“When we heard that Johnny was on MCA, we felt that would be easier to make a move like that instead of just finding anybody on the street.” Bivins said in the group’s video compilation “New Edition Past & Present.” “We wanted someone of some status and of some vocal ability, because we were going to a new direction, that my help us get into that field which was a more mature sound.”
During high school, I remember reading an article in Right On magazine, about Johnny joining N.E., and I wondered how good the group was going to sound, and after hearing their single “N.E. Heartbreak”, I said to myself; This song is hot!” Two days after I returned from North Carolina, I brought the tape, and was amazed with how they matured as artists and to honor the 20th year anniversary of this classic release, I decided to go down memory lane with a review of one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite groups.
The heat break begins a spoken intro featuring Bivins and Gill, telling the fans that they are going to continue pleasing them and striving for success, which directly leads into the group’s self-penned and produced “That’s The Way We’re Livin’” a hot song, that has a live concert feel courtesy of the audience applauding, beats, bass, synersizers, the live breaks blending vocals, guitar solo by the song’s co-producer Jellybean Johnson. “Where It All Started” is a hot song with hot beats and lyrics that lets the industry and new jacks know that they took the boy band, and though they appreciate being imitated, they need to do their own thing. In addition to the song showcasing DeVoe‘s singing voice, it also has samples of their classic hits, Cool It Now, Candy Girl and Count Me Out.
To stay the best among the rest
We work to keep our movements fresh
This is where it all started from
You listen up dap instead of being clones
Why don‘t you think of something on your own
This is where it all started from.
Their comeback hit “If It Isn‘t Love” is still a favorite a favorite among the fans, and a concert highlight for the group. What make this song timeless are the circus drum intro, breaks, and lyrics about having mixed feelings about love. It also captures one of lead vocalist Tresvant’s best vocal performances to date. Listeners can hear his ranges, and his ability to phrase and harmonize.
“N.E. Heartbreak” is one of my favorite songs on the CD. This funky track permanently shed their bubble guy image, with blunt lyrics about the joys and pains of being entertainers and being heartbroken by fans. Not only does this song has hot Hip-Hop and Go-Go beats, it also features smooth lead and rap performances by Ronnie, Ralph and Ricky, and Johnny giving the track Gospel flavor with his ad-libbing and Michael rapping about being stood up by date who forget to bring the backstage pass.
Girlies and groupies and parties all night
Is the life that can lead you into a N.E. heart break.
From city to city our friends and our fans
They’re the ones who can keep us from having a
N.E. heart break.
“Crucial” is another funky song written by Garry Johnson and Lisa Keith, that has a funky bass line, and guitar solo by Jellybean who gives the song a rock edge during the bridge, wile the smooth flowing mid-tempo “You’re Not My Kind of Girl” is another song that showcases their maturity and captures one of their best and popular hooks and vocal performances to date. Not only does the group sing the hook in mid tenor and falsetto, it also features Ralph and Johnny sharing lead vocals and performing a call and response as well as Ron and Mike‘s spoken parts and Ricky‘s smooth and powerful voice. It also has lyrics about not having chemistry with a female who has the star model looks. “Super Lady” showcases the group’s sexy side, and further demonstrates their songwriting and production skills. The song has nice horn riffs, strings and seductive lyrics and vocals that will put couples in the mood for some one of one action.
“Can You Stand The Rain” is another favorite that still gets spins on radio, and wild audience reaction during N.E.’s performances. What makes this song classic are the lyrics, the sound of bird chirpings, rain drops, thunder and lighting, Johnny‘s, Ralph’s and Ricky’s smooth and soulful vocal performance as well as Biv’s saying “come on baby. "Let’s go get wet" in a sexy voice.
The song also showcases Johnny’s ability to riff while harmonize with the group.
“Competition” is a song about having harmonizing and living together with out fighting, and hating on one another. Written and produced by Ralph, this song has a classic R&B and Gospel feel courtesy of the saxophone, vocals and lyrics, while “I’m Comin’ Home” is a smooth ballad that has beats similar to The S.O.S. Band’s 1983 hit “Tell Me If You Still Care” and features Ralph singing low tenor while the group’s singing falsetto.
The heartbreak ends with their radio and concert hit “Boys To Men” which is a favorite among males, who often find themselves having problem entering into manhood. Though this song wasn’t released as a single, Johnny’s vocals, gives this song an uplifting Gospel feel with his powerful voice, and soulful ad-libbing.
Ronnie, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny really put their blood, sweat and tears into creating this album, and it came up with a classic, that showed the industry that they were not going to be counted out of music history, and they we’re not kids any more,. They had mature into talented, and sexy men, who still has a huge following who enjoyed their transition from Boys to men.
FACTS ABOUT HEARTBREAK.
1. Ralph didn’t know that Michael Bivins had recruited Johnny to become the member of the group. In a interview with KISS FM, he found out when they began to work on the album, and Ralph who was still upset over Bobby’s absence, didn’t want him in the group because he feared that Johnny would take over as lead vocalist.
2. Johnny didn’t like the song Boys To Men, because he thought it was too immature for his standards. He had been used to singing romantic ballads, and felt that was the type of songs he should have sang, but he decided to record the song his way, and though it was never released as a single, it became one of the group’s biggest hits. It also became a hit many males, who would sing this song at talent shows, but one group of males from Philadelphia took the song a step further. They used the title of the song to name their group, and Boyz II Men not only became a household name, they were managed by Michael Bivins. The group also produced Gill’s 1993 single “I Got You.”
3. Can You Stand The Rain became the group’s fourth number one R&B hit and was remade by Boyz II Men on their 1997 album “Evolution."