Friday, July 11, 2008
NEW EDITION'S 25 YEAR IMPACT AND NEVER ENDING LEGACY
When New Edition was honored last month by ASCAP, many of their peers and fans felt that the honor was long overdue for the group who has set the bar for many of today’s boy bands, who’s success have over shadowed their contribution to music history. With sales of over 30 million records as a group, and many of millions sold with their solo projects, they achieved success that no male group has yet to duplicate, but with all the success they achieved, the five boys from Boston were the victims of bad business deals, fighting for control of their image and not getting the proper acknowledgement and respect that was due. But this article to let fans and the public aware of their contributions to music and why it’s important not to write them out of music history.
The birth of New Edition began in Orchard Projects. One of the toughest housing projects in the Roxbury section of Boston, when childhood neighbors and friends Bobby Brown & Michael Bivins, joined a singing group with two other guys from the projects who were a bit older in age, but later decided to join with Ricky Bell, who brought his best friend Ralph Tresvant to the line-up. They would sing on street corners and at local malls to get money to go to the movies, help their families and to get attention from the females. “All we saw everyday was drugs, hustling and pimping” Bell said in the group’s live DVD. We was just kids man. All we wanted to do was get that money, go to the movies and get with those project girls.” “”I look back and see everybody I came up with… doing the same thing or worst. Lead vocalist Tresvant said in XXL’s Hip-Hop Soul Magazine. “They locked down or dead. See all of this makes you wonder why us.
Seeing how serious they were, their neighbor Brook Payne would help them come up with routines, and dubbed them New Edition.
In 1982, the group entered a contest sponsored by producer/songwriter Maurice Starr, who was looking for a group to produce. The group came in second place, but after seeing how the crowd responded to them, Starr asked them to recruit a fifth member, and Payne decided to bring his nephew Ronnie DeVoe. They signed with Streetwise Records and in February 1983, released their debut single “Candy Girl” which topped the R&B and UK charts. They would follow with “Is This The End,” Popcorn Love,” “Jealous Girl” and “She Gives Me A Bang.” winning the hearts of females, and respect from male’s world-wide. What made New Edition appealing was their attire which consisted of jeans, T-shirts, leather caps and shell top adidas sneakers and their cherography “I thought the song was great. I thought they was the cutest boys I ever saw” Susan Stuart, President of the New York chapter of the group's fan club and meet-up group said during their group‘s bi-monthly meet-up. They group embarked on their first world tour winning rave reviews, and expecting to receive lots of money, but when the tour wrapped they were in for an unexpected surprise.
They returned back to the projects where they grew up at, and when they finally received their earnings from their tour, the check was for one dollar and eighty seven cents. Enraged, the group blamed Starr and the record company for robbing cheating them out of their money. A claim the Starr denies. “That‘s something been riding me for a long time" Starr said on VH-1's Behind The Music.” The booking agent sent the money to them, and whatever my percentage was, they sent it to me. I did not take their money.”
The group ended their association with Starr and Streetwise by signing with MCA Records, which resulted with Starr suing them over their name, which was dismissed in 1988. “We left with nothing but our name, but we owe Maurice a lot” Bell told Keith Murphy. In September 1984, the group released their platinum self-title album and the singles “Cool It Now,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” (which featured Brown on lead) “Lost In Love” and “My Secret (Dija Get It Yet).” The group was gaining a larger fan base due to their new clean cut image that featured them wearing sequenced suits, pres school sweaters, which was something the group later admitted hated.
While promoting their album, Brown has missed scheduled appearances, which started rumors that he was battling cancer. Brown was suffering from the flu and had taken some time off to recover, but he did however grew sick and tired of the group’s false image, material and not having more leads and solos, so he began singing Tresvant’s parts, and performing sexually moves, which pleased the fans, but upset the group and management, who felt that his behavior was ruining the group’s image. Though they loved him, they decided to vote him out shortly before they released their third album “All For Love.” A decision they still regret to this day. Brown on the other hand has recently reveal how grateful he was for them giving him his pink at that time. “Twenty years ago I didn’t know who I was, but something happened to me” Brown said during his speech at the awards ceremony. "But it was them kicking me out the group that made me like ‘Yo, if I don't succeed, I ain’t going to be nothing back home.'”
They also learned that they weren’t officially signed to MCA. They were signed to a production company called Jump & Shoot, which had it’s own deal with the label, and in order to get out of that contract and sign directly with MCA, the had to borrow money from the label, and had to tour to get out of debt.
In December 1986, The group released “Under The Blue Moon” while Bobby released his solo album “King of Stage” and “Girlfriend” with the latter topping the R&B charts for two weeks, but it wasn‘t the direction Brown was looking to head. “It was really a solo New Edition album“ he said in the Billboard Book of Number One Hits.” The voice was there, the voice they remember from “Candy Girl“ It didn‘t work for me. We had to regroup and find out what my identity was as a singer.”
In 1988, NE decided that they wanted to have a mature look and sound, and shed their bubble gum image, so they joined forces with songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis the team who was responsible for helping Janet Jackson and The Human League score hits to produce their album. “Working with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis was the group’s idea, but the person who made it possible was the late Louil Silas, Jr." Ralph told Keith Murphy. They also decided to add singer Johnny Gill to the lineup. Born and raised in Washington DC, Gill teamed up with childhood friend and superstar Stacy Lattisaw for the hit album and single “Perfect Combination” before releasing two solo albums. After signing with MCA, Gill was about to began work on his solo album when Ricky, Mike and Ronnie, asked him to join the group. Something Tresvant wasn’t fond of at first, fearing that he would replace him as lead vocalist. “We said to Johnny, you might not sing on this album except for some background” Jam said on “Behind The Music.” This isn’t your group” Gill also wasn’t too found of singing the song “Boys To Men” but decided that he was going to record it his way, and it became the group’s most popular song though it wasn’t released as a single. But during recording they became good friends. “It became a mutual admiration society” Jam said in the Billboard Book of Rhythm & Blues Hits. “So they got really close during the project and any though that we had that there might be jealousy got erased. They were very professional and very respectful of each other’s talents and that made the recording very easy.” "They became the New Edition through the trials of making 'Heartbreak’ Lewis added on “Behind The Music.”
In June, New Edition released their comeback album “Heartbreak” which became a triple platinum classic, scoring three hits “If It’s Isn’t Love,” “You’re Not My Kind of Girl, and “Can You Stand The Rain which topped the R&B charts for 2 weeks and made them adult superstars, “Johnny Gill was huge in pushing New Edition to a mare mature sound" DeVoe told Keith Murphy. “His voice was just perfect."
Brown would join and (unintentionally) fare better than them. Teaming with LA Reid & Babyface and Teddy Riley, the creator of New Jack Swing, Brown’s sophomore album “Don’t Be Cruel” would sell over twelve-million copies world wide making him an international star thanks the singles “Don’t Be Cruel,” "Roni," “Every Little Step (which earned him a Grammy Award) and “Rock Wit’ Cha," but it was his single “My Prerogative” which topped both the R&B and Pop charts and made him an international star. Brown had repaired his friendship with the group by appearing as their opening act on their Heartbreak tour which grossed over $14 million.
When the tour wrapped, the group decided to pursue projects which would make the group more successful and historic; Ricky, Mike and Ronnie formed the trio Bell-Biv-DeVoe, who became stars in their own right. by mixing Hip-Hop R&B and Pop music together and dressing in street attire (overalls, jeans, sneakers and timberlands), they scored with “Poison,” “Do Me!" “BBD (I Thought It Was Me)“ “When Will I See You Smile Again” and “She’s Dope,“ earning them many awards for Best New Artist and Best Male Group. “Coming from New Edition, no one thought we were able to do anything, because we were in the background for the most part within the group. DeVoe said in the Billboard book Number One Rhythm & Blues Hits. “Everyone was looking for Ralph and Johnny to be the stars coming out of the group, so we kind of snuck up out of nowhere. As we were doing the album, everything came to up pretty quickly."
Gill also re-started his solo career. Signing with Motown Records, he released his self-titled platinum selling release and single “Rub You The Right Way,” and “My, My, My” which became gold # 1 R&B hits. He also made history by becoming the first artist to have an album written and produced by two major Black writing and producing team. Jam & Lewis and LA Reid & Babyface, Trecvant finally released his self-title album and single “Sensitivity” which topped the R&B charts and earned him many awards for Best Male Vocalist. “My stomach was acting up” he told James I. Jones IV in USA today. I was scared. I didn’t want to be the only one to put out something that didn’t work."
Bivins began managing and developing many acts including Another Bad Creation, whose album “Cooling At The Playground” made them the youngest kid act to score a platinum, album, but it was vocal group Boyz II Men, who would become legends in their own rights. The quartet’s debut “Cooleyhighharmony” sold over nine million albums, while their single “End of The Road” broke Elvis Presley’s record, staying at the top of the chart for 13 weeks. He also formed his record label Biv 10 Records, and signed signing groups Subway and 702, who scored several R&B hits for the label.
With their solo careers going strong, many fans were asking would the group reunite or break up. They showed the fans the bond they have by performing at the MTV video awards where all members including Brown and Gill performed their solo hits before singing a medley of their group’s hits. Gill and BBD embarked on the Triple Threat Tour with Keith Sweat, which was dubbed one of the best tours of the early 1990’s. The following year, they traveled to Orchard Park projects to film the video for their single “Word To The Mutha!” which was featured on BBD’s remix album “WBBD City." “I think MCA was only interested in them as a teen group" Stuart says of the group’s solo careers and success. “And no one saw an adult future for New Edition, and I don’t think they saw one either, so they spend a lot of time floundering.”
In 1992 Bobby released his album “Bobby” which went triple platinum thanks to the hits “Humpin’ Around,’ “Good Enough” Get Away” and “Something In Common” a duet with his ex-wife Whitney Houston, while the rest of the group’s follow ups went gold, despite the lack of promotion and airplay, prompting them to give the fans what they’ve been requesting; a reunion album and tour. In September 1996, the group released their album “Home Again” which debuted at # 1 on both the Pop and R&B charts while their single “Hit Me Off” became their highest debuting single peaking at # 3 on the Pop Charts and # 1 on the R&B charts, making them the first group to have a reunion album to achieve that feat. They also won American Music and Soul Train Music Award for Best Male Group and embarked on the “Home Again” tour which made many fans happy. I loved it. They‘re true entertainers" Stuart said of the reunion tour. “I was in Heaven” Jamon Bolton, a 25 year-old male fan said at the meet-up. “That was my first real concert. I got the see them. It was the best Christmas gift I ever got." The tour got off to a great start, but towards the middle of the tour, thing began to spiral of out control. Ego and tensions began to flair causing problems to occur within the band. Things took a drastic turn in New Mexico when De Voe went on stage to let Brown know that he was going over his time, and Brown who admitted to using drugs, got mad and swung his microphone stand at De Voe causing both members of their entourage to fight, resulting in gun fire. This incident caused Brown and Bivins to leave the tour while the rest of the group finished the rest of the dates, and adding insult to injury, MCA released their group’s video “One More Day” with Bell (who sang lead on the track) being the only member in the group appearing in the video leaving many to wonder had the group broken up for good? Johnny had teamed with Gerald Le Vert and Keith Sweat to form the group LSG who scored a gold single with “My Body” earning them nominations for Best New Artist, while Bell and Tresvant appeared on rapper LL Cool J’s single “Candy.” Both Brown and BBD released albums that didn’t do well, though the latter’s single “Da Hot Shit“ got major play on BET thanks to the collaboration with Poster Boy and Shamari from singing group Blaque.
In 2002, the group, minus Brown, who was working an a reality show with Houston, decided to reform and tour, and their shows were selling out and attracting many fans and peers including Sean Diddy Combs, who after attending three of their concerts offered them a deal for his Bad Boy record label, and the group agreed. As long as things looked good on paper, but while recording the album, the group clashed with Diddy who wanted the group to record songs that cater to the teenage market. They had to constantly remind him that they were grown men and they had to record songs that cater to the adult market. “Puffy’s idea about the last album was he’s trying to go after a younger market, but we’re grown men” Gill said on “Behind The Music. “We have to accept that.”
On November 9, 2004, the group released their album gold album “One Love” and their single “Hot2Nite”, which didn’t do well, prompting the label not to release any follow singles. This forced the group to leave the label, and the fans and critics to publicly bash Diddy for being disrespecting the group and their legacy by being arrogant selfish and egotistic. The following year, all six members appeared on BET’s 25 Anniversary special and received a standing ovation and it was there where they announced that all six members would be touring for their 25th anniversary along with working on a book and mini-series, which are in the works as we speak along with an album to be released on Aftermath Records.. They’ve finally purchased the right for their master recordings. While they’re working on the future chapter of their career, many artists have kept their legacy alive by remaking and sampling their songs. Bivns’ protégés Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men remade their classics “Jealous Girl” and “Can You Stand The Rain”, while former Bad Boy Artists Mase and 112 remade the former hit and re-titled it “Jealous Guy.” Mase’s former group Harlem World sampled “Popcorn Love” for their hit “I Like It,” while Britney Spears remade Brown’s classic “My Prerogative. “ Bow Wow and Ciara sampled their radio hit “I’m Leaving You Again” for their top charting ballad “Like You” and Nick Cannon sampled “BBD’s “Poison” for his hit “Dime Piece.” Bivins also was recruited by Combs to help him put together a male singing group for his label which resulted in singers becoming Day 26, whose self-titled debut received excellent reviews.
After years of fighting for recognition, the group was finally honored last month at the ASCAP awards, with many artists including J. Holiday, Floetry and singing group Brotha paying tribute to them in song and dance, and Starr presenting them their award. bringing smiles to their faces. “It’s kind of the way for the industry for the industry to know what we’re doing” Ralph told reporters at the ceremony “We keep moving, hoping one day we can put out the music we want to." A few days later, New Kids on The Block asked them to record a song on their upcoming reunion album, which goes to show that there are many who remember their legacy and trial they left for them to follow. “They stand the test of time. Like all the great groups The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Jackson 5. They’ve stand the test of the time, although they went through some trials and tribulations, they’re still here” Bolton said. Stuart adds “They’ve very lucky to have fans that stay that long. They started the boy band craze. I don’t think any other band who has fans like New Edition.”
New Edition have come a long way from the Boston Housing Projects to achieve the fame that they were seeking, and while they’ve endured their fare share of pain, and heartache, they’re managed to maintain longevity and become legends, and while it may have taken them a long time to finally receive the respect that’s been long over due, their contributions hasn’t been done in vain, and with their recent honor, the industry is finally waking up and seeing that Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny are a part of music history.