Bell Biv DeVoe
Three Stripes (released January 27, 2017)
It’s been quite a week for New Edition, huh?
The group started the week by receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before captivating the country for three straight nights with their BET biopic, The New Edition Story.
Props to BET for hitting us with the original programming and putting those tired Madea movies on the shelf. We read the diary 1,000 times, we know the black woman is mad.
And how does the group cap off a monumental week? By cashing in on that buzz and releasing the first Bell Biv DeVoe album in 16 years.
Trust me, Mike Bivins is not turning down an opportunity to make paper.
Here’s a brief history lesson for you young’ns who may have missed the BET biopic: New Edition’s legacy is far greater than a handful of memorable songs (though they rightfully have bonafide classics on their resume). The group spun off massively successful solo careers and created the subgroup BBD, which gave us ANOTHER classic song (1990’s “Poison”), a debut album that went quadruple platinum and later birthed future ‘90s headliners like 702, Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men.
Make no mistake, BBD are the forefathers of modern R&B. So, not surprisingly, Three Stripes, their fourth collective effort, feels more like a celebration of their legacy than an attempt to regain the crown.
They’ve got nothing to prove. Their DNA is already in your favorite singer’s flow.
After a brief intro by Doug E. Fresh, Three Stripes kicks off with “Find A Way,” picking up right where BBD left off – that self-styled “mental” brand of R&B – a hip-hop mentality merged with R&B and sprinkled with pop appeal.
The Erick Sermon produced first single, “Run” showcases that in spades. Sampling Herb Alpert’s “Rise” (or Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” depending on the date on your birth certificate) BBD chases after their dream girl over pulsating production. The upbeat“Hot Damn” feels more like modern pop, utilizing those 80s synths that have come back in style.
But as fun as these tracks can be the pacing seems slightly off, making them feel oddly lethargic at times. Current single “I’m Betta” rises above the pack though, thanks to Mike and Ronnie DeVoe’s braggadocious throwback flow. Let’s be real – BBD works best when Mike and Ronnie serve as hype men for Ricky Bell’s vocals. That formula flourishes here.
BBD also makes time to link up with a few familiar faces. “Finally” pairs the trio with SWV for a midtempo showcase that should earn Coko jail time for COMPLETELY STEALING THE SHOW. BBD also reunites with their mentees Boyz II Men on “One More Try,” which features a sleek, 70s feel accented with horns and gentle melodies.
That track, along with the Latin-tinged “Don’t Go” are great changes of pace – I really wish the set showcased a few more songs in that vein to diversify the album’s content.
Despite a few questionable inclusions (the album’s final track, “Incredible” is a re-recording of a three-year-old J. Holiday song for some random reason) Three Stripes is a fun, breezy listen that’s less of a triumphant comeback and more of a reminder of BBD’s pedigree.
They’ve already done it all. Three Stripes is just here to jog your memory.
Best tracks: “I’m Betta,” “One More Try,” “Run”
3.5 stars out of 5