Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
This week we’ve got social media royalty in the house! God-is Rivera is global director of culture and community for Twitter – yes, THE Twitter – and also is a massive R&B fan, specifically of her boys Jagged Edge. JE is arguably the most consistent R&B group of the modern era (maybe the ONLY high-profile group that never parted ways), so they’re worthy of the Head to Head treatment. God-is is gonna go hard for JE, and you know I’m never at a loss for words. Let the battle begin.
Name Jagged Edge’s three best albums
1. J.E. Heartbreak
2. Jagged Little Thrill
3. Jagged Edge
I think not only is J.E. Heartbreak one of their best albums, it’s probably one of my favorite albums of all time. From the first note of the intro, J.E. was blending beautiful harmonies while rockin’ Timbs and a fitted, and we were all mesmerized. Bringing back that attitude of Jodeci with powerful vocals and sensitive, sexy writing, J.E. Heartbreak was what we all needed. Tracks like “Healing” and “What You Trying to Do” were just as great as classic singles like “He Can’t Love You” and “Promise”. This album was JE and Jermaine Dupri at the peak of their collaboration together. Jagged Little Thrill came through just a year later with that same magic and a crossover lead single to boot. Delivering uptempo cuts like “Cut Something” and impressive ballads like “Goodbye” and “Without You” and “Can We Be Tight,” JE set the early 2000s on fire. Although severely underrated (see my later post here) their self-titled 2006 album delivered that same cohesion, dynamic mix of great R&B even without much of the radio fanfare. Jagged Edge is a true R&B group, and to see them at their best is rhythm and blues (with a touch of hip hop swag) at its finest.
1. J.E. Heartbreak
3. A Jagged Era
No. 1 was never in doubt. J.E. Heartbreak is one of the best albums of its era, the group’s defining album, and even spawned a sequel album more than a decade later. After that it gets tough. I’m a fan of Jagged Little Thrill and their 2006 self-titled effort too, but I’ve gotta go with their vastly underrated fourth set Hard (more on that later) and their stellar 1997 debut. Both are very different but equally incredible albums.
What’s Jagged Edge’s worst album?
Let me start by saying that I am a TRUE JE fan. Which means I have supported (and loved) many of their later, less radio successful but solid offerings. From 2007’s Baby Makin’ Project, to 2011’s The Remedy, these were pretty solid albums that always resulted in some songs I liked, and even loved. So this album was particularly disappointing after the not-so-great J.E. Heartbreak II of 2014 was also generally a let down. Layover sounded like JE trying too hard to be something they are not with trap beats that were quite manufactured, and not Brandon, Brian, Kyle and Wingo doing what they do best— which is making great, true R&B music.
Wait a minute playa, you didn’t like J.E. Heartbreak II? I thought it was actually pretty solid. Anyway, yeah, no surprise at which album winds up circling the drain. A couple of weeks ago on Instagram, I spotted one of the twins yelling at a fan who was criticizing the autotune JE has employed lately, including on Layover. First off, y’all gotta stop calling fans “haters” for having constructive criticism. It’s lazy. Second, like God-is said, Layover doesn’t work because it doesn’t feel like a JE album, it feels more like JE cosplaying as Bryson Tiller. Here’s hoping their next release A Jagged Love Story recaptures their old magic.
What’s Jagged Edge’s best single?
God-is: “Where the Party At”
Back in the late 90s/early 2000s very few R&B groups made the cross over to mainstream success (Shout out to Sisqo from Dru Hill with “Thong Song”, and Next with “Too Close” — believe me, this was no easy feat.) So for JE and Nelly to create a cross-over hit that is still included on “Party Mix” compilations to this day is pretty damn impressive. Even more impressive was that it was their first single after releasing what many considered a classic album. The best part however was that not only was this single a smash hit, the album they delivered with Jagged Little Thrill was damn good too.
I said earlier that JE’s defining album is JE Heartbreak, so it’s no shock that their best standout there is also the best song of their career. There’s a sincerity here that is SO lacking in today’s brand of R&B – warm, inviting but not without a little, ahem, edge as well. By far their best work to date.
And how about their worst single?
There was so much fanfare and dare I say … “hope” when JE reunited with Jermaine Dupri to create part two of their classic album J.E Heartbreak. Even though this song had the makings of everything that has made so many of their prior tracks classics, the mix felt forced and old, and just fell sort of flat, and it was a sad preview to the album that wasn’t awful but in no way captured the essence of its original namesake of babymakin’ music that is responsible for many 18-19 year olds walking around now.
Edd: “Peanut Budder”
“Hope!?” Nah “Hope” was great! But I know you weren’t feeling J.E. Heartbreak 2, so I get why it didn’t make a mark with you. Call it recency bias but “Peanut Budder,” the single from the dreaded Layover album, is much more deserving of our wrath. The lyrics are cringey, the trap production is horribly generic and the twins are downright unrecognizable under all that autotune.
Lord, they’re gonna yell at me next, aren’t they?
Name the first song that made you a fan of JE
God-is: “Gotta Be”
It may sound cliche but this track was just a hit, and as soon as you heard it you knew JE was IT. Soon as Brandon/Brian croons that first line you knew these dudes were here to stay. This song was so earnest and buttery as late 90s R&B was, but it was also a certain swagger from these four dudes that let you know that not only could they sing and mean every word, they could also fight if need be and weren’t to be messed with. Basically most women’s dream come true. Every young dude out there who had even a touch of a decent voice knew signing “Gotta Be” on a date was the sureshot to make their lady fall head over heels.
Edd: “Gotta Be”
JE’s first single, “The Way You Talk to Me,” definitely caught my attention (I still remember exactly where I was when I first heard it) But God-is is right – it was “Gotta Be” that made me say OKAYYYYYYYYYY these boys are here to stay. So smooth, so soulful and so much potential – greatness was inevitable after this hit.
What’s JE’s best video?
God-is: “Let’s Get Married Remix”
It’s really not that easy to create a song that makes it to the “Must be played at every Black family function” status, but JE knew they had that in the Rev Run assisted “Let’s Get Married (Remix).” The video just solidifies that position by showcasing the type of wedding/family function that we all would love to attend and hear this song played. From the soul train lines with family members of all ages, to the flower girls and their cute smiles, this video perfectly encapsulates how this song makes you feel.
To be fair, JE doesn’t really have a lot of memorable videos. 80 percent of them are just the guys standing around in massive first coats and Timbs pointing at a camera. Originally I was gonna go with God-is’ pick too – I agree that it perfectly captures the moment of black love and celebration the song portrays. But I’m going rogue and shouting out “Goodbye.” This one dropped a couple of months after the Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks, so they guys flipped the visuals from the standard breakup song to a soldier spending his last day with his family before heading off to war. It’s pretty brilliant storytelling and kind of a tearjerker too. When his daughter looks at the giant teddy bear and stares at the window, lawd…
The most underrated Jagged Edge album is…
God-is: Jagged Edge
Jagged Edge (2006) deserved so much more. A strong, sexy opener with “Ghetto Guitar,” the Firm-reminiscent swagger of “So High,” the smooth, seductive “Watch You,” the gorgeous understated piano of “Seasons Change,” the dripping sexy “Baby Feel Me”, and the yearning “Hopefully” all made this album an underrated keeper. This was a strong album that seemed to choose all the wrong singles in “Good Luck Charm,” but despite that, this one always stays in rotation.
I never understood why Hard got the short end of the JE stick. Sure, it’s got the beloved “Walked Outta Heaven,” but this thing is loaded with strong cuts galore – “What’s It Like,” “Visions,” the title track, “I Don’t Wanna,” “In the Morning,” even the admittedly goofy “They Ain’t JE” is pretty fun. This one is much more than its hit single.
And their most underrated album cut is…
God-is: “Can’t Get Right”
“Can’t Get Right” was (IMO) a much better track than “Put a Little Umph In It” and would have served 2007’s Baby Makin’ Project album as a stronger lead single, even with no extra feature. A smooth, sexy track that has JE at their best showing off their vocals and songwriting. Runner ups are “Visions” from 2003’s Hard and “Flow Thru My Veins” from 2011’s The Remedy
Some of JE’s best stuff are their deep album cuts. Shout out to “Girl It’s Over,” “Remedy,” “True Man” and yeah, “Can’t Get Right” too. But “Visions” was a HIT, I’m telling y’all. It’s also one of only two songs that I came up with video treatments for (the other being Justin Timberlake’s “Strawberry Bubblegum – but that’s a convo for another time). I had it all set up – basically the lead brother would wake up, start his day, attempt to holla at his crush, something crazy or embarrassing would happen and when the Brandon (or Brian, who knows) sang “somebody ring the alarm,” an alarm clock would sound, the lead would wake up, roll over in bed and realize it was all a dream. Then he’d start his day all over again, another embarrassing moment would happen, the alarm would sound and he’d wake up AGAIN, and we’d realize THAT was a dream too. But at the end he’d finally make it through the day get together with his dream girl. It’s like a R&B version of Groundhog Day mixed with Inception, and that was long before Inception became a thing! If one song can inspire that much creativity from my brain you know it’s dope.
Does Jagged Edge have any classic albums? And if so, which ones?
God-is: I think as fully cohesive classic albums that will stand the test of time the correct answer is two. J.E. Heartbreak and Jagged Little Thrill. Near perfect albums with all of their best talent on display.
Edd: Y’all know how picky I am about labeling an album a classic, much to Twitter’s chagrin. The only JE album that’s up for debate for me is J.E. Heartbreak and I’m a little on the fence about going all the way for it. One of the best albums of the 2000s? Sure. Most defining album of JE’s career? No doubt. An R&B classic? Ehhhhhh – it’s close and I won’t argue too hard with folks who think it is, but it just misses clearing the bar for me. But here’s the thing with classics – time works in their favor. As its legend grows I could definitely see it reaching that mountaintop someday soon.
Who are you riding with on this one? Did Edd come through or did God-is make the most sense? Declare the winner below.