Is New Edition the Greatest R&B Group of All Time?: Head to Head with Edd

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.

I spent a lot of time celebrating R&B greatest legends, but one group I often get called out for not celebrating enough are Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike, Ralph and Johnny too.

Today is all about New Edition and there’s only one guy fit to debate the highs and lows of these greats – my guy Derrick Dunn of Reviews and Dunn, by far THE biggest New Edition fan I’ve ever met. Check out his site for movie and album review, as well as artist interviews. But before you do, join us as we debate one of R&B’s most renowned groups.

New Edition has plenty of great albums – name their top three LPs

Derrick:

1. Heart Break

2. Home Again

3. New Edition

Heartbreak is a concept album that helped the boys from Boston mature with the additions of D.C. Native Johnny Gill.  Home Again features all six and one of my favorite NE slow cuts. Finally, the self-titled sophomore album, there’s just something special about it. Honorable mention to One Love since it features my third favorite NE slow cut, “Re-Write The Memories.”

Edd:

1. Heart Break

2. Home Again

3. New Edition

I’m pleasantly surprised that we’re on the same page here. No. 1 was never in doubt – Heart Break is one of the best R&B albums of its era, a 5-star release in my book. Before I relistened to all NE’s albums for this post I assumed their self titled would claim the second spot but no, their 1996 comeback was much stronger than I remembered. I guess my annoyance with hit single “Hit Me Off” clouded my memory. Seriously, they played that song TO DEATH. Regardless, both Home Again and New Edition are very strong entries in their catalog.

And we had to go there – what’s their worst album?

Derrick: Under the Blue Moon

A lot of people hate on the One Love album but personally I think the worst album is Under the Blue Moon. The songs are fine but it screams cash grab since they found success with Earth Angel.

Edd: Under the Blue Moon

Agreed once again. One Love isn’t great – way too long and way too cluttered with interchangeable millennium club tracks – but the second half of the album is pretty solid. Under the Blue Moon is the true black (or blue?) sheep of their discography. By no means is it bad, but an album of doo-wop covers feels SO out of place and directionless even today.

Name their best single

Derrick: “If It Isn’t Love”

“If It Isn’t Love” no question. It was the perfect introduction to group’s new sound, while staying true to their earlier work

Edd: “Can You Stand the Rain”

NAY-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! That’s the telltale sign of a classic R&B cut. Johnny Gill added the depth and maturity the revamped version of New Edition needed, producing, in my opinion, their greatest song of all time.

And what’s their worst single?

Derrick: “Hot2Nite”

They don’t have one! j/k. If I had to pick one I’d say “Hot2Nite.” Good song and I understand the market that Diddy was going for but there are stronger songs on the album that should’ve been the lead single, particularly the Jam & Lewis productions.

Edd: “Hot2Nite”

I mean, it’s gotta be “Hot2Nite,” right? This doesn’t even sound like a NE song – which I guess is the point Puff was making in developing this project. But this new sound fit like an ankle bracelet on an elephant. It just wasn’t going to work.

What’s their best video?

Derrick: “Hit Me Off”

While “If It Isn’t Love” is the most well-known primarily due to the choreography, I always loved the reactivated secret agent them of “Hit Me Off”.  New Edition officially reuniting was one of the biggest music stories of the summer 1996, so the concept of the video mirrored the group becoming active in music again.

Edd: “If It Isn’t Love”

Well the SURE PLAYED “Hit Me Off” enough for you to see their secret agent fantasies OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I’m still salty. Derrick’s right, the video was pretty fun (the first 3,000 times I saw it) but it’s still can’t stand up to “If It Isn’t Love.” Such a simple concept led to such iconic visuals.

If you had a chance to rewrite history, which song would you make a single?

Derrick: “How Do You Like Your Love Served”

“How Do You Like Your Love Served” from Home Again. Written by Gerald LeVert it was a sexy slow cut that gave Ricky, Johnny, Ralph to shine vocally. I always felt like this would’ve been a HUGE song for them in concert during the Home Again tour as each member could’ve pulled a lady on stage to serenade.

Edd: “I’m Leaving You Again”

I double and tripled checked this one because I could have sworn “I’m Leaving You Again” WAS a single. And no, 106 & Park kids, I’m not talking about the Bow Wow and Ciara sample. But I guess not. Half the tracks on New Edition’s self-titled album wound up as singles anyway, this one should have made the cut too. It was definitely a hit.

Who is the best vocalist among the six members?

Derrick: Johnny Gill, no question.

Edd: The easiest question in the history of Head to Head, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a massive Johnny stan. Mr Gill wins hands down.

Bell Biv DeVoe is a huge part of the New Edition legacy. Which one of their albums is their best?

Derrick: Poison

31 years later the title track can still pick a dance floor. Furthermore, the ballads “I Do Need You” and “When Will I See You Smile Again?” showed the world that Ricky Bell deserved more leads in the early NE days.

Edd: Poison

OK, full transparency – I’m on record saying that I may be the the only man on planet Earth who is not a fan of this album’s title track. That said, as your Unbiased Music Reviewer ™, I can’t deny how good – and impactful – BBD’s debut album is. As Derrick said, the ballads are tremendous and the overall record is a major factor in the success of New Jack Swing in the early 90s. Credit where it’s due, this album is great.

OK, time for the tough questions. Is or was Bobby Brown ever the King of R&B?

Derrick: That’s a negative, playa. Listen I’m a die-hard fan NE but Bobby himself will tell you that he never claimed that title. Whitney said that at an awards shows and folks ran with it. Bobby always referred to himself as the King of Stage, which was true during his prime.

Edd: I’m glad somebody admitted it! I said a few years back that if Bobby’s the King of R&B then Sisqo deserves to sit on the throne too – they basically had the same career arc! Listen, there’s no denying that when Bobby was hot, he was a FORCE. If you wanna call him the King of late 80s R&B, I’ll buy it. But his reign on the top was short like leprechauns and not nearly enough time to be considered royalty.

Speaking of solo careers, why do you think Ralph Tresvant’s solo career never took off?

Derrick: The New Edition Story delved into this bit. Everything Ralph was going to do music wise on his initial first solo album, Bobby did with Don’t Be Cruel so Ralph had to change it up which caused a delay in releasing his first solo album. By the time he released it music tastes just shifted and it was hard to find a lane for him.

Edd: Simply put, timing is everything and it just wasn’t his time. Like Derrick said, look at Bobby – his image makeover occurred at just the right time. He was ahead of the curve. Meanwhile Ralph always felt like he was playing catchup. It’s just odd because if you asked anyone circa mid 80s who would be the breakout star, most would point to Ralph. Things just never worked in his favor.

If New Edition ever does another album whom do you want them to work with?

Derrick: Jon B. wrote a killer song for them during the Home Again sessions called Hey Girl that I’ve been trying to find for years. But currently I would love to see what Bruno Mars , Babyface and Ne-Yo would cook up for them.

Edd: Great question. At this point in their careers I wouldn’t want to hear them attempt to go trendy like the One Love era. NO TRAP TRACKS, PLEASE. Their best bet would be hooking up with the Troy Taylors of the world, someone who can provide an updated version of their iconic sound. That way, Day One fans don’t feel abandoned and younger fans won’t feel like the old heads are pandering to them. Everybody wins.

Is New Edition the best R&B group of all time?

Derrick: Despite what they accomplished (all the members go solo and have some success) NE was molded after The Temptations and The Jackson Five. While I play NE more than the forefathers, I can’t downplay the legacy of those who came before NE.

Edd: After the BET biopic this became a hot topic on the Innanets. I need to get BET to whip up a Keith Sweat biopic next since y’all are so quick to give crowns to people in miniseries. Derrick’s right – New Edition is one of the most accomplished R&B groups of all time. I’d call them the best group of the 80s for sure, and, despite large career gaps, still a force in the 90s. Their influence continues to run deep today. But of all time? Nah, not when the Jackson Fives, Four Tops and Temptations walked so they could run. That doesn’t lessen their impact though, NE had a major hand in shaping modern R&B.

So who did you most agree with, NE OG Derrick or Mr. Soul In Stereo? Let us know and share your picks in the comments below.

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5 Comments

  1. Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill released a song called ‘All Mine’ not too long ago. If the group ever gets together again, that’s the kind of sound I’d like to hear. That coupled with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis of course.

  2. Love the article. Both viewpoints were similar and very good. I love NE and have been a fan since 1983. I was 10. I have loved then ever since. #NEFan4Life

  3. Im comin home should have been a single release with a video. I think it wouldve been huge

  4. As a life long NE fan, I’ve loved the traditions they’ve made. All albums were great. I especially love the ones that include Johnny and all 6 members. I think there was a great deal of success from all members individually as well but hands down Bobby and Johnny knocked the cover off with their projects. I think Bobby is the best. His unique sound takes you all over the place musically and I hope that he does more solo music. The same I can say for Johnny, I still play his music on a regular. I’d like to see NE do more music and stay relevant, they have the talent. Over all I think NE has a place in music for years to come. Listen to all of Bobby’s music, there is some great talent there…

  5. This was a dope Head-To-Head & I do think they are the greatest R&B group of all time due to their impact on music, fashion, & overall urban culture swag. They should also get credit for being the only group in music HISTORY to go platinum as a group, break into solo acts where EACH ENTITY went platinum, then come BACK together & go platinum as a group AGAIN!! Nobody has done that…not The Beatles, The Eagles, The Temps, Jacksons, Isleys, En Vogue, or even Destiny’s Child…nobody. They should get their flowers…they TRULY deserve ’em. And I’d love to see them work with Jam & Lewis, Troy Taylor, & Pharrell…that would be an awesome project to solidify their legacy.

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