If there’s one thing that every true music lover can agree upon—regardless of the tons and tons of beliefs and ideas we can’t—it’s that 80s and 90s R&B will almost certainly get you caught up in your feelings. Deep feelings at that. The kind you might not have ever known you had until you open Spotify and turn on New Edition’s “Can You Stand The Rain” or “I’m Still In Love With You.” Or what about when you have to set the mood prior to a night of Netflix and Chill and you turn on Johnny Gill’s “My, My My” or Bobby Brown’s “Rock Wit’chu”? See what we’re getting at here?
In arguably one of the most lit weeks of in black music this year, we were blessed with the long awaited and critically acclaimed New Edition biopic The New Edition Story, which aired on Jan. 24, 25 and 26 with three phenomenal episodes. Not only that, but the legendary spin-off group Bell Biv Devoe has returned with their brand new album, Three Stripes. With the release of the three-part film, fans from Gen X to Millennials alike have been reminded (and some discovering) not only how important the infamous R&B group was to music, but also how pivotal they are to one’s love life. Over time, they’ve provided the soundtrack to all of its complex, heartwarming, heart-wrenching emotions.
For over 30 years, New Edition has been dropping hit after hit, even when they were divided, and has grown to become one of the greatest and most influential R&B groups of all time next to The Jackson 5. When one takes a moment to reflect and analyze the group, you have to put this into perspective. They have produced one of the most successful, prolific and infamous R&B stars of all time in Bobby Brown, the groundbreaking R&B and hip-hop producer/CEO that is Michael Bivins, one of the most selfless and underrated solo vocalists in Ralph Tresvant, an unsung lead vocalist in Ricky Bell, a top-five-dead-or-alive R&B legend and the most consistent member in Johnny Gill, and perhaps one of the most important members who held the group together in Ronnie Devoe.
Together, N.E. has inspired an entire generation of the greatest and most popular bands and singers who came after them including Boyz II Men, New Kids On the Block, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, Usher and countless others. Although each of them stand out in their own ways, it could be argued than the majority of R&B singers and groups after a certain time period carries the majority of their significant traits, including their dynamic performance styles, precision, having more than one capable lead singer, and most importantly, their unique ability to create some of the most passionate, emotional, sexiest, deepest and most meaningful love songs.
And to prove it, we’ve prepared a definitive list of 30 of the most romantic and heartfelt New Edition songs of all time. You know, the ones that will almost certainly make you feel some kind of way. Hold that special someone close as we go through the records that define what love is all about, featuring classics and slept on cuts from N.E., Bell Biv Devoe and solo catalogs of Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill and Ricky Bell. So grab some wine, turn off your Netflix and prepare to fall deep in those feelings.
New Edition: “Can You Stand The Rain” (1988)
As arguably one of the most powerful love ballads in R&B history, “Can You Stand The Rain” is one of their most important songs in their history. Not only did it help their 1988 classic, Heartbreak, become double-platinum, but it aided them in their evolution into a much more mature sounding group in the midst of the departure and ascension of on again/off again member Bobby Brown. The newcomer Johnny Gill sets the tone with his dominating and smooth baritone singing while having perfect chemistry with lead singer Ralph Tresvant and Ricky Bell’s vocals. The reinvigorated New Edition sings so powerfully that whoever can’t feel this classic in their soul doesn’t seem to have one.
Ralph Tresvant: “Sensitivity” (1990)
On his self-titled debut album, Ralph proves he’s not the only one who can carry a solo project by himself. He kicks it off with the New Jack Swing hit, “Sensitivity,” a song where he convinces women everywhere that they need a man who not only loves and honors them, but is also kind and understanding. A sensitive type, exactly like Ralph in every way that he masterfully translates into not only the lead single, but the entire album.
Bobby Brown: “Rock Wit’cha” (1988)
From his breakout sophomore album, Don’t Be Cruel, Bobby Brown gives us one of his finest love making anthems with “Rock Wit’cha,” where he gets quite sensual and steamy for one of his most passionate performances in his catalog. It’s one that was likely responsible for children born in ’88 and ’89. Don’t sleep on the sensational visuals behind “Rock Wit’cha” either, as it fully captures The King of R&B’s magnetic charisma and sex appeal as he awaits a young “tenderoni” (we’ll get to that one later) for a night of passion. The song and the video set the mood for moments more special than Netflix and Chill.
Ricky Bell: “Come Back” (2000)
For the uninitiated or the casual New Edition fan, this one is a song you might be sleeping on as many may have not been aware that Ricky Bell, one of the more underrated members of the crew, made his Ricardo Compana album in 2000. Bell smoothly reminisces over an ex and attempts to get her back. While “Come Back” may not have been as iconic as other songs from his N.E. brethren, it’s certainly a standout that will strike a nerve.
New Edition: “Is This the End” (1983)
If there’s one skill that Ralph Tresvant has perfected over the years, it’s his ability to convey deep emotions in his music whether he is singing about love or heartbreak. On “Is It The End,” he really channels that heart-wrenching feeling of dealing with a breakup with his harrowing vocals on the chorus, even at such a young age that’s almost cathartic. It would be something he would eventually carry over to New Edition and his own music as the group progressed. Grab your tissues.
Bell Biv Devoe: “I Do Need You” (1990)
As much as Bell Biv Devoe further embraced hip-hop during the New Jack Swing era, the trio never abandoned their core R&B roots. The Poison album gave fans many sensual and sexy moments, and one of their most passionate of these is the underrated love ballad, “I Do Need You.” With Ricky Bell’s powerful vocals topped off with some well executed jazz melodies, the track is almost mandatory if you’re making that ultimate 90s R&B playlist.
New Edition: “Whispers In Bed” (1985)
“Whispers In Bed” is a classic New Edition record epitomizing that old school teenage love cheesiness that us millennials can’t get enough of. As a matter of fact, what love struck millennial doesn’t enjoy doing what Ralph Tresvant sings about with lines like, “Girl, every night when I’m home/And I’m sittin’ around on my bed/And I pick up the phone and I dial your number/I always have these images of you/Running around inside my head.” If you’ve never been in love before, you couldn’t possibly relate.
New Edition: “I’m Still In Love With You” (1997)
After several years of solo success in the 90s, the band came back together for a needed homecoming as they give us another one of their classic love ballads, “I’m Still In Love With You.” Despite the late 90s being one of their most tumultuous times in their career, their group chemistry was still very present with all six members together for the very first time. The track is brimming with sincere emotion, from the lyrics right on up to the group’s performance. Here, they plead for forgiveness and attempt to convince that special person that they’re still the same person, and hope that no one will come between them despite taking her for granted. This in turn creates one of their finest performances of all time.
Bobby Brown: “Roni” (1989)
This passionate ode to the good girls rocked the world and dominated radio in the late 80s and early 90s. L.A. Reid and Babyface, the men who defined 80s and 90s R&B, brought out the best of Bobby’s charm and charisma that gushes all over “Roni.” Add his spirited performance to the mix and you have a recipe to one of his greatest records of all time. Fellas, if you have a good girl in your life, hold her close as you listen to this song.
Bell Biv Devoe: “When Will I See You Smile Again” (1990)
Bell Biv Devoe takes it back to their New Edition roots with A standout from the Poison album, “When Will I See You Smile Again,” that stands in sharp contrast to its lively tone. If anything, it is one of their best “please forgive me” songs out of their catalog due to its crisp melodies and Ricky Bell pouring his heart out in his lead vocals. One listen will instantly remind listeners why they should never take their significant other for granted.
New Edition: “You’re Not My Kind Of Girl” (1988)
The “new and improved” New Edition of 1988 gives us one of their more unique love records, “You’re Not My Kind Of Girl,” written by the legendary Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The cleverly written song describes what it’s like to meet that one woman who’s practically flawless in every way, but fail to develop any chemistry. Play this jam if you ever want to let a significant other go, but kindly.
Johnny Gill: “There U Go” (1992)
It should go without saying that Johnny Gill as a solo artist is one of the undisputed kings of the slow jam and a true pillar of what 90s R&B was all about. He proves this easily with the sensual “There U Go” from the Boomerang soundtrack as it sets the mood for a night of romance and passion.
Bobby Brown: “Every Little Step” (1988)
While New Edition was forging a new path with Johnny Gill, Bobby Brown (with the help of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) was becoming a trailblazer in his own right with Don’t Be Cruel. The upbeat melody,“Every Little Step” was not only a sincere ode to love and loyalty, but a track that helped propel him into stardom. While the pace and tempo don’t come off as traditionally romantic as his other classics, the romance lies in its lyrics as he pledges nothing but love and undying loyalty (to Whitney perhaps?) in its ever so catchy hook. With songs like “Every Little Step,” its no wonder why Don’t Be Cruel went on to sell over seven million copies.
Bell Biv Devoe: “Something In Your Eyes” (1993)
“Something In Your Eyes” has to go down as one of Bell Biv Devoe’s most underrated slow jams in their catalog, possibly due to the commercial failure of their second album, Hootie Mack. The Babyface-penned track seemingly contains more of the legendary producer/songwriter/singer’s essence than BBD’s, but it doesn’t compromise the quality and effectiveness of “Something In Your Eyes.” It’s sexy, of course, so what else could one expect?
New Edition: “Count Me Out” (1985)
In the midst of New Edition’s transitional period, when they were not only changing as a group but also maturing into older teenagers, the group was responsible for some of the cheesiest (and sometimes cringe-worthy) tracks in R&B. Between 1985 and 1988, they were still trying to maintain a squeaky clean bubblegum pop image. “Count Me Out,” as cheesy as it is, is a solid tune about simply staying faithful to the person you love. Although a lot of the lyrics were a bit corny, it’s the cute kind of corny that spells out how much you really love your significant other. Insert heart emojis.
Johnny Gill: “I’m Still Waiting” (1991)
If you take a look at Johnny Gill’s singles discography, he’s maintained a consistent string of top-notch soundtrack appearances in the early 90s. “I’m Still Waiting” from the New Jack City soundtrack was one of his finest hours along with the well thought out visuals to match. When it comes to slow jams, he does everything right, from the singing to how effectively it sets the mood. Its brief appearance when Nino was in bed with the woman of G-Money is prime evidence.
Ralph Tresvant: “Love Hurts (1990)”
It can be debated that Ralph Tresvant’s effortless ability to translate his vulnerability into classic records was one of the key elements that made New Edition such a legendary boy band. Just like how he can spike a song with an upbeat vibe like “Sensitivity,” he can turn it into a solid heartbreak anthem like “Love Hurts.” With its deep lyrics and captivating performance, it’s a surefire track to listen to if you’re getting over that painful breakup… or if you have no bae and you’re looking like the Jordan crying face meme on the wrong day.
New Edition: “How Do You Like Your Love Served” (1997)
Another gem from their Home Again album, New Edition comes with some vocal heat and clever songwriting on “How Do You Like Your Love Served.” Johnny Gill’s soulful baritone steals the spotlight, and its dominance gives the song a passionate punch. But never ones to be out-shined, Ralph and Ricky come around to inject the sensual and soft vibes to make this one of their most seductive love songs.
Johnny Gill: “My, My, My (1990)”
Johnny Gill’s most famous hit record, “My, My, My,” is a slow jam that everyone and their mother (and fathers for that matter) should have on their 90s playlists. It certainly helped define the softer side of the New Jack Swing era of the early 90s. Gill crafted one of the most iconic slow jams with his trademark sensuality and deep range. And don’t forget about its simple and catchy hook either, not that could if you wanted to.
Ralph Tresvant: “Your Touch (1994)”
While the sophomore jinx hit New Edition, including Ralph Tresvant, pretty hard, it didn’t quite stop him from making quality music. The vibe of “Your Touch” has a similar late night softness that matches (but certainly does not rip off) Keith Sweat’s “There You Go Telling Me No Again” but it’s so much deeper than that. The melody combined with Ralph’s soft vocals gives us an alluring and hypnotic tune that makes this one of his most seductive efforts. It’s an underrated gem than all newbie New Edition fans should get up on immediately.
New Edition: “Dream Girl (2004)”
As New Edition’s first attempt to transition into the new millennium, the group came back to the forefront with their Bad Boy helmed album, One Love. While it’s debatable as to whether or not the album was up to par with their 80s and 90s work, one jam that always stood out (depending on whether or not you have the Japanese version) is the Ryan Leslie and P. Diddy-produced banger, “Dream Girl.” “Dream Girl” represents the best of everything you love about about New Edition, sans Bobby Brown, and repackages it with a 21st century swagger.
New Edition: “Lost In Love” (1984)
If there’s any New Edition song from their extensive discography that demonstrates that feeling of having a deep infatuation with someone, it’s their 1985 love ballad, “Lost In Love.” With its dreamy aura and signature 1980s synth groove, the song encapsulates the essence of what its like to be carefree, young and have that #WCW or #MCM you’ve been longing for. Ralph Tresvant signs, seals and delivers on his lead vocals, further pushing that vibe of being young, dumb, carelessly in love.
Johnny Gill: “Let’s Get The Mood Right” (1996)
In case anyone you know needs convincing about why Johnny Gill is arguably the king of bedroom music—even among Bobby, Ralph and BBD—play his classic lover’s anthem, “Let’s Get The Mood Right.” By the way he approaches it, even in the video, he does just that. But be warned: This isn’t side piece music. Gill made this magnificent tune strictly for the couples, as the maximum enjoyment of it would be much more appreciated in that context. Especially for those “empire-building” couples who work so hard and haven’t had an intimate moment in quite a while. Turn this classic on and this will most definitely set the mood to save your relationship.
Bobby Brown: “My Place” (1997)
Despite the mixed criticism that Bobby Brown’s Forever garnered, there were some hidden romantic cuts that should still be appreciated by New Edition and R&B fans alike. Bobby’s “My Place” is a sensual and seductive tune showcasing his passionate vocals, despite being a bit rusty at the time.
New Edition: “Mr. Telephone Man” (1984)
What’s a New Edition list without the all-time R&B classic, “Mr. Telephone Man”? C’mon now, this is passionate, adorable bubblegum romance at its finest. “Mr. Telephone Man” epitomizes everything that many N.E. fans loved about the boy band in the early 80s and that’s their ability to sing with rich and crisp harmonies with original songwriting and cheesy, but fun production. All of which combined is what makes not just “Mr. Telephone Man,” but their self-titled second album the classic that it is.