Feuds, rip-offs, breakups, reunions, even onstage intra-band fistfights—legendary boy band New Edition has dealt with all of it and more throughout the group’s storied career.
Emerging from the Orchard Park projects of Boston, the childhood friends quickly rose from local heroes to international superstars in 1983, with a series of instantly classic singles and sold-out concerts in their wake.
Even as bad deals and internal turmoil shadowed the group from the moment each member was infamously paid $1.87 after New Edition’s first cross-country tour, the songs have stood the test of time. The music still sparkles with the talent and energy of those five kids from Boston: Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins (Johnny Gill, who joined the group after Brown was voted out in 1986, is from Washington, D.C.).
With the highly-anticipated three-night BET mini-series, The New Edition Story, set to launch on January 24 at 9/8C, interest in the groundbreaking boy-band pioneers is at an all-time high. Stoked by the premiere of the mini-series trailer during last year’s BET Awards, old-school fans and a new generation just now discovering the band are delving into New Edition’s vast discography and seemingly bottomless well of hits accrued since they first rose to prominence in the early 1980s.
Revisiting the band’s videography is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, revealing how New Edition grew and changed through time. From the cavalcade of ‘80s and ‘90s fashions to the evolution of the group’s sound thanks to working with some of music’s biggest and best producers, it’s clear to see just how much the outfit has influenced pop, R&B and hip-hop over the years and still stands today.
“Candy Girl” (1983)
This is New Edition in its purest form. Already local legends, the group’s debut single was an immediate smash hit, brimming with a youthful exuberance that drew comparisons to the Jackson 5. While it only peaked at No. 46 on the Hot 100 in America, the song topped the U.S. R&B and U.K. singles charts, establishing the group as an international sensation. “We didn’t have any budget to make our first video, so we had to go home and get our own clothes,” Ralph Tresvant remembered. “Those are our school clothes we’re wearing.”
“Popcorn Love” (1983)
In a clear case of if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it, New Edition’s second music video is a lot like the group’s first one. With an emphasis on the quintet’s infectious melodies and loose-limbed dance choreography, the clip ups the ante with some very ‘80s video effects. While it didn’t repeat the success of New Edition’s earlier singles, only climbing to No. 8 on the Billboard R&B chart, it cemented the band’s upbeat bubblegum sound.
“She Gives Me A Bang” (1984)
Never released as a single, the video for this heavily electro-influenced fan favorite (complete with early ‘80s breakdancing fashion sense) came about in order to take advantage of having the guys in front of a camera crew while capturing footage for the “Popcorn Love” clip. “We shot ‘Popcorn Love’ and ‘She Gives Me a Bang’ the same day in London, while we’re on a promotional tour,” Tresvant revealed. “We shot ‘Cool It Now’ and ‘Mr. Telephone Man’ on the same day, too.”
“Cool It Now” (1984)
After an acrimonious split with the group’s original manager and producer, Maurice Starr, and his Streetwise label, the first single from New Edition’s eponymous second album was a runaway success. The song soared to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot Black Singles chart. The clip features a neighborhood basketball motif, the band warning Ralph Tresvant to “cool it now” with a comely young lady who’s caught his eye. The song came to be after producers Vincent Brantley and Rick Timas cornered MCA label president at a Los Angeles fried chicken restaurant to play him the demo.
‘My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)” (1985)
Following up on the basketball theme of the “Cool It Now” video, this clip for the last single from the New Edition album took it to the professional level. Following shots of the group handing out balloons to kids on the street and having milkshakes with pretty girls, they take everyone to a Los Angeles Lakers NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers during the “Showtime” era. With shots in and around the Los Angeles Forum, coach Pat Riley and Lakers legend Magic Johnson play heavily in the video, calling Ralph Tresvant down from the stands to score the winning bucket.
“If It Isn’t Love” (1988)
With Bobby Brown out of the group and Johnny Gill in as the newest member, New Edition was moving out of their teen-dream phase into full-grown men. The retooled outfit’s fifth studio album, Heartbreak, was helmed by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, fresh off crafting Janet Jackson’s breakout full-length, Control. Their signature sound is all over “If It Isn’t Love,” including metallic percussion and sweeping orchestral samples. The dramatic video features the group in a rehearsal studio preparing to go on tour under the watchful eye of manager Brooke Payne. The song was a huge hit, soaring to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, garnering a Grammy nomination. It would peak at No. 2 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, blocked from the top spot by former member Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel.”
“You’re Not My Kind of Girl” (1988)
This video picks up where previous single, “If It Isn’t Love,” left off, following New Edition from the rehearsal studio to a sold-out concert stage. Dressed in matching white military-style suits (complete with white gloves), the group cruises through the lush Jam/Lewis production, nailing the classic choreography. While the song barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 95, it sailed to No. 3 on R&B chart.
“Can You Stand the Rain” (1988)
The group’s third single from the Heartbreak album was another hit, this time in the form of a warm and melodic ballad showcasing the stellar vocals that made New Edition superstars. The video opens with a newspaper headline asking if the group has “lost it” before segueing into shots of the guys performing the song on a soundstage. Soaring to the top of the top of Billboard’s Hot R&B singles chart, it somehow only reached No. 44 on the Hot 100, despite constant pop radio play.
“N.E. Heartbreak” (1989)
The fifth and final single from Heartbreak was something of a victory lap, with a star-studded video featuring New Edition hanging out with some of their famous friends. The clips starts with the band taking a break from working out after answering a call from actor Malcolm Jamal Warner of The Cosby Show, who also served as the video’s director. Shots of the guys cruising around town on mopeds are interspersed with images from a big house party, which we discover is a surprise for New Edition. Movie director Robert Townsend has a cameo as a limo driver, with appearances from other notables including Heavy D and the Boys and Shanice Wilson.
“Hit Me Off” (1996)
A lot happened between Heartbreak and Home Again, New Edition’s first album in eight years. Mostly notably, it marked the return of original member Bobby Brown, making the group a sextet for the first time in its history. The album’s first single, “Hit Me Off,” came with an elaborate music video depicting the CIA calling in New Edition to fight off a female criminal crew called “ULTRA,” who end up being seduced by the group—but only after a series of elaborate fight scenes, of course. The song was another hit for New Edition, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spending three weeks at No. 1 on the R&B singles chart.
“I’m Still in Love with You” (1996)
New Edition backed it on down on the second single from the hit album, Home Again, with this smooth ballad. The video was shot at the plush Villa Vizcaya in Miami, with the band members declaring their undying love for the women in their lives throughout the clip. There are images of the buys taking a cruise on a boat appropriately named the “S.S. Candygirl.” Yet another hit under the New Edition belt, it climbed to No. 7 on the Hot 100.
“One More Day” (1997)
New Edition closed out the singles campaign from Home Again with this mid-tempo ballad featuring Ricky Bell on lead vocals. The video is a showcase for Bell, following him as he longs after love while watching couples on romantic dates around the city. He finally gets to have his own romantic moment going skydiving with the object of his affections. Things weren’t quite as harmonious for the group on the Home Again tour, which imploded when Ronnie DeVoe and Bobby Brown got into a full-blown fistfight onstage when Brown tried to extend his solo set during a concert. Brown and Michael Bivins would leave the tour, resulting in New Edition performing the remaining dates as a quartet.
“Hot 2Nite” (2004)
It would take seven years for New Edition to return with this single, the group’s first under the tutelage of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and the Bad Boy record label. Back to a quintet after the second departure of Bobby Brown, “Hot 2Nite” and the album it comes from, One Love, was the result of much turmoil between the band and Combs as the two sides battled over the band’s creative direction. This steamy club track boasts a video by famed director Hype Williams, with the band performing slick backlit choreography amidst beautiful women and random fiery explosions.