Fire and Water Records: New Edition Family Tree

You wanna bust a move on the dance floor, or make sweet love by the fire? Either way, the Brothers Daly got your back. (Okay, not so much the making love part, relax, just listen.) On this episode of Fire and Water Records, Neil and Ryan travel back to the early pre-grunge '90s to talk about New Edition and the many chart-topping, new-jack-swinging branches of the boy band's family tree. From Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe, to Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill, to the next generation of Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men, the sexy slow jams and dance club remix tracks of New Edition's members produced some of the freshest, funkiest beats of that or any era.

Listen to the FWR New Edition playlist on Spotify.

Track list

  1. "Rock Wit'cha" by Bobby Brown
  2. "Candy Girl" by New Edition
  3. "Is This the End?" by New Edition
  4. "Humpin' Around" by Bobby Brown
  5. "Poison" by Bell Big DeVoe
  6. "If It Isn't Love" by New Edition
  7. "Yo Baby Yo" by Ralph Tresvant
  8. "Sensitivity" by Ralph Tresvant
  9. "Spydermann" by Another Bad Creation
  10. "Wrap My Body Tight" by Johnny Gill
  11. "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men
  12. "Hit Me Off" by New Edition
  13. "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown
  14. "Word to the Mutha" by Bell Biv DeVoe

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9 responses to “Fire and Water Records: New Edition Family Tree

  1. Some of these songs I have not heard since they were hits! You just don’t hear these anymore. Around this time period I was into heavy metal (Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Scorpions etc) and what would become classic rock. I didn’t listen to anything else at the time. But I ended up working in Top 40 radio when these songs were popular and I learned to appreciate the current hits of the time so my musical knowledge and tastes expanded. Ended up seeing Bell Biv DeVoe and Boys II Men in concert.

  2. Whether it was because of their young age, my growing up in a market with a significant black community, or simply their overwhelming success, I was familiar with New Edition right from “Candy Girl.” Since their early stuff was so clean cut and doo-wop indebted, it was immediately acceptable to broad audiences, especially ones familiar with the oldies they were influenced by. I don’t recall hearing anything else from the 1983 debut that year, but they confirmed that they weren’t one hit wonders when “Cool It Now” blew up the following year. The one that really stuck with me though was “Mr. Telephone Man,” which I remember playing over the speaker system at Pasadena Town Square Mall. I liked messing around with the freestanding payphones near the food court. Something about the weight of the receiver and fingering the sweep of the change return (where I’d score the occasional abandoned quarter.) The association was obvious, and the song would get stuck in my head. “Count Me Out” also did great, but I think the act was getting stale by 1985. I mean, it’s basically a rewrite of “Cool It Now,” right? I don’t even remember “Earth Angel” being in The Karate Kid, Part II, and what kind of losers would record that as a single with a couple years of Back to the Future‘s release?

    It felt like New Edition completely fell off after the covers album. I don’t think I heard “If It Isn’t Love” when it was first out, but it stayed on radio for a few years until I caught up with it. What a huge leap into a contemporary sound, and an enormous improvement on past choreography! That’s all they had to go up against their departed member, but it was a valiant effort in the face of an onslaught of an album.

    I remember seeing a cassette single of “Don’t Be Cruel” at a discount store in 1989 and wondering if it featured an Elvis Presley cover. I ended up buying a copy of Fine Young Cannibals’ The Raw & the Cooked instead. I did eventually remember the tune of the Bobby Brown song, and it’s solid enough, but never a favorite of mine. “My Prerogative” hit a lot harder with the funky sax, although I wasn’t aware of the New Edition drama, and I’m not even sure when the connection was made for me between the two acts. Although I’d seen several New Edition videos once or twice, it wasn’t enough that I’d be able to recognize any of the members. “Roni” got airplay, but I successfully forgot it existed for about 31 years.

    The huge one for me was “Every Little Step.” The girls were always f.i.n.e.a.f. in Bobby Brown videos, but their strut here was especially fierce. The giant letters in the all white space is hugely iconic. While the choreography isn’t as strong as in other videos, Brown’s loose, raunchy style and personality is more continuously on display. The wedge haircut was reaching proto-Kid excess. He was a scrawny kid with bad teeth and not particularly handsome, but you could see how his attitude was enough to score. But as much as I dug that one, the absolute peak was “On Our Own,” the best thing to ever come out of the Ghostbusters franchise. That is my “get out of the way, I’m here to handle this” theme. It pumps me up so much, I don’t even mind that he’s rapping about Vigo the Carpathian and proton packs. Ugh.

    I’ll just leave this here. Yes, it features Donald Trump.

    I didn’t have any use for Bobby Brown after 1989. Shrug at “Rock Wit’cha” and it’s stupid chorus. He ruined Whitney Houston. “Humpin’ Around” is simultaneously too crude and too tame. “Good Enough” wasn’t.

    In what universe is Ralph Tresvant better loved than Johnny Gill? He had one US Billboard Hot R&B Single #1 that I forgot existed. Johnny Gill had a R&B #1 album with three of its own #1 Billboard Hot R&B Singles, one of which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 overall. Plus his next two albums went gold, but that doesn’t matter, because he released the best number of the entire New Edition family tree, “Rub You the Right Way.” This. Is. THE. Jam! It’s a straight smoke show of seduction in a banger of a dance hit. Even my (formerly) narrow white ass can’t help but move to this.

    “Poison” and “Do Me!” were killer tracks that announced the arrival of Bell Biv DeVoe from the ashes of New Edition… and then they went back to wallowing in those those ashes wearing sequined suits. They could have been a strong rap/R&B hybrid act, but they didn’t have the pipes to croon.

    The Boyz II Men connection feels tenuous. I liked their first few singles, but they got awful treacly awful quick. “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” was ruined by its swift and egregious usage in Lethal Weapon 3. I feel like all their songs have a subliminal They Live messaging to the tune of “I’ll Make Ads for You.”

    You’re either an Another Bad Creation guy or a Kris Kross dude, and I’m a “doesn’t like gradeschoolers aggressively thrusting their crotch” person.

  3. I don’t really know a lot about this music, but I loved the podcast. Great job again boys, I need to make a playlist of about 15 of the best song from this era.

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