About New Edition
The modern ideal of the boy band would look very different if impresario Maurice Starr hadn’t taken a group of young men from Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood under his wing in the early ’80s. Childhood friends Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Bobby Brown, with the help of choreographer Brooke Payne, started a singing group in 1978; they caught Starr’s eye after they brought in vocalist Ralph Tresvant, and when Starr added Ronnie DeVoe, New Edition took shape. The group’s hybrid of doo-wop harmonies and electro beats, which Starr dubbed “’80s black bubblegum music,” made their 1983 debut, Candy Girl, an R&B smash; the next year, their self-titled album spawned their first pop crossover hits, the peppy “Cool It Now” and the winsome “Mr. Telephone Man.” Brown went solo in 1985; the remaining quartet released a doo-wop covers album the following year. In 1987, Washington, D.C.-born soul singer Johnny Gill joined, and the next year’s Heart Break represented the dawning of New Edition’s “man band” era, during which they combined their silky harmonies with the hip-hop-edged sounds of new jack swing on the punchy “If It Isn’t Love” and the brooding “Can You Stand the Rain.” In the ensuing years, all of New Edition's members, including Brown, experienced success, with Brown, Gill, and Tresvant flying solo and the remaining three leaning into new jack swing’s harder edges with Bell Biv DeVoe. All six reunited for 1996’s Home Again, which incorporated more hip-hop swagger into the group’s sound, but tensions led to Brown departing again before the recording of 2004’s One Love. Since then, they have reunited in various forms on awards shows and at music festivals, and their twin legacies as teen-idol pioneers and R&B hitmakers continue to loom large.