New Edition is my favorite singing group of all time. I grew up idolizing these fellas, wishing I was a member of the group. Many hours at home were spent practicing their dance moves while watching their music videos on TV. Made up of Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivens, and Ronnie Devoe,
CANDY GIRL is their first album, released in 1983 on Streetwise Records, and mostly produced by Maurice Starr, their manager at the time, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the songs. Starr was clearly going for an updated, modernized Jackson Five sound with the group, and he largely succeeded. The lyrics, beats, and melodies are rather simplistic, but catchy, and showcase the young members’ (who were only 14 and 15 at the time) impressive vocal range. The album contains 10 songs, I’ll start with the 4 that were released as singles.
CANDY GIRL the song for which they are probably still most well known. This had “Jackson Five” written all over it. It’s about lead singer Ralph telling his girl how wonderful she is. And then there’s a break in the middle, which each of the other guys raps about his girl, too. The song is just really fun to listen to.
POPCORN LOVE is another uptempo track in the same vein as Candy Girl. Ralph sings about his girl and their relationship, which some think is just puppy (ie Popcorn) love, but he feels that it’s real (“They say it’s popcorn love, but it’s more than that to me/Popcorn love, just wait, they will see”). Hey, didn’t we all feel that way about our first loves as teenagers
IS THIS THE END is a sweat ballad, singing about heartbreak and getting dumped. Ricky Bell joins Tresvant as co-leader singer on this one (“Mama told me one day it was gonna happen, but she never told me when/She told me it would happen when I was much older, wish it would have happened then”). Very nice.
JEALOUS GIRL is another ballad, this time song by Bobby Brown in the lead, with a great theme. This time it’s about an ex who didn’t appreciate him when they were together (“When I loved you, you didn’t love me/Our love had no unity/All You ever told me were lies, it’s my girl I know you despise”)
Then there are the album cuts. GIMME YOUR LOVE, SHE GIVES ME A BANG, OOH BABY, SHOULD HAVE NEVER TOLD ME, and GOT TO HAVE YOUR LOVIN’, which are all uptempo tracks in the same vein as Candy Girl and Popcorn love, with the lads singing about girls. The songs are all decent but, truthfully, none of them really stand out. They all sound as if they were written specifically to capitalize on the success of the first single. Still, the talent of the boys shines through, with their impressive vocals. There’s also a “rap” song called PASS THE BEAT, beginning what would become a trend on the next few New Edition albums, where they would have their one rap song on it. Although the music on that song seems to be going for an early Afrika Bambaataa vibe, the boys don’t exactly break any boundaries here.
So while the relative weakness of the album cuts brings the album down a bit, the strength of the 4 singles makes the album worth listening to on their own. Overall I’d grade this album:
The album Candy Girl is available on iTunes.