Released in 1988, this album was the first to feature Johnny Gill, who had joined the group to replace Bobby Brown as secondary lead singer, and was primarily produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who help the group foster a more mature sound, while maintaining the smooth R&B/Pop harmonies that originally launched them to fame. In many ways, this album feels like a grown-up version of their 2nd album NEW EDITION, you can see the direct links in songs like the lead single IF IT ISN’T LOVE, which has a retro feel, while remaining modern, a sequel to Cool It Now, if you will. Once again Ralph sings lead, but this time he’s the one questioning his feelings for a woman. And they even had the prerequisite rap song in the title track, & 5th single, N.E. HEARTBREAK, where, like in Kinda Girls We Like, they rap about the pressures of fame, and the difficulty finding a relationship while you’re on the road performer. It’s very cleaver. The 2nd single YOU’RE NOT MY KIND OF GIRL makes good use of Ralph’s falsetto vocals, which are just as strong as ever, while heavily emphasizing Johnny’s voice in the background. And then Gill takes the main lead in the 3rd single CAN YOU STAND THE RAIN? a powerful and thoughtful ballad, which proves that his addition to the group was a wise choice. The 4th single from this album was CRUCIAL, another very strong uptempo track, with Ralph back in the lead.
Of the remaining album cuts, there’s:
THAT’S THE WAY WE’RE LIVING, an uptempo dance track, where the members of the group take turns singing lead.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED a pretty cool song about the history of the group, and all the other young Black vocal groups that had sprouted up in the industry around the time.
SUPERLADY a smooth R&B song, that the five members wrote together.
COMPETITION, a mellow song about a couple competing against each other in their relationship, written by Ralph.
And two more ballads, I’M COMING HOME, and BOYS TO MEN (which inspired a certain singing group).
New Edition had grown up, and with this album, so had their music. GRADE: