From Boys to Men: The Impact of New Edition

New Edition: From Boys to Men Legends Men


Throughout the evolution of African American music there is one trend that remains present. The performance of Black music in groups. Whether it was folk music, where African Americans would participate in call and response for work songs to address their problems and pain, or Jubilee Quartets that had the ability to bring a secular feel to traditional religious music by creating instrumental like sounds with their mouths, group performances reoccur through genres and remain a popular choice for commercialized music. Using scholarly articles that critically examine the evolution of group performances throughout the history of African American music and genres, and the history of R&B group New Edition, I have attempted to analyze the impact New Edition has had on R&B groups that followed. New Edition creating a mix between hip hop and r&b allowed them to become one of the most influential boy bands of their time. Their legacy has paved the way for boy artists who followed.

Where It All Started: Meet New Edition

Eager to start their career in music, one night the boys found Ronnie Devoe uncle Brooke Payne who helped developed the boys into the artists and group they wanted to be. It was him that decided to add Ronnie Devoe, his nephew, into the group. At one the the talent shows the boys performed at, although they did not win, they were spotted by a local producer and songwriter, Maurice Starr. Before signing the group he suggested that Ralph Tresvants voice was strong enough to go solo however, ralph declined and said he would only sign if they got deals too. Maurice Starr signed them to his independent Streetwise Records label. The boys were given  the name New Edition to signify that they were a new edition of boy groups before them such as the Jackson 5 and Temptations. Under Streetwise, New Edition released their debut album, Candy Girl, in 1983. The album was successful and included hit singles such as “Popcorn Love” and “Is This the End”.

Ralph Tresvant

Ralph Tresvant was born on May 16, 1968, in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Patricia and Ralph Edward Tresvant, Sr. Tresvant grew up enjoying music with his younger siblings. When some junior high school friends got the idea to put a group together. It is there that Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins began performing at local talent shows.

Michael Bivins

Michael Lamont Bivins was born on August 10, 1968 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown was born in Boston, Massachusetts, as one of 8 children of Carole Elizabeth a substitute teacher, and Herbert James Brown, a construction worker. Brown grew up in Roxbury‘s Orchard Park Projects. Brown’s dream of becoming a singer was ignited when he was three years old and saw his idol James Brown perform. Following this performance Brown joined the church choir, where he recognized and developed his singing abilities.

Ricky Bell

The youngest of eleven children, Bell was born in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Orchard Park Projects. He began his career singing with close friend, Ralph Tresvant in a group called “Ricky and Ralph.” During highschool while friends with Booby and Micheal, he suggested adding Ralph to the new group.

Ronnie Devoe

Ronald Boyd “Ronnie” DeVoe Jr. was born November 17, 1967. He was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. DeVoe was the last member to join the group after being brought in by his uncle and the group’s choreographer, Brooke Payne.

Hit me off: New Editions money Issues

After their first major concert tour, the boys returned to their homes in the projects and were given a check that amounted to $1.87 for each member. Maurice Starr argued that it was because of deductions from Tour budgets and expenses. Due to these financial reasons, New Edition parted company with Starr in 1984 and also decided to fire Broke Payne as their manager. The group sued Streetwise for a release from the contract and won the case. During this time New Edition was stagnant in their career however, they soon obtained a record deal with major label MCA Records. Through MCA New Edition released their second album that was named after themselves. The album New Edition had the top five hit “Cool It Now” and the top twenty hit “Mr. Telephone Man”. The album was double platinum in the United States. There happiness was short lived when they realized they weren’t actually signed to MCA Records. They decided t to buy themselves out of the deal. This required each of the five members to borrow $100,000 from MCA. Though it effectively separated the group from Jump and Shoot and allowed them to sign a new but long term contract to record for MCA, they now owed the label. As a result, the group was forced to continually record and tour in order to pay off its debt. It was during this time that the group to decide to kick Bobby Brown out.

It’s my prerogative: Bobby Brown’s Separation from New Edition

While on the road Bobby Brown’s behavior affected the tour and group. They decided Bobby was not worth it and removed him from the group before they officially signed to MCA. Bobby Brown returned home to Boston. It is here that MCA reached out to Bobby Brown for a solo career. Bobby Brown had a rough childhood accompanied by poverty and gang violence, and knew MCA was his second shot at making it out of his neighborhood. A solo career fit Bobbi Brown perfectly as he was always seeking the center of attention since the beginning of the groups start. Bobby was a natural solo artists and quickly gained support from the ladies. In 1896 of December, Brown released his first solo album, King of Stage. This album failed to generate the level of excitement and acclaim for which Brown had hoped. In the summer of 1988 they released a new R&B album called Don’t Be Cruel. It sold seven million copies, almost being the best album sold that year. Bobby Brown’s live performances earned him comparisons to his childhood idol Michael Jackson.

Can You Stand The Rain: Readjusting and adding Johnny Gill

After Bobby Brown was removed from the group, New Edition’s future became uncertain as rumors began to spread that singer Ralph Tresvant was trying to pursue a solo career. To prepare for his potential departure, Johnny Gill, who was once a solo artists, was brought into the group by Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe in 1987. Tresvant ultimately deciding to remain with the group but was initially unhappy that the decision was made without him. New Edition’s released their 5th album, Heartbreak,  in the summer of 1988 and it featured Johnny Gill as the co-lead vocalist. It had five hit singles: “If It Isn’t Love,” “You’re Not My Kind of Girl,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” “Crucial” and “N.E. Heartbreak”. Heart Break became New Edition’s most successful album and went certified double platinum in the United States.

Is This The End: Solo Careers

Ralph Trav. wanted to pursue his own solo project so he finally did after giving MCA the last record promised. His self titled album included the well known hit Sensitivity. The album itself went multi-platinum.

Johnny Gill released self-titled solo albums also achieved multi-platinum success. This album is home to the hit song My My My.

Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, suggested that Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe formed a trio. This led to Bell Biv DeVoe. Their debut album, Poison, went quadruple platinum.

Home Again: Whats New with New Edition

New Edition has recently released new music following the premiere of their biographical film on BET. The three part movie tells the story of how New Edition became a group, their hardships, friendships, and separations. Since the release of the movie in 2017, it has won two awards from the NAACP. 

Awards & Achievements

New Editions ability to combine two genres and to master the skills of performance allowed them to earn several awards from the start of their career and into the present. While many awards came from Black media outlets, New Edition was able to successfully cross over and appeal to non black listeners. This helped them earn two awards from the American Music Awards.

AWARDS FROM: 1987 - 1990

1987: American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Band/Duo/Group

1989: Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Album – Group, Band or Duo

AWARDS FROM 1990 - 2000

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet


2012: Soul Train Music Special Lifetime Achievement Award

2017: BET lifetime achievement awards and lifetime achievement trumpet


Candy Girl Streetwise 1983

New Edition MCA Records 1984

Christmas All Over The World MCA Records, 1985

All For Love MCA Records 1985

Under The Blue Moon MCA Records 1986

Heart Break MCA Records 1988

Home Again MCA Records 1996

One Love Bad Boy Entertainment 2004

Once in a Lifetime Groove: New Editions impact on music

Although New edition has been compared to the Jackson 5 and the temptations, they constructed a new meaning and style to boy groups in music. New edition had a once in a lifetime groove. Their ability to combine R&B harmonies and pop melodies as well as their stage presence and incorporation of dance has influenced boy bands after them.They have influenced a wide range of R&B bands that followed both black and non black. They left a legacy that still speaks volume today. Their songs are classics and even their solo careers and ventures impacted music today. Without New Edition, the evolution of boy bands we know today may have been different. 


What people say


Caramanica, Jon. “’The New Edition Story’: A Loving Tribute to a Talented but Tormented Group.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2017,

Feldman, Kate. “New Edition Reunites at BET Awards for Lifetime Achievement Award.” NY Daily News, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 26 June 2017,

Freeman, Macy. “BET’s ‘The New Edition Story’ Shows How the Boy Band Changed the World of R&B.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Jan. 2017,

France, Lisa Respers. “’New Edition Story’ Taps into Major Love.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Jan. 2017,

George, N. (1990, 03). THE NEW JACK ON THE BLOCK. Emerge, 1, 39. Retrieved from

Previous slide
Next slide

What's your password?

Login to your account

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.