Description from VH1:
They were the original boy band. Five friends from Boston whose undeniable talent lifted them out of the projects and into the hearts of countless teenage girls. But while New Edition was paving the way for some of the biggest bands of the past twenty years, they were plagued by bad business deals, internal battles, and a frustrating struggle for respect. In the late 1970s, Roxbury was the most impoverished and crime-ridden district in Boston. And in the middle of it all sat the Orchard Park Housing Projects. It was there that four friends — Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell and Ralph Tresvant — began singing and dancing together as a way to escape the turmoil that surrounded them. They called themselves New Edition and, after gaining some local notoriety, they attracted the attention of Maurice Starr, a local record producer who was looking for the next Jackson Five. The boys added a fifth member, Ronnie Devoe, and with Starr’s guidance, New Edition recorded and released their first single, a perfect pop confection called “Candy Girl.”
The single and subsequent album exploded, selling hundreds of thousands of copies, sending the boys on a seemingly endless tour around the country. Yet, for all of their hard work, the boys came home to Roxbury still broke and living in the projects. Determined to reach greater heights of success, New Edition split with Maurice Starr in 1984 and signed with MCA. They released the top ten hits “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” and toured the world, only to discover that they had once again signed to a record deal that had left them all in debt. Meanwhile, other problems were brewing. Lead singer Ralph Tresvant had emerged as the fans’ favorite member, and the others, particularly Bobby Brown, became jealous and were eager to step out of the background and into the spotlight. With tensions rising, Bobby Brown left New Edition, leaving fans to wonder what the future held. After a brief stint as a four piece, New Edition added new member Johnny Gill, hoping to attract a new, more mature audience. But once again internal clashes threatened the band’s future as Ralph and Johnny squared off.
Their differences settled, the band released their most successful album to date, Heart Break, only to be unexpectedly overshadowed by the multi-platinum juggernaut that was Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, one of the most successful R&B albums of all time. In the early 90s, the band splintered into a series of side projects that brought them their greatest success. Following Bobby’s lead, Johnny and Ralph released solo albums, and Ricky, Mike and Ronnie formed Bell Biv Devoe. Divided, the members of New Edition put an unprecedented stranglehold on the pop chats, racking up a string of top ten hits and multi-platinum sales. As their solo success began to fade, all six members of New Edition reunited and released the album Home Again, and instant number one album. But the subsequent tour was less successful. Bogged down by bigger egos, and bigger battles, the band was nearly torn apart on a worldwide tour that Johnny Gill described simply as “Hell.” Meanwhile, Bobby Brown had begun what would turn out to be a decade-long downward spiral of drug and alcohol addiction and run-ins with the law. In 2002, New Edition looked to revive their careers by signing with P. Diddy’s Bad Boy label and in November of 2004 released One Love. Throughout a career that has spanned three decades, New Edition pioneered a style of music that is still strong today and have achieved tremendous success both as a group and in side projects. But for all they have accomplished, the members of this pop dynasty wonder if they can ever truly achieve the respect and notoriety they deserve. This is Behind the Music: New Edition.