In January 1994, the landscape of R&B had begun to shift when New Edition frontman Ralph Tresvant released his sophomore album It’s Goin Down. While Tresvant’s debut had gone platinum and he was fresh off a hit single in the form of summer 1992’s Mo ’Money soundtrack, featured “Money Can’t Buy You Love”, he was in a tight spot. Three years is a huge gap between album releases, no matter what the genre, as Tresvant’s bandmates Johnny Gill & Bell Biv Devoe had learned with their summer 1993 releases, both of which, despite being good albums, underperformed.
It’s Goin Down gave Tresvant a chance to flex his creative muscle as he wrote and produced the majority of the album. Released on January 18th, 1994, the album didn’t make a great debut on the charts, compared to his original debut, which spent two weeks at number one. Tresvant had the misfortune of having to compete with R.Kelly’s solo debut album 12 Play, which had just topped the R&B album charts for nine weeks straight. Also, Tresvant’s label mates, Jodeci were fresh off a two-week chart success for their sophomore album, Diary of a Mad Band.
Primarily due to the competition at the time, Tresvant’s lead single, written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, “Who’s The Mack” failed to catch on with the public. The song found Tresvant sampling “T Stands for Trouble” from Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man album. If Tresvant’s goal was to invoke the spirit of Marvin Gaye in the early nineties on the song, he succeeds. The video featured a confident Tresvant walking around the city with an undeniable swagger while being surrounded by numerous beauties. Twenty-seven years later, the song still sounds fresh.
The second and final single from the album was another Jam & Lewis collaboration, the smooth “When I Need Somebody.” Tresvant decided to stay more authentic to the sound that was prevalent on his first album with this song, as it showcased his smooth tenor over a lush production by Jam & Lewis. Recently revisiting the video, the song was signature Tresvant and was the perfect springtime groove. Sadly, similar to the first single, the song just didn’t catch on.
The rest of the album found Tresvant sampling everyone from James Brown’s “The Payback on Graveyard” to EPMD’s “Can’t Hear Nothing But The Music” on “My Aphrodisiac”. The results were excellent on both songs and showed Tresvant’s strength as a producer. However, songs like “Sex Maniac” could’ve used finer tweaking or better yet just served as a B-side single. It’s the album’s four-song closing section starting with “Love At First Sight” and ending with “Sex-O” where Tresvant truly excels.
I’m a diehard New Edition fan, so anything they do, I’ll support. Personally, I feel that Ralph’s most substantial writing was always with the slow jams. “Your Touch” is one of my top ten slow jams from the entire New Edition catalog. Perhaps given where music was heading at the time, Tresvant and his label would’ve been wise to push “Your Touch” and “Sex-O” as singles. Maybe if Tresvant had released this album in fall 1992 with the strength of “Money Can’t Buy You Love,” the sales may have been more successful.
I firmly believe that Ralph Tresvant should’ve had a much better solo career than the public ended up giving him. I didn’t truly appreciate the strength of his sophomore album until my junior year of high school when I picked up the CD for $5 at a second-hand store.
Whether he’s with his group New Edition or by himself, Tresvant rarely performs material from the album during his live shows. I can only recall hearing “When I Need Somebody” and an instrumental of “Sex-O” once throughout the numerous times I’ve seen Tresvant sing live.
While Ralph may have suffered the sophomore slump from a sales standpoint, It’s Goin Down is a pleasant follow up to his debut.
Final Re-listen grade B+
Stream & Purchase worthy – “Who’s The Mack,” “When I Need Somebody,” “Your Touch,” and “Sex-O.”