I wanted to change it up for my third article of Second Listen Sundays. The album I want to highlight is one I know backward and forwards. An R&B masterpiece that I have listened to from start to finish hundreds of times, and that is New Edition’s, Heart Break.
Thirty-three years ago today, the Boston-based R&B group released their fifth album, which featured new member, Washington D.C.-born crooner Johnny Gill. Every member in the group was over age 18 (sans Gill, who was already of legal age) during the project recording. In addition, N.E. reunited with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, whom they worked a year prior on the lovely ballad “Helplessly in Love.”
Heart Break opens with an introduction where all of the members reintroduce themselves to the public. Next, Jellybean Johnson handles the production of the first official song on the album “That’s the Way We’re Livin.” Although the group themselves wrote the song, it is a great start to the project that perfectly puts us in a concert-like atmosphere. From there, producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis take us on a musical journey, as New Edition becomes men.
Starting with “Where It All Started,” New Edition erases any of the bubblegum sounds that were once their bread and butter. Quite honestly, the four-song run of “If It Isn’t Love,” “N.E. Heart Break,” “Crucial,” and You’re Not My Kind of Girl” is R&B perfection. Each of the songs gives us a different look at the facets of affection. Finally, New Edition closes out the up-tempo portion of Heart Break with a personal favorite, “You’re Not My Kind of Girl.”
N.E. unleashes their pen game once again on the album’s first ballad, “Superlady,” which features lush production by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Ricky Bell displays his vocals on the track, while Tresvant comes across smoother than an aged cognac.
Following “Superlady,” the group hits us with one of its most well-known ballads, “Can You Stand the Rain.” The song highlights Gill’s powerhouse vocals, but its message is also a timeless one. “Competition” and “Boys to Men” are also strong ballads on the project.
However, the one that takes the cake for me and is easily one of my favorite New Edition songs is track #14, “I’m Comin Home.” Eloquently produced by Jam & Lewis, “I’m Comin Home” is reminiscent of the work the duo did for Alexander O’Neal. Tresvant leads the song while Johnny Gill and Ricky Bell both show out on the songs as well.
Heart Break is not only New Edition’s magnum opus, and its perfection in any music genre. My only gripe with Heart Break is that I did not get to see the tour back in 1988.
Final Grade: A+
Heart Break is available on all streaming platforms.