It is common for actors to explore their musical talents, as they complement each other like movies and popcorn. Growing up in the eighties, I recall Eddie Murphy, Don Johnson, and Philip Michal Thomas releasing projects. This week’s Second Listen Sunday pick is Gregory Hines, the late thespian and tap-dancing icon who released a self-titled album
Second Listen Sunday : New Edition, One Love
As quintessential R&B group New Edition travels across the country on the Culture tour, I wanted to look back at the group’s final album to date, 2004’s One Love for this week’s Second Listen Sunday. Following the Home Again tour, which resulted in a deleterious effect on the group’s legacy, many thought we would never see NE as a cohesive unit in the spotlight again. However, to the astonishment of fans (minus Bobby Brown), the group began touring in 2002.
The tour’s success rejuvenated the current New Edition lineup of Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe. As fate would have it record executive Sean “P.Diddy” Combs was in attendance at one of the group’s summer tour shows and wanted to sign the group to his Bad Boy record label. Combs and New Edition finalized the deal in October 2002, and the group immediately began recording the album.
Ideally, New Edition wanted to release the project in the fall of 2003 to coincide with their 20th anniversary and a tour to follow. Die-hard NE fans and music industry insiders were curious how the relationship between the two would work out. I still remember defending the group’s decision to sign with Bad Boy. If you remember, New Edition previously worked with Combs and one of his in-house producers Chucky Thompson for their previous album Home Again. Thompson and Combs provided NE with the Bop’s “Try Again” and the still classic “You Don’t Have to Worry” with its even colder remix. My mindset was, what could go wrong?
In the early summer of 2003, fans got the first taste of the newest Combs and NE collaboration when Diddy premiered “Start Turnin Me On” exclusively on a radio show. Dre & Vidal produced the song in addition to co-writing it with Ryan Toby and group members Ralph Tresvant & Johnny Gill. The song had a perfect summer vibe, highlighting Ralph’s lead vocals with Johnny in the background. Ronnie and Mike also got a chance to drop a few bars on the song. Shortly after the song leaked, Diddy announced that he would oversee the soundtrack for Bad Boys II, which was sure to be one of the summer’s biggest hits.
Now in my mind, while the song didn’t necessarily have to be the first single, I thought for sure Diddy would place it on the soundtrack or play it over the closing credits. Sadly, neither happened, and the long wait for the next New Edition album began. From time to time, songs like “Got It Like That” would appear on a mixtape, but the album titled One Love wouldn’t arrive in stores until the fall of 2004.
Ryan Leslie produced and wrote One Love’s lead single “Hot 2Nite”. While the song had a club vibe that young fans took a liking to, New Edition felt it didn’t cater to their maturing audience. I’ve personally never had an issue with the song, and I was particularly fond of the numerous remixes which featured the likes of Hip Hop stars Fabolous, Game, Fat Joe, Black Rob, Lil’ Scrappy & MJG. Sadly the song peaked at an underwhelming number thirty-five on Billboard’s R&B singles chart and number eighty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100. The underwhelming public reception of the album and its first single led to no more singles seeing release, while label promotion for the album also went cold.
One Love hit record stores when I was twenty-three, and I remember loving the album, possibly due to my fandom. But how do I feel about the project at age 40? Read on to find out. One Love opens with a mock conference call between the group and Combs before a flawless transition into the Stevie J produced “Been So Long.”
“Been So Long” has the vibe of New Edition kicking off a concert and will instantly remind fans of “That’s The Way Were Living” and “Oh, Yeah It Feels So Good” from the group’s Heartbreak and Home Again albums. The group then goes into “Hot 2Nite” before retiring with another Stevie J-produced cut, “Sexy Lady.”
As my homie BJ Jenkins once said, this would have been a killer concert song. Ricky Bell leads the song, which is a mid-tempo ballad. Ricky’s adoring female fans are called Bellas, and I have always felt that Ricky could have held a contest to go along with this song where he could pull a sexy lady on stage for a serenade. Talk about a missed opportunity.
“Last Time” from producer Jack Knight is up next. “Last Time” was a decent album cut. If memory serves me correctly, this promo single received some airplay in a few markets. Sadly, though, we have to get through a ton of filler before we get to the album’s best portion, the ballads. Following the previously released “Start Turnin’ Me On,” we have a three-song drag that is essentially filler.
“All on You” is more of a BBD type cut with no input from Tresvant or Gill. While “Wildest Dream” and “Love Again” don’t gel, in my opinion. In addition to “Best Man” and “Feelin’ It,” which appear on the album’s second half, none of these songs should have made the final tracklist. Instead, they should’ve been placed on maybe a DJ Clue-hosted mixtape.
NE finds the magic again when they kick off the ballad portion of the album. Beginning with the “One Love” interlude, the second half of the project is the better portion. One Love’s second half has a more mature sound. Fans who cut a rug in the schoolyard to “Candy Girl” and were now raising kids of their own can relate to the mature themes of the slower material. The Co-Stars provided “That Why I Lied,” which explores infidelity. Chip Dixson and Mike Winans co-produce the album’s closer “Leave Me,” which covers leaving a relationship. Naturally, longtime collaborators Jam & Lewis lace the group with some heat.
The legendary production duo provided “Come Home With Me,” which gives Johnny Gill a chance to show out and set the mood. “Re-Write The Memories,” a song about admitting your mistakes, is easily one of the best songs the group has ever recorded, while “Newness” reflects on keeping love fresh.
Some fans, including me, enjoy One Love while other die-hard fans do not care for it. I have never felt the album was the misfire that some make it out to be. Furthermore, from a business standpoint, I understand what Diddy was going for with some of the songs choices.
While we may never hear anything from the project live, had the group cut the project down to about ten or eleven songs, they may have had a better response from the public.
Initial Listening Grade at age 22: A
Re Listen Grade at age 40: B +
One Love is available on all streaming platforms.
More reviews to explorer
It’s been six years since audiences experienced the rating-breaking three-part mini-series, The New Edition Story. I still remember my excitement walking into an advance screening of Part 1 on a cold January night. One of my favorite scenes occurs in this part when a young Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins are supporting a pre-teen Bobby Brown in a talent show. The local Boston-based group, The Untouchables, is performing a cover of Philly soul group Blue Magic’s “Spell” before Bobby takes the stage. After hearing another cover version of the song in Michael Bivin’s documentary, The Hustle of 617 Biv, I decided to feature it for Slow Jam Saturday.
R&B fans were elated this past summer when R&B legend Raphael Saadiq announced he had reunited with Tony! Toni! Toné! for a fall tour. The tour kicked off this past Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, with twenty-five planned stops. I plan on attending the Oxon Hill, MD, stop this coming Monday.