Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Slow Jam Saturday : Ralph Tresvant, When I Need Somebody

In 2024, it will be the 30th anniversary of two famous R&B albums, Boyz II Men’s “II” and Mary J. Blige’s “My Life.” As the anniversary approaches, I will highlight both albums in some way. However, for the first Slow Jam Saturday of 2024, I want to credit Ralph Tresvant, the lead singer of New Edition, and his second album, also released in 1994, It’s Goin’ Down. In particular, I want to highlight the album’s second single, “When I Need Somebody.”

Since the release of his self-titled platinum solo debut four years prior, there was a shift in music. R&B thuggery was starting to emerge thanks to a singer from the Windy City who shall remain nameless and Tresvant’s label mates, Jodeci. Tresvant initially tried to keep up with the sift, first releasing the Marvin Gaye sampling “Who’s The Mack,” where he reunited with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

I didn’t see the song as too much deviation from Tresvant’s usual style. Instead, here was a maturing man who wanted it to reflect in his music. Sadly, outside of the core NE fans, the song didn’t connect, and the album’s sales were stalling. Initially, Tresvant wanted to go with the album’s closing song, “Sex-O” (a sensual bop he co-rote with Jam & Lewis), to compete with the sound dominating radio then. However, the label had reservations about the song and its risqué lyrics, so Tresvant returned to his signature formula of smooth balladry with “When I Need Somebody.”

Working again with Jam & Lewis, Tresvant crafted a companion piece to his signature song, “Sensitivity.” “When I Need Somebody” blends Tresvant’s classic R&B tenor sensibilities with that contemporary Flyte Time production. The song’s melody was catchy, and the hook was memorable as Tresvant croons about a love for a woman he can always count on. Given where R&B was then, Tresvant efficiently tried to appeal to the maturing Urban AC crowd with the song.

However, the album’s first single, “When I Need Somebody,” failed to catch on, and only the die-hard fans know the song. I remember when my wife and I attended the New Edition #AllSix tour in 2014 and when Tresvant performed it, people thought it was a new song. As I mentioned in my previous review of the album, Tresvant, like the rest of the NE brethren, just got lost in the nineties R&B music shuffle for their follow-up projects.

While I can’t say for sure, I’ve always felt that he may have seen better results if Tresvant released this album in the fall of 1992 on the strength of his success from his single “Money Can’t Buy You Love “from the Mo’ Money soundtrack. Nevertheless, “When I Need Somebody” is a strong entry in Tresvant’s solo catalog, and hopefully, fans will hear it in the setlist during New Edition’s upcoming Vegas residency.

Final Grade: B+

“When I Need Somebody” from It’s Going Down is available on all streaming platforms.

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