Too hot to handle, too cold to hold: the best of New Edition, Inc.

In the late spring and early summer of 1990, a few months after the Don’t Be Cruel tide rolled back to sea, Bobby Brown’s ambitious former bandmates participated in an unoffficial blitzkrieg of the pop and R&B charts. Emboldened by New Jack, members of New Edition hooked up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and fellow travelers (e.g. Dr. Freez) to make beats that make us go boom: clattering, industrial-hard beats. Hence “Rub You the Right Way” topping this list. I find Gill colorless, less so on slow material (“It’s Your Body” over “My, My, My,” though), but his baritone in “Rub You the Right Way” is the anchor in a hurricane; only one New Edition-associated song ranked above it when I ranked Jam-Lewis tracks a few months ago. But this list has competition.

I know I’ll get protests for ranking “Poison” so low. A touchstone of adult R&B stations, blessed with one of the most enduring percussion breaks in modern music, “Poison” is also indelible misogyny, with Ricky Bell’s yearning vocal the palliative that eases upset stomachs. Even at fourteen the song made no sense. If sane humans don’t spray a can of Raid on their salads, why would you kiss a girl who’s poison? The rediscoveries: Ralph Tresvant’s Mo’ Money hit and Gill’s Karyn White duet.

I’ve also included writing and production credits for other acts.

1. Johnny Gill – Rub You the Right Way
2. New Edition – If It Isn’t Love
3. Bobby Brown – On Our Own
4. Ralph Tresvant – Sensitivity
5. New Edition – Cool It Now
6. Bell Biv Devoe – Do Me!
7. Bobby Brown – My Prerogative
8. Boyz II Men – Motownphilly
9. New Edition – Mr. Telephone Man
10. Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson feat. Bell Biv DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant – The Best Things in Life Are Free
11. New Edition – Can You Stand the Rain
12. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
13. Ralph Tresvant – Money Can’t Buy You Love
14. Johnny Gill ft. Karyn White – Wrap My Body Tight (12″ Remake Version)
15. Bobby Brown – Every Little Step
16. Bell Biv Devoe – Poison
17. Johnny Gill ft. Roger Troutman – It’s Your Body
18. Ralph Tresvant -Stone Cold Gentleman
19. New Edition – Hit Me Off
20. New Edition – Popcorn Love
21. Another Bad Creation – Iesha

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