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the 1980's, New
Edition felt like a breath of fresh air. At the time, most rhythm &
blues was burdened with electronics and swathed in macho bravado. But,
this group of fresh-faced pre-teens harkened back to the early 70's - the
days of the Jackson 5 and sweet
soul. Songs as funky and charming as "Candy
and "Cool It Now" (#1 R&B singles in 1983 and 1984, respectively)
sounded like harbingers of brighter days ahead, of innocence and harmony
- musical, racial, and otherwise.
Quite the opposite proved true. After the group's acrimonious split with
producer Maurice Starr, the impresario fabricated New
Kids On The Block, who gave rise to N'Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and dozens
of execrable boy bands (and distaff counterparts like Britney Spears). The
world of rhythm & blues, meanwhile, sank into the dark miasma of gangsta
rap and hypersexualized balladry.
As for New Edition, they sold a lot of records before splintering into several
pieces - all pretty successful, none very interesting. Ricky Bell, Michael
Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe formed Bell
Biv DeVoe, who made some decent 'new jack
swing' records most notable for their virulent misogyny. Ralph
Gill recorded smarmy solo records, while glamour boy Bobby
became most famous as tabloid fodder thanks to his disastrous marriage to Whitney
before that happened, however, New Edition recorded a little holiday album called Christmas
All Over The World (MCA, 1985) - just six songs spread across a 12-inch extended
play platter. Nothing on the record approaches the precocious funk "Candy Girl" or "Cool
It Now," as the producers (including Michael 'Maniac' Sembello) emphasize
the young group's prepubescent sweet side instead.
MCA extracted the two songs from Christmas
All Over The World for a single (red vinyl!), and not surprisingly these are
the two best songs - though the single failed to make the charts. The a-side, "It's
Christmas (All Over the World)," is a stately ballad in the mold of Elvis
Presley's "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" or John Lennon's "Happy
Xmas (War Is Over)" - a vision of utopia filtered through twinkle lights.
The mid-tempo b-side, "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Girl)," is more
fun. It does what girl groups and boy bands have always done - reduces everything
(in this case, Christmas) to pure puppy love. As the record fades out, little Ralph
Tresvant testifies, "The greatest gift I could ever have is to spend Christmas
with my two favorite girls, my mom and my candy girl!" It's exceedingly fluffy
stuff - certainly not funky, but at least charming.
The rest of the EP is filled out by two uninspired covers (the Jackson 5's "Give
Love On Christmas Day" and the Whispers' "Happy Holidays To You")
and two songs written and produced by the youngsters themselves ("Joy Of Christmas"
and "Singing Merry Christmas"). Sadly, neither of these songs is much to write home
about. Or, they wouldn't have been if the members of New Edition had been old enough
to move out of the house....
Later, MCA issued Christmas
All Over The World on CD (a dubious value for just six songs), and in 2003
they repackaged it as 20th
Century Masters: The Christmas Collection - same six songs, plus Johnny Gill's
solo version of "Give Love on Christmas Day" from Motown
Christmas Album: Christmas Cheers from Motown (1989). [top of page]
- All I Want for Christmas
(Is My Girl)
It's Christmas (All Over the World)
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