“Candy Girl” is one of those irritating records that I feel I ought to like more than I do. Certainly within the schema of Popular it should be a pretty ‘important’ single – it’s the first number one with rapping on, for goodness’ sakes. The only problem is that Maurice Starr’s use of the old Jackson 5 playbook is so flagrant and calculated it overshadows anything else going on in the track.
Should that even matter? Possibly not. On paper, after all, electro squelch plus “ABC” equals awesome. And it’s not like New Edition do the Jacksons badly or anything: while nobody will ever have quite the heartbreaking enthusiasm of the young Michael Jackson, Ralph Tresvant’s opening rap comes close. Tresvant indeed is a fizz-bomb throughout, but “Candy Girl” only really takes off with the deliciously dumb mid-song interplay, offering a vision of a version where New Edition had got leave to be goofier, freer, more of a gang than a troupe. What we have instead is far from bad, but for me it’s a little straitjacketed by its own hand-me-down joy.