19
Jun 09

NEW EDITION – “Candy Girl”

FT + Popular37 comments • 3,449 views

#521, 28th May 1983, video

“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.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Matthew H on 24 Jun 2009 #

    Wasn’t sold at the time – possibly too similar in age to the lads – but now I think it’s awesome. The electrosquelchfunk sounds fantastic played in a club, as I found out from one of the DJs I played alongside at some 80s revival do a few years back.

  2. 27
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jun 2009 #

    I think often it takes a while for the best term for a sound or genre to emerge and often loathe the terms quickly coined, almost always by critics (because who else needs them?), on the fly to describe new sounds and scenes. Freestyle is an odd one and a bit annoying because it tells you practically nothing about the sound and it’s context specifically (then again House isn’t particularly evocative without prior awareness of the context either) but it’s general strength and likeability as a term seems to have won many over. Electropop itself as a term is applied too broadly (anything where synths outnumber guitars?).

  3. 28
    AndyPandy on 24 Jun 2009 #

    Wichita at 25: yes but those pompous idiots into Progressive House (not that I’m slagging off Prog House itself) who slagged off Shut Up and Dance were looked on back then by a large proportion of the scene as precisely that ie po-faced gits. ‘5,6,7,8’, ‘£10/20 to get in’, even ‘The Green Man’ were staples of the pirates, the raves and a whole undeground world.

    Completely different to ‘Candy Girl’ which really did aim not so much for the lowest comon dominator as for basically a primary school audience (as opposed to the usual mythical 12-16 year old female pop audience…the album even had sort of embarrassing nursey rhyme type things on it according to a horrified 0 star review of it I remember reading at the time- ie 12 or 13 year old boys rather creepily singing stuff more suited to 4 or 5 year olds).

    Very little Jackson 5 and even less electro about it…

  4. 29
    Michael Daddino on 4 Jul 2009 #

    There were a lot of fly-by-night video shows back on American TV around this time, I suppose because the format was pretty popular and very cheap to pull together: a win-win. One of them was a local show on ABC (New York Hot Tracks, I think) that largely concentrated on R&B videos that MTV ignored. I remember being *shocked* at how, in their ’83 year-end countdown, one and maybe even two New Edition videos beat “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” I couldn’t get over that–I was dimly aware of the group but I had no idea they were *that* popular, since MTV didn’t play ’em (at least at first) and I didn’t know many kids who liked them. But if they *were* that amazingly popular, it meant there were large numbers of kids about who were about my age but I had no access to, could not possibly even imagine, except through weird random moments on the TV.

    BTW, their electronic appropriation of Motown seemed very, well, Brit at the time.

    BTw BTW, they reunited for the BET Awards last weekend to sing J5 songs and, wow, they were effing awful.

  5. 30
    koganbot on 5 Jul 2009 #

    I love discussions of nomenclature, even if I can’t tell what freestyle has to do with New Edition, except that “Candy Girl” seems to have struck wichitalineman as sounding like Newcleus, if I’m reading him right. Now, I generally wouldn’t associate Newcleus with what people tend to call freestyle, and this is because “Jam On It” doesn’t have the wailing doleful vocals or the style of melodic riffs piling on melodic riffs that make me think “freestyle.” I can’t define the freestyle sound further than that, since there are plenty of nonfreestyle tracks that also have wailing doleful vocals and that pile melodic riffs upon melodic riffs. But those nonfreestyle tracks don’t have wailing freestyle vocals and don’t pile melodic freestyle riffs upon melodic freestyle riffs. (Dept. Of Tautological Tautologies now open for business.)

    And though I consider Shannon’s “Give Me Tonight” and “Let The Music Play” to be MAJOR as dance tracks, I think of them as peripheral to the story of freestyle, ’cause again they don’t sound all that freestyle. I think of them as basic electrofied New York club music of the time, similar to “Everybody” and “One More Shot.” But here I may well be wrong; I was still in NY until the mid ’80s, but the clubs I went to were TR3 and A7. So this music existed for me mostly on 12 inch or on the radio, and a lot of it I didn’t catch up with until several years later anyway. But my guess now is that “Let The Music Play” and “Give Me Tonight” are considered freestyle classics not just because they made it onto the Tommy Boy freestyle compilations in the ’90s but because in the ’80s the freestyle audience was taking those songs to heart (though I’m also assuming that those songs were also taken to heart by clubgoers who didn’t go near the freestyle clubs and didn’t know Nayobe from Debbie Deb).

    What Newcleus and Shannon and the freestylers have in common is that they all listened hard to Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock” and “Looking For The Perfect Beat.” But then, so did a whole slew of people from New Order to 2 Live Crew.

    In response to AndyPandy, I think that – whether you were right or not – you’d have been on reasonable ground if you’d said “I think it stretches the term freestyle too far to apply it to either Newcleus or to Shannon, much less to both, and it confuses history to do so.” But that’s not what you said, and you seemed angrily dogmatic about the history and the terminology without knowing them too well. And in general I agree four-square with Steve’s and Elsa’s and wichitalineman’s responses (well, I have a few quibbles, which I might or might not get around to posting).

  6. 31
    koganbot on 5 Jul 2009 #

    OK, reading back maybe you’re not so dogmatic, but I’m not sure what your complaint is. If you want to say “At the time of ‘Let The Music Play’ neither the sound nor the audience had coalesced for freestyle, so it’s just too soon to be freestyle,” I might be with you on that, but a good counterargument would be that this was one of the records that helped the sound coalesce, therefore it deserves the appellation. That seems to be the assumption the Wiki people are making, and there’s nothing wrong with it – no stranger than calling Cream or Hendrix metal, which makes lots of sense to me even though I’m not sure I would do it. And the fact that “freestyle” wasn’t in use as a genre term yet doesn’t seem relevant to anything. Anyway, I don’t know and neither do you. But, for instance, the term “heavy metal” wasn’t applied to music until Mike Saunders used it in reviewing Sir Lord Baltimore in the May 1971 issue of Creem, but that doesn’t mean you discount early Grand Funk and Zeppelin and Sabbath. And as wichitalineman points out, “doo-wop” was a retrospective term, though its origin is 1962 or 1963, not the early ’70s. As were “punk rock” (the term “punk” was first applied to music by Nick Tosches in Fusion in the summer of 1970, and he was applying it back to Dylan and the Heartbeats; Dave Marsh coined the term “punk rock” in that fertile May ’71 issue of Creem, writing up a ? And The Mysterians reunion gig) and “garage rock” (don’t have an original date on that term, but I recall it as early as 1973, unless my memory is all wrong), again aimed back at earlier music. The advantage of such terms is that they help organize our sense of what’s going on; the disadvantage is that they overorganize. E.g., pretty much all the bands that played ’60s garage rock/punk rock also played sappy ballads and engaged in protopsychedelic progressive guitar explorations, meaning that it’s wrong to hear them as anti-progressive primitives, though that’s how later punks would like to hear them. But I don’t see this distortion happening with those who would call “Let The Music Play” a freestyle track.

  7. 32
    koganbot on 5 Jul 2009 #

    I would peg the beginning of “freestyle” with Debbie Deb’s “When I Hear Music” in 1983, produced by Tony Butler, but that’s because (i) I love the song, and (ii) I don’t really know what relevant tracks might have preceded it. E.g., for all I know, Tony Butler released tracks with his band Freestyle before then, or someone else might have released something that inspired Butler (I mean, other than the obvious “Planet Rock,” which helps inspire the beats but not the vocals or the riffs). Anyway, when I started to pay more than passing attention to this stuff in ’87, the genre terms I was seeing were “Miami Sound” and “Latin Hip-Hop,” but almost every 12 inch I saw contained a “freestyle mix,” this usually in addition to a “club mix,” the freestyle mix being longer and tending towards more and busier synthbeats and blips and more electronic manipulation of vocal syllables.

    But it’s easy to see why “freestyle” became the umbrella term: “Miami Sound” leaves out New York, whereas “Latin Hip-Hop” not only leaves out all the non-Latinos like Tony Butler and Debbie Deb and half of Sequal and two-thirds of Exposé not to mention all the Italian Americans etc. in the audience, it also overassociates the music with hip-hop, from which Latinos in ’80s New York are feeling more and more estranged (at least according to John Storm Roberts in the second edition of The Latin Tinge they are, though he doesn’t connect this to freestyle; in fact – irritatingly – he doesn’t seem to know of the existence of freestyle).

    Which leads to a final point: I get the impression that in the ’80s “electro” was much more a British term than an American – Bambaataa called Soul Sonic Force “electrofunk,” but the term “electro” didn’t have an overall use here. (Again, I could be all wrong about that.) So calling the stuff “electro” now feels wrong, not because the term is retrospective, but because it covers over musical and social tensions: Even though Bambaataa was a prime figure in ’70s New York hip-hop, ’80s New York hip-hop had little use for what he was doing. It was the clubsters and the freestylers who learned from Soul Sonic Force but, after the first wave of electrofunk, not Northern hip-hop. Of course, Miami was a different story, with Miami bass’s embrace of the big boom.

  8. 33
    koganbot on 5 Jul 2009 #

    It was the clubsters and the freestylers who learned from Soul Sonic Force but, after the first wave of electrofunk, not Northern hip-hop.

    That is, Northern hip-hop stopped learning from Soul Sonic Force et al.

  9. 34
    Tooncgull on 21 Oct 2009 #

    Hated it, then and now. Sorry.

  10. 35
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2009 #

    It’s strange how this changes in my perception from when I first heard it. Back then I dismissed New Edition as a “street” J5. There is a lot to like on here, even those wobbly keyboard breaks! The beat and bassline heard now, are so New Jack Swing, spookily so. No surprise as these kids grow up to define that particular sub-genre of R&B. They’re not a million miles away from Blackstreet at all.

  11. 36
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    This is a truly dreadful record, though I did still tape it off the radio back in the day. My recollection is that New Edition had no further hits in the UK, but somehow became massive in the States. Leastwise, Bobby somebody was able to establish himself with a solo career on the basis of being That Guy From New Edition.

  12. 37
    hectorthebat on 16 Nov 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year

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