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New Edition continues Nashville, country’s diversifying R&B crossover

New Edition continues Nashville, country’s diversifying R&B crossover
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New Edition was honored at the National Museum of African American Music April 16 for selling 20 million records worldwide in the group’s four-decade mainstream musical career.

As the museum’s home, Nashville is at a unique crossroads when it comes to the intersection of race and pop culture.

The city’s fortunes changed two decades ago when New Edition’s R&B blend of boy band appeal, hip-hop swagger, timeless vocals and massive hit songs redefined the pop industry at the turn of the 1990s.

The group’s success led to a similar evolution for country music in the 2010s.

Before acts like Florida Georgia Line and LOCASH — or even the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, plus every manner of smooth-crooning soul-stirrer from Kane Brown to Morgan Wallen and beyond — New Edition set a standard.

“Whether you’re making R&B and rap hits or you’re country to the bone, we’ve all been singing to the ladies for quite some time” jokes LOCASH’s Chris Lucas. Along with his collaborator Preston Brust, the duo’s Nashville existence post-dates the end of 90s country and R&B, plus births the start of the “bro-country” era.

“New Edition’s songs — from their younger era stuff like ‘Mr. Telephone Man’ to ‘Can You Stand The Rain?’ when they were older — could all easily cross over as incredible country covers,” Lucas adds.

New Edition's Ronnie DeVoe, Bobby Brown and Ricky Bell onstage At the NMAAM's Roots Theater, April 16, 2023

Backstage before their recent opening for Kane Brown at Bridgestone Arena, as they have for the better part of nearly two decades, New Edition’s greatest hits served as the soundtrack, hyping them up to take the stage in front of nearly 20,000 people.

As much as New Edition selling-out Bridgestone Arena on April 16 (alongside other four-decade-old throwbacks like Guy and Keith Sweat, plus 90s and 2000s-era soul hitmaker Tank) proved nostalgic. When compared to Nashville at present, it’s better served as a lesson worth learning for the modern era’s country-to-R&B intersection.

New Edition’s decade of R&B-to-pop crossover success

Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Johnny Gill, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, and Bobby Brown of New Edition perform onstage during 2023 New Edition Legacy Tour at State Farm Arena on March 30, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia

Ten years into their time as a group, New Edition had achieved a crossroads as Black “urban” music crossed over to pop’s predominantly white rock mainstream.

Three child-pop No. 1 singles (“Candy Girl,” “Cool It Now,” and “Mr. Telephone Man”) were followed by a fourth album, “Under The Blue Moon,” made up of mainly of classic soul covers.



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