March 15, 1983
1. Gimme Your Love // 2. She Gives Me a Bang // 3. Is This The End? // 4. Pass the Beat // 5. Popcorn Love // 6. Candy Girl // 7. Ooh Baby // 8. Should Never Have Told Me // 9. Gotta Have Your Lovin’ // 10. Jealous Girl
Few guessed in 1983, when Candy Girl dropped, that this rather literal 1980s appropriation of the Motown-era Jackson 5’s career would in fact take off and never really die out (not even today, even if they’re not as big as they used to be). Since ’83 they have released seven group albums and every member has found some form of succes outside of the group. Bobby Brown being the best example, selling eight million copies of his sophomore Don’t Be Cruel. And every time the guys regroup they manage to rack up some interest with music audiences worldwide.
Few guessed that under the pressure of fame and fortune these kids would go on to hate one another’s guts, use lots of drugs, fight each other over lead vocal parts in songs, marry R&B divas, go K-Fed on said diva’s ’til divorce, and that in ’86 the “Bad Boy of the group” Bobby Brown would split from the group to succesfully start his own solo career by beefing up his sound and his image, setting the template for future male vocal groups and indivual members’ solo careers (see Take That and *NSYNC). Yet when his solo albums stopped selling simultaneously with Ralph’s, Bell Viv DeVoe’s and Johnny Gill’s (Bobby’s replacement in the group 1987-’88) they could all keep being rich R&B stars by putting their differences aside, reuniting and putting out a brand new New Edition album. (And when the money started coming in again, dropping the humility acts, picking up where the group left off, settle some scores and break-up again. Oh well.)
Yet all of these things were direct and indirect results of Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins and Ricky Bell (who lived in the same Boston housing projects) taking part in a talent show as Jackson 5 imitators. Producer Maurice Starr thinking that the boys could actually work as a profitable early eighties J5 equivalent and him signing them on the spot. At some point Ralph Tresvant came in and became the lead singer of the group (because he had that Motown Michael vocals down) and the cousin of their choreographer: Ronnie DeVoe would also parttake in what was supposed to be a New Edition of the Jackson Brothers mid-sixties incarnation.
Back to this album. As for updating the J5 soun for 1983, this is probably indeed what Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Michael and Marlon and/or Randy would’ve sounded like in ’83 if none of them had gone through puberty by that time. However, with the production clearly placed in the early ’80s through the incorporation of Zapp-esque basslines, melodies and vocoder parts, as well as the boys breaking out the occasional rap NE sported a sound that was instantly identifyable as being something new, rather than a dusted-off J5 album.
Most of these songs are sunny, mildly funky electronic pop-soul concoctions that may be a bit too cheerful, saccharine and exuberant for some people’s tastes (New Edition was after all the world’s first manufactured, producer-groomed boyband) but as far as teen-pop goes this is pretty terrific stuff. Hooky hooks, danceable instrumentation and lyrics that are simple but never nonsensical. Gimme Your Love, Pop Corn Love and Candy Girl stand out in particular, although Got to Have Your Lovin’ and She Gives Me a Bang (can you guess the recurring theme in these songs?) don’t fall far behind.
Is This the End? and Jeaulous Girl are pretty sweet dramatic-death-of-puppy-love ballads, and although Ralph can’t really fuck with mid-’70s Michael in this type of song (who can really?) he’s still got a lot more soul than your average teen heartthrob in the Justin Bieber/ Donny Osmond category.
The best thing on here however is Pass the Beat, a minimal Axel F-rip off of an electronic party groove that has all the boys passing the mic around and rap-singing their way past it. It’s the one song that in no way sounds like you know who and should get some people to “shake it, don’t break it” on the floor, were you throw it on at the house-party.
Candy girl is, like most teen pop albums, pure uncut fluff. It is however pretty good fluff. And while it doesn’t even hint at the greatness what was to come in the form of follow-up albums and solo projects by its various members(bar maybe Pass the Beat) it is more often than not bouncy, groovy, catchy music that’ll get you to tap your foot or nod you head or do whatever your music listening tic forces you to do. And for that it warrants a revisit.
Gimme Your Love
Is This the End?
Pass The Beat
Pick this up if you find it for a reasonable price. It isn’t very substantial or very original, but the guys have nice voices and Maurice Starr gave them catchy songs. And if you don’t take it too seriously and don’t over-analise it you can have a lot of fun with it.