In the week following the 2021 American Music Awards both New Edition and New Kids on the Block have been basking in the afterglow of their iconic performance. In addition to pulling off their first on stage collaboration, the bands have also gained an abundance of new fans, including a few high profile ones.

Standing in front of the stage, K-pop group BTS caught a lot of attention for learning the choreography to New Edition’s classic, “If It Isn’t Love” on the spot. The simple rhythmic hand gestures were soon parroted by the audience full of BTS fans, also known as ARMY.



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After the performance, New Edition was asked by Entertainment Tonight how they felt seeing BTS dance to their songs. “It’s all about carrying the torch,” member Ronnie DeVoe said. “We look at some of the groups and entertainers who came before us…and to know we were that next generation that was the spark for groups like BTS. It lets us know we’re leaving the music industry in a great place.”

Later that evening during a livestream, BTS was seen breaking down the same “If It Isn’t Love” choreography to make sure they had it down. The clip went viral on social media, prompting their fans to flock to the comments of the New Edition music video.

For those unfamiliar with New Edition, their impact spans decades and crosses genres. Through their failures, success and innovation, they’ve had a big hand in inspiring the acts who have inspired our current favorites.



To fully grasp how New Edition has impacted popular music as the world knows it, you have to start at their beginning. The group started in 1978 in Boston, Massachusetts. All five founding members (Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell) lived in the Orchard Park projects and assembled the group in elementary school with help from their parents and mentor Brooke Payne. In 1980 they were discovered by producer Maurice Starr, who signed them to his music label and helped the kids hone their talents. Reminding him of another multi-talented, male quintet, Starr decided to name them New Edition, envisioning them as a new edition of the Jackson 5

After a few years of training, the group released their first single, “Candy Girl” in 1983. Also known as that song you’re vaguely familiar with from hearing it on tv shows and in movies so much. The group was able to immediately live up to their name, as many even to this day mistake the hit song to belong to the Jackson 5 due to the high-pitched, boyish lead vocals.

New Edition had a string of early hits including “Is This The End,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” and “Cool It Now.” The group reached the top of both the US and UK charts with a series of successful albums and soon became household names and teen heartthrobs. 

Soon, original member Bobby Brown left the group to pursue a solo career. He was able to  achieve superstardom with his second album Don’t Be Cruel, and went on to marry fellow superstar teen sensation Whitney Houston.

Bobby’s spot in the group was replaced with Johnny Gill, with whom the group recorded their most successful album to date, Heart Break. This album spawned multiple hit songs (“Can You Stand The Rain,” “If It Isn’t Love,” “You’re Not My Kind of Girl”) for the group, much to their surprise as they broke away from their usual bubblegum pop roots.

After a successful nation-wide tour with fellow member Bobby Brown as the opening act, the group decided to take a hiatus at the height of their popularity.


During the hiatus, the group was able to do things that critics and pop music professionals thought impossible. While staying as active members in the group, they all went off to do side music projects. They hoped to boost their individual profiles which would in turn cement the legacy of the group.

This is a practice that many K-pop fans are familiar with, as group members often have solo albums, mixtapes and sub-units in the downtime from their native group. However at this time in the late eighties, it was unheard of. The groups that came before New Edition such as the Jackson 5, The Temptations, and even the Beatles, were never able to fully come back together when some of the members split off. 

Members Ricky, Mike and Ronnie created sub-unit Bell Biv DeVoe. Their music took a different direction than the traditional R&B sound New Edition set up on their last album. They worked with the same producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, to implement a fun, dance party sub-genre called New Jack Swing into their music. Their megahit song “Poison” can still be heard on all 90’s playlists, at every house party, and echoing in the halls of any karaoke bar in America. It was a crossover hit that introduced the members and New Edition to a wider pop audience. 

Meanwhile Ralph, Johnny and Bobby released solo albums that sold millions of copies each. Embarking on solo tours and bringing in more and more fans from their individual endeavors. After a few years of separation, all six members came back together to tour as a group with the release of the sixth studio album Home Again in 1996.

New Edition was able to prove skeptics wrong in that taking the time and space to go after other goals (but not without hiccups), didn’t mean the end of the group. Instead it made them stronger as each member was able to gain more experience that they brought back to the group. New Edition’s trial and success at this made others in the industry take note and was used as a blueprint for future pop groups to come.


In addition to popularizing the successful system above, the group also had a hand in shaping and inspiring the boy bands that came after them. After seeing the success he had with New Edition, Maurice Starr decided to create a new group in their image.

He found five white kids from Boston, which he thought would be more marketable to a global audience. And he wasn’t wrong, in 1986 New Kids on the Block debuted their first single “Be My Girl” with Columbia Records. NKOTB went on to become a mega success musically and commercially, capturing the hearts and wallets of teenage girls throughout the late eighties and early nineties. 

The success of New Edition and New Kids on the Block led to businessman Lou Pearlman creating his own boy band to cash in on the lucrative industry. He rounded up five kids to Orlando, Florida, where they lived together and practiced daily until in 1995 they released their first single as the Backstreet Boys. After they didn’t see immediate success, Pearlman went back to the drawing board where he discovered five more talented young men and created *NSYNC.

New Edition member Mikey Biven’s influence was a little more hands-on. After a Bell Biv DeVoe show in Philadelphia, he was accosted by four high school kids who had snuck backstage. In an impromptu audition, Boyz II Men sang (a New Edition song) for Bivins, Will Smith and more.

The vocal group had been so inspired by New Edition’s harmonies and routines in school, they decided to name the group after a song titled “Boys to Men,” from New Edition’s album Heart Break. In a full circle moment, they impressed Bivins so much that he agreed to manage and produce for them which led to their big break.

The 2019 song, “Boys in the Band” from New Kids on the Block celebrates fellow boy bands with member Donnie Whalberg crediting New Edition as ‘the beginning.’ His rap verse also mentions BTS amongst other notable boy bands in music including B2K and One Direction


Their sharp moves and smooth harmonies raised the standards for what labels required of their artist at the time. Combined with their ability to seamlessly blur the lines between pop, R&B and hip-hop. You don’t have to look very hard to see the influence New Edition has had on global pop music as we know it.

Bobby’s on stage swagger and bad boy persona specifically was emulated by Marky Mark, Japanese idol groups of the 80s and Park Jinyoung (who has a training room dedicated to the singer at the JYP Entertainment building).

And the list could go on, Beyonce paid tribute to the group with her music video for “Love On Top,” and Britney Spears covered Brown’s “My Prerogative” for her first greatest hits album in 2004. Music journalists cited SHINee’s use of New Jack Swing on “1of1” as a modern day iteration of New Edition’s biggest hit.

Nearly 40 years in, the group shows no signs of stopping. After the AMAs, lead singer, Ralph Tresvant, spoke for the other members and said, “hopefully [this performance] is the beginning of more new things for New Edition so that we can continue the legacy and keep it going.”

To dive more into the good, the bad and the ugly of New Edition, watch their biopic The New Edition Story here!

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Thumbnail credit Donnie Whalberg