I See You, BET: ‘The New Edition Story’ Review

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There’s been many constants in my life.  One of those constants is New Edition.  For those of y’all that were born after 1990, New Edition was an R&B/Pop powerhouse during the ’80s and ’90s that consisted of Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill and last but not least, Bobby Brown.  Yes, that Bobby Brown.  I’ve loved these fellas since I was 4 or 5 years old, and many of their songs still remain in heavy rotation on my IPod.  Not only, but their solo and side group projects have become just as legendary.  I’m sure y’all have heard Bobby’s solo stuff, and Bell Biv DeVoe was amazing.  Johnny and Ralph’s solo songs are just as timeless.  So, when I first heard about the The New Edition Story during the 2016 BET Awards, I couldn’t wait to see it.  I patiently waited and finally, this past week (Jan. 24-26, 2017), the miniseries aired.  I loved it.

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Let me get the technical stuff out the way first.  The production value of this film was gorgeous.  The sharp picture and flawless editing made this minseries look like a Hollywood feature film.  Ever since the early 2000s, BET stood more for “Bootleg Entertainment Television” instead of Black Entertainment Television.  For the longest time, they only aired videos throughout the day, and when they did air TV shows—entertaining as they were—they looked like they cost all of $30,000 to make, if that.  Then TV One came along and brought some serious competition.  BET answered back with Centric, their sister channel, but TV One still had more viewers.  It looks like BET realized they had to step up their A game, and hired a sleek production team to handle their movies and TV shows.  With The New Edition Story, Being Mary Jane and upcoming movies and series like The Quad, Mandiba and Rebel, BET is reminding everyone that they’re still relevant, dammit.

Now onto to the actual acting and storyline.  The performances and plot were on point.  The miniseries was divided into three parts, which were all great, but I have to admit that parts one and two were a little bit better than part three.  The final section was slightly rushed, and I don’t know why on God’s green Earth the director and producers thought that Bobby Brown was still rockin’ a high top fade and leather suits in 1996 and 1997.  I promise you he let that look go by that time.  Just check out the “Hit Me Off” video if you don’t believe me.

Other than that, the movie was pretty flawless.  There were a lot of big name actors in it, too:  Wood Harris, Lala Anthony, Faizon Love, Lisa Nicole Carson (I was happy to see her come back to the industry!), Michael Rappaport, Monica Calhoun and Bryshere Gray aka Hakeem from Empire.  I was very proud of Bryshere (I’ll call him by his real name for the purposes of this post, but he’ll always be Hakeem to me).  The role of Michael Bivins is a far cry from spoiled brat Hakeem Lyon, and Bryshere more than proved that he’s a good actor, and he actually has some pipes.  Oh, yes…just like the films Cadillac Records and Walk the Line, these actors had to sing themselves.  By the way, Luke James, who played Johnny Gill, really did the film (and Johnny himself) justice.  If you have absolutely no interest in watching the miniseries, at least watch the scene where the fellas record “Can You Stand the Rain.”  It blew everyone away.  I also have to give props to Tyler Marcel Williams, the actor that portrayed Bobby as a child.  I swear he looked and acted like a miniature version of him.

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Another thing I loved about this film is that like most biopics that take place between the ’80s and ’00s, it brought back a lot of good memories (I LOVE how they recreated Video Soul!).  Like I said, I grew up listening to these men, so I remember when “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” got heavy rotation and when Bobby’s Don’t Be Cruel album was the hottest joint of the year (man, I remember my mother and I listening to that tape everyday she picked me up from school when I was in second grade.  Such nostalgia…).  However, I learned a lot of stuff from this miniseries, too.  Allow me to list some of the facts I found out about, assuming they’re true.  You guys know how biopics exaggerate and create scenes and characters for the sake of entertainment. (SPOILERS HEREIN)

  • Bobby is the one that started the group.
  • Once upon a time, Bobby actually had stage fright, if you can believe it.  Hence, his reason for starting the group.  He didn’t want to perform alone.
  • The group originally consisted of Mike, Bobby and Ricky.  They asked Ralph to join after deciding that three guys wasn’t enough.  Ronnie came along much later, after the group was already pretty well established in the neighborhood.
  • The original bad boy of the group wasn’t Bobby, it was Mike.  Mike was known as the troublemaker in the neighborhood, and his attitude almost got him thrown out of the group.
  • New Edition was headlining shows early in their career.  Apparently, Kurtis Blow and Madonna opened for them.  Yes, Madonna.
  • According to the movie, Kurtis Blow was kind of an asshole.  He didn’t like that he had to open for a bunch of pre-teen boys.  No wonder he felt like The Fats Boys got robbed when New Edition beat them during the talent show.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Watch Krush Groove.  🙂
  • Maurice Starr actually paid the boys $1.87 for Candy Girl.  They had to split that amongst themselves.
  • A personal observation:  “Is This the End?” sounds a lot like “Please Don’t Go Girl” by New Kids on the Block (I used to love that song).  I never noticed that before.  By the way, Maurice Starr also managed NKOTB.  Coincidence?
  • Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced Heartbreak, the comeback album that has the hits “Can You Stand the Rain,” and “If Isn’t Love.”
  • Ralph was groomed to be lead singer of the group from the beginning, and Maurice even tried to coerce him into being a solo artist.  Ralph refused.
  • It turned out that per MCA’s contract, any member of a music group that was seen as beneficial was still bound by said contract if he ever left the act.  Hence, MCA approached Bobby to make a solo record after he was voted out of New Edition.
  • The Home Again tour was a hot damn mess.  It turns out the fellas’ ego had gotten so large that they were spending money they didn’t have and were even taking separate tour buses to shows.  The tour ended with a huge fight on stage complete with gunshots fired during the performance.
  • The men didn’t just fight during the Home Again tour.  During the Cool It Now tour, a fight broke out between the fellas onstage due to Bobby’s showboating.
  • Bobby first became a father at 17.  Ralph was also expecting a child with his long-time girlfriend around the same time, but she unfortunately, she miscarried.  The manager they had at the time did everything he could to keep the news of Bobby’s first child out of the media for fear of losing fans.
  • Bobby wasn’t the only member of the group with substance abuse problems.  Ricky also had issues with addiction, and actually overdosed.
  • Bobby’s signature look on the “Every Little Step” video was made purely by accident.  The barber wasn’t paying attention and cut the side of Bobby’s fade off.
  • Mike brought Johnny into the group after Bobby left to give New Edition a more mature sound.
  • Since Bobby and New Edition were still under contract with MCA, they still had to tour together, with Bobby and Al B. Sure! opening for the group.
  • “You’re Not My Kind of Girl” is actually a New Edition song.  All these years I thought it was a Ralph Tresvant solo song.  By the way, that song always perplexed me.  He doesn’t want a good woman that’s pretty and carries herself well.  Are you looking for a THOT?
  • Boyz II Men named themselves after the New Edition song “Boys to Men.”  They became part of Mike’s East Coast Family (Boyz II Men, Another Bad Creation aka ABC, and Bell Biv DeVoe aka BBD) when they auditioned for him in front of New Edition’s tour bus.
  • Bobby may have been voted out of the group unanimously, but it wasn’t a decision that the fellas took lightly, and it hurt them immensely to do it.  Seeing that tear stroll down Ricky’s face nearly made me cry.

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All in all, this film was excellent, and whether you’re a fan of New Edition, or you’ve never heard of these guys in your life, or the closest attachment you have to these men are seeing Bobby Brown on various reality shows, please check this miniseries out.

—Written by Nadiya

So, what did you think about The New Edition Story?  Was it the TV event of 2017, or was it highly overrated?  Did it bring back fond memories of the ’80s and ’90s?  Did you learn a ton of new things about the group like I did?  Let me know in the comments section!

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Prince Tributes and Preachin’ Truth At the 2016 BET Awards!

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Man, oh man…a lot of stuff went down in the last 24 hrs., and I have to write my humble opinion about it all.  Before I watched the epicness that was the season finale of “Game of Thrones,” I made it my business to check out the 2016 BET Awards, considering the shade they threw towards Madonna’s Prince tribute a month or so ago (see the above picture).

The majority of the show was entertaining.  I loved Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’ version of Hamilton (I have to see this play).  Beyoncé gave a stunning (and water filled) performance of “Freedom,” then quickly bumped out, as my future father-in-law Ice Cube would say.  I caught Maxwell givin’ Taraji the side eye during her monologue:

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I knew that look was gonna become an internet meme.  My boo O’Shea Jackson, Jr. didn’t win best actor (boo!), but Straight Outta Compton won best movie (yay!), and a bunch of musical artists that I never really heard of (other than Drake) won a bunch of awards.  I got to see Fat Joe and Usher perform (separately, not together), which was sweet.  Every few moments, the celebs would come out and remind us how important our vote is (which it really is), and even mentioned how Brexit basically proved that.  Gabrielle Union’s hair and all her outfits were fierce.  Samuel L. Jackson won the much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.  Oh, and there’s gonna be a New Edition movie coming out soon along with a new Morris Chestnut stalker film.  Like I said, all that stuff was entertaining.  But what really made my night were the Prince tributes (which was my main reason for watching the show), and Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech.

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Before I talk about the Prince tributes, I wanna touch on Jesse’s speech.  Prior to last night, I basically knew Jesse Williams as “the hot black guy from Cabin in the Woods.”  I stopped watching “Grey’s Anatomy” after Izzie starting having sex with Denny’s ghost and George got hit by a damn Greyhound bus, so I’m not familiar with Jesse’s work on that show.  However, his appearance at the BET Awards converted me into an instant fan.  Last night, Jesse was presented with BET’s 2016 Humanitarian Award for his work in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  His acceptance speech blew me away.

My blog isn’t a political one, but as always, I have to keep it 100%.  Jesse’s speech was full of truth.  He spoke on how black men should treat black women as the queens we are, how we as a people shouldn’t waste so much of our money just to have a brand on our body (i.e. breakin’ our necks just to have the new Jordans or the new Apple Bottoms…nothing against those designers, and yes, it’s good to want nice things, but some of us focus a little too much on that).  Then he spoke at length on how police officers have been known to refrain from using excessive force with Caucasian citizens, and should learn to do the same with African-American citizens.  He also went on to say that folks that don’t agree with the movement and don’t care about black rights shouldn’t criticize the ones that do.  Man, I felt the spirit when I heard this guy speak!  I love this man.  I even took the time to post something about it on Facebook:

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I noticed that Jesse was trending on Black Twitter earlier, until poor Justin Timberlake posted how he was inspired by the speech.  Then the former *NSYNC front man was unnecessarily drug through the mud for cultural appropriation and for later responding that “we’re all the same.”  Some of them even brought up old ass Nipplegate.  Lord.  If y’all want to watch Jesse’s speech or read of transcript of it, go to this site.

Now onto the Prince tributes…they were slammin’!  I saw Madonna and Stevie Wonder’s tribute at the Billboard Awards, and it wasn’t as horrible as most folks made it out to be, but at the same time, it didn’t hold a candle to the tributes that aired last night.  They weren’t just the best Prince tributes this year…they were best tributes to one of this year’s deceased musical artists, period.

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First, Erykah Badu performed “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.”  I’m not gonna lie, I never really listened to that song before (I vaguely remember hearing it briefly years ago, I think), and neither did my mom or my aunt, and my mother’s been a fan of Prince since he began his professional career back in 1978.  The performance was great however, and I was exposed to a new Prince song!  But I have to address something…some smarty pants on Facebook (that’s not a friend of mine, by the way) was talkin’ out his neck about how some folks didn’t know the song but claimed to be real Prince fans.  Smart guy, there’s thousands—and I do mean thousands—of Prince songs out there that I’m sure most folks haven’t heard, including yourself.  Even the biggest fans out there haven’t heard every single song, due to the fact that Prince has a vault full of twenty to thirty years worth of unreleased tracks.  Let’s not forget, some folks simply may not have listened to every single album that Prince ever released (I think he has about twenty of them out there).  So Daddy Cube, please tell that big mouth what he can do.

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Anyway, after Erykah performed, newcomer (or at least he’s a newcomer to me) Bilal immediately came out and performed “The Beautiful Ones.”  There’s two things I really loved about all these tributes:  one, they occurred throughout the show and featured more than one or two artists doing it all at once like other award ceremonies.  Secondly, the songs that were picked weren’t the most obvious choices for a Prince tribute.  You automatically assume “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Let’s Go Crazy” will be played for a Prince tribute, but it was nice to also hear some of the other songs that we love for a change.  Steve Harvey took the same approach on his radio show the morning after Prince passed.

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I don’t know anything about Bilal, but he definitely seems like a talented brother.  His performance was one of the best ones of the night, and he went all out.  Not only did he write on the floor during the climax of the song ala The Kid in Purple Rain, but he even went so far as to wear boots with a heel (the heel wasn’t quite as high as Prince’s though).  The entire time Erykah and Bilal were performing, The Roots were playing behind them as the backing band.

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Next, Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly (another newcomer for me) performed a sweet rendition of “Take Me With You,” which I think may have surpassed the original.  No disrespect to Apollonia, but she never really had much of a singing voice, in my opinion.  I always liked “Sex Shooter,” though (you still my girl, Apollonia!).  Jennifer Hudson came out afterwards in a sleek, short, ivory white trenchcoat with a hoodie and sang the best outside version of “Purple Rain” I’ve heard yet (sorry, Adam Levine).

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Later in the night, Maxwell, the King of the Side Eye himself, performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” after singing “Lake By the Ocean” (which for some reason reminds me of “Bad Habits”).  I noticed that Maxwell changed the first line of the song to “It’s been seven hours and 66 days since you took your music away” (it’s been over two months since Prince passed), and retrofitted most of the song to convey how much the world missed Prince.  It was a butt kickin’ performance, and no disrespect to Madonna, but I enjoyed Maxwell’s version a bit more.  However, BET just couldn’t resist throwin’ a bit more shade…

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Anyway…

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Janelle Monae appeared next and performed a medley of “Delirious,” “Kiss,” “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U.”  Of course, she shut the place down as she recreated Prince’s dance moves, and even paid homage by wearing Prince’s signature stacked heels and buttless pants.  Anthony Anderson made sure he wasn’t outdone, though.

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Last, but definitely not least, was Shelia E.’s tribute.  My girl started her show with the classic song “Housequake” and segued into “Erotic City,” her and Prince’s legendary duet (one of my favorites!  As dirty as that song is, I’m surprised they allowed it!).  Mayte joined the dancers onstage, and I couldn’t help but notice that they were all barefoot.  Part of me wonders if there was a reason behind that.  Shelia publicly came out and said that dancing in four inch heels for so many years is what ruined Prince’s knees and hip, and caused him to be in intense pain as he became older.

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After playing a few bars of “Let’s Work” the medley went into “U Got the Look,” a song Prince and Shelia used to perform together all the time (that’s my jam!).  Then Shelia performed two songs that kind of had me scratching my head…”Love Bizarre” and “The Glamorous Life.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love those songs, but they’re technically Shelia’s songs, not Prince’s.  He wrote them and performed them with her from time to time…well, then again, I guess that’s reason enough.  She loved this man with all her heart and probably cherished every moment they spent together writing and performing songs.

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Shelia then broke out her guitar (I didn’t even know she played the guitar!) and played “America” (another song I’m not 100% familiar with because I never listened to Around the World in a Day in its entirety…once again, I think I heard it once or twice back in junior high), which led to “Baby, I’m a Star” and who came out?  Jerome!  Man, if Morris showed up, it’d be on and poppin’!  The tribute ended with Shelia carrying one of Prince’s guitar’s lifted to the sky, as all the dancers and musicians pointed upward at the heavenly angel they were commemorating.  Mayte had her other arm wrapped around Shelia.  It was two of the women he loved most standing center stage.  A fitting send off if ever there was one.

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Ms. Escovedo proved last night that she’s anything but irrelevant.  I loved all the performances, but Shelia silenced all haters, just like I knew she would.  D’Angelo was also supposed to come and do a tribute performance, but after seeing all these folks do their thing, I can’t say I missed him.  Besides, his rendition of “Sometimes It Snows In April” on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” a few months ago was a fitting memorial to The Purple One.  I give props to everyone that contributed to the tribute performances last night, and I give major props to Jesse Williams’ speech.  They all made for a very memorable awards show.  I loved it.

—Written by Nadiya

So what did you think about all of Prince’s tributes?  Were they history in the making or all just overhyped?  Did you like them more or less than Madonna’s tribute?  What about Jesse Williams’ speech?  Was he giving you life with that speech or just getting on your nerves?  Did you miss D’Angelo?  Did you wish some other artists contributed to the Prince tribute?  Also, what did you think about the song choices?  Would you rather hear more of Prince’s bigger hits, or did you like that they went with the more semi-popular songs?  Lastly, what do you think about BET’s constant shade?

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Damn, that was a read.  Your thoughts, please!