Who could forget New Edition’s power ballad Candy Girls in 1986? Or Donnie Wahlberg in New Kids on the Block’s Morning After? The answer is probably everyone. When it comes to boybands, 1990s nostalgia was at its peak.
In a bid to recapture the chart success of the Spice Girls, a sister act was struck from the ranks of boyband duopoly to launch a rival. The addition of 20-year-old Naughty Boy to a New Edition hit gave a fifth member to the bill, but New Kids on the Block was taking no prisoners in 1984. Peter Andre said of this UK tale of two groups in 2007: “Singing is singing, whether it’s a New Kids on the Block song or a New Edition song.”
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New Kids on the Block and New Edition came together in 1984 to present What About Now?, the first single from the latter’s self-titled debut album. Both the songs they wrote were instant classics: Stay (I Missed You), I Want Candy, Do Me, I Want You and Candy Girls were all certified gold by the RIAA and were amongst the top 10 in the US.
In 1986, New Edition assembled for What About Now? Tour, with New Kids on the Block, Rob Base, Marky Mark and Coolio. It kicked off at the House of Blues in Boston and set a precedent for the era’s success. The group’s fourth album, Love & War, provided more hits such as Money (That’s What I Want), Ugly Betty and Sunflower. An unforgettable tour ended with a show at Wembley Arena in 1989. They sold more than 4.5m tickets and had the biggest No 1 single of that year, Sing It to Me.
The duo split in 1990, yet the two groups remained linked, with New Edition releasing Together for Life in 1995. New Kids on the Block ended their own run of chart domination in 1996 with I’ll Be Loving You (Forever). The group continued to tour together until New Kids on the Block and New Edition harmonised for their Done Again Tour in 1998, with New Edition as its support act. They continued until 2000. New Edition went on to release their compilation Take Me Home (On the Road Again) in 2001. New Kids on the Block returned in 2006 with the Donnie Wahlberg-led Search for the New Kids on the Block.
At the same time as New Kids on the Block dominated in the US, the great British invasion was underway, with Aretha Franklin and Culture Club combining to smash records in the UK. It remains to be seen whether the jukebox musical in London will emulate these acts and play records too many times.