521. ‘Candy Girl’, by New Edition

Hmm… On the one hand, you could argue that this next #1 emphatically breaks the run of eighties classics that we’ve been enjoying. On the other, you could argue that this record is as much an eighties classic as ‘Billie Jean’ or ‘Let’s Dance’

Candy Girl, by New Edition (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, 22nd – 29th May 1983

I mean ‘classic’ not so much in the sense that this song is any good; but that it is jam-packed with eighties flourishes. There is no mistaking when this record was released. And this is American eighties. We’ve had lots of ‘British’ eighties over the past three years, in the new-wave, post punk, New Romantic acts that have topped the charts. The 2nd British invasion is well underway but, as the decade wears on things will get a lot more US-led. Starting here…

Candy girl, You are my world… First things first, this is a pretty blatant rip-off of The Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’. And not just in terms of the melody: we’ve got five young, black Americans bringing a bright and peppy pop tune to the top of the charts. (They weren’t shy about the comparison either: the group’s name refers to them being a ‘new edition’ of the Jacksons.) Second things second: we’ve got rapping!

We’ve had bands toy with rap – mainly reggae acts like Dave & Ansil Collins and Musical Youth (who are another point of comparison with New Edition) – but this is the first genuine hip-hop number one. No other genre will dominate the next forty years of the charts as much as rap, so this is a bit of a moment. My girl’s like candy, A candy treat, She knocks me right off my feet… People complain about modern hip-hop lyrics, but… My girl’s the best and that’s no lie, She tells me I’m her only guy… Give me ‘WAP’ any day of the week.

It’s not just the rapping that makes this sound so modern though. The beat is clear and heavy – a glimpse ahead to new jack swing later in the decade – and the squelchy, farty synths are almost a voice in their own right. Which isn’t a good thing… Someone was let loose on the decks, and needed to be reined in. By the end they’re mimicking ‘ring a ring a roses’ like a demented playground chant…

In a classic boy-band debut single move, there’s a break to allow an introduction to the members who will soon be adorning bedroom walls the world over. Check out Mike and Bobby’s ladies… Ooh-wee… What about Ronnie’s? She’s bad… It’s incredibly cringey, but these moments always are. I’m forty years too late, and thirty years too old, to appreciate it.

If that write up sounded harsh then I didn’t really mean it to. I have to admit I’m enjoying this… Sort of. If you’re going to build a song so obviously around ‘ABC’ then you’re giving yourself a solid foundation. There’s an endearing energy to it, the boys were all just fourteen or fifteen when this was released, even if the farty synths and the high-pitched voices are a bit too much. Plus there is one of the clunkiest key-changes ever heard in a chart-topping single.

This was New Edition’s first ever release, and for some reason the UK took to them much quicker than the US (‘Candy Girl’ only made #46 on the Hot 100). In the long run, though, their American chart success would be much more long-lasting, reaching well into the 1990s. The members would also try their hand away from the group, the most prominent career being that of founder Bobby Brown’s (and not always for musical reasons…)

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18 thoughts on “521. ‘Candy Girl’, by New Edition

  1. I don’t get how “Candy Girl” was more popular in the UK than in New Edition’s homeland though while it didn’t do well on the Hot 100 it did get to #1 on Billboard’s R&B charts meaning they already had a Black audience which would be a common occurrence for R&B acts in the ’80s to do better with their home audience than with mainstream and whiter audiences. Tom Breihan described the song as “post-disco Jackson 5” which sounds about right and my favorite parts here are the ones that call back to the Jackson 5 like in the back and forth “Do you really love me” section but everything else about the song annoys the fuck out of me. “Candy Girl” feels dated in the most embarrassing sense of the term from the cheap farting synths to the rap bridge along with the elementary lyrics and Ralph Tresvant’s helium-sounding singing that makes him sound much younger than 14-15. Thankfully, they would go on to make better music together and in their various projects like Bobby Brown with the Don’t Be Cruel album and Bell Biv Devoe with “Poison”

    • I did wonder about the voices Was it recorded earlier than it was released…? Sounds more 11-12 than 14-15. Perhaps he was just a late bloomer… I don’t really get how this was so big in the UK either (and very few of their later hits were at all). Perhaps it was the novelty factor: for all the record’s faults it does sound very new, fun, and American… But clearly the novelty factor lasted just for this one single!

  2. It was ok as a good natured ABC revamp the sort of pop song we didnt know we had missed. From 2022 tho its not as good ass Sigala’s chart topper Jackson 5 sampler. And ABC was never in the same class as other hits I want you back, ill be there, skywriter, looking thru the windows, never can say goodbye. Bobby browns solo career was much better than new edition…

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