This album turns 27 years old in June. It’s only 5 years younger than me. And yet, when I listened to it again for the first time in years back in 2008, I couldn’t get enough of it. One iPod later and I still find myself going back to Heart Break when I don’t know what to listen to. Why? Because Heart Break delivers.
There’s a phrase I’ve picked up from somewhere that says when something or someone is producing at the highest level possible, it’s called it “at the peak of their powers”. From 1988 to about 1992, all current and former members of New Edition were at the peak of their powers. And Heart Break was the start of the this run. Most of the album was told as if the group was on tour, starting with the “Introduction” up until “I’m Comin’ Home”, when Michael Bivens is trying to call his girl to announce that he’ll see her soon. The beauty of the whole LP for me, is its balance. NE easily transitions from New Kids On The Block “diss” track “Where It All Started” to delivering standout ballads like “Can You Stand The Rain” and “Boys To Men” (which was where Boyz II Men got their group name from).
Produced mostly by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, New Edition helped ushered in the New Jack Swing era that would dominate radio waves for the next 5 or so years. From this album, ex-member Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel would make him a solo star; Ricky Bell, Bivens, and Ronnie DeVoe would form Bell Biv DeVoe in 1990 and took over the world with their debut Poison; and Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill would release successful solo endeavors in 1990 as well. The group would reunite in 1996 (along with Bobby) for Home Again, and while their musical output has declined since, the group is still touring and very much intact.
So Heart Break deserves an MVP Award not because of its hits or its timelessness or what its members were able to spin out of it (although all of those count). It’s an album that brings a smile to face and I can count on it every single time I press play on track 1.
Save tomorrow for me.