In terms of vocal sophistication, my picks:
1 johnny- 2 ralph 3 ricky 4 bobby
Bobby should try doing an all-ballads LP next-- we know they come from a background of hip-hop swagger, but it could be lucrative to go more deliberately for adult contemporary audiences.
In terms of rap skills-
mike- keeps it fun, fortunately didn't go too gangster--
Ronnie- generally on-point, but certain verses have come across as off-beat
With the youth R&B acts of the 1980s leading into the rise of new jack swing as a format, in New Edition and most of the Gen X soul/R&B singers, they didn’t look at rap as an “enemy” genre, a different tack compared to the funk bands of the 70s who absolutely hated disco.
It would be great if universal records would release a CD box set of “The New Edition Legacy” with the key group and spinoff albums as well as hard to find 12-inch mixes of various songs. The “NE Heartbreak” remix in particular I’m interested in.
Too bad that the group wasn’t actively releasing material in the “gap years”. I wanted them to put out more albums as a group and with the spinoffs. Especially after they signed with Bad Boy I thought they intended to put out more than just one group album. They were very much the Generation X J5/Temptations. As the nineties wore on, it seemed like we heard less from them, as people like R Kelly, Maxwell, Raphael Saadiq and other male soloists became more prominent. Boyz II Men and Jodeci had a rivalry that yielded some competitive hits; the newer R&B groups that came out started having their runs: 112, Jagged Edge, Immature, B2K, etc. Obviously, the “white dude” group acts started blowing up: Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, 98 Degrees, etc. (Full Force wrote and produced for a lot of them). And of course the thematic trend toward “Thug & B” became the equivalent of gangsta-rap for male R&B artists.. Trey Songz, Chris Brown, etc.
I didn’t care for “Forever” when Bobby put that out; I also didn’t know that he had an indie release “Masterpiece” until discovering it at allmusic.com, also Ralph’s “Rizz Wa Faire” LP, I scarcely knew that even existed. I figured both of these guys still had enough influence to secure a major deal, seems a little odd. I’d also have to revisit Johnny’s last couple of solo albums which I hadn’t checked out. I felt he should have had a more prominent role on group LPs after “Heartbreak” but of course there was that immediate segue into the solo spinoffs and eventually the staggered-out “reunion” albums. I also hadn’t checked out the LSG albums yet; RIP Gerald Levert.
Some folks I’d still like to see the group collaborate with in the near future: DJ Premier, Teddy Riley, R. Kelly, Rick Rubin, Lenny Kravitz, Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, Lauryn Hill.
I’m thinking I’ve still never managed to see any of them live in concert. That has to change this year, lol.