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Famed Boston boyband New Edition makes a 30-year comeback

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Famed Boston boyband New Edition makes a 30-year comeback
New Edition (Photo: Courtesy BET)

The revolutionary Boston-based 1980s boy band, New Edition, is coming back in a big way. “The New Edition Story,” a three-part miniseries on New Edition’s origins, premieres Jan. 24 on BET Networks. All six members of the group were heavily involved in the film as executive producers, and they’re releasing a brand new album in tandem with the movie that drops on Jan. 27. Now middle-aged artists with families, it’s safe to say that the teen heartthrobs have come a long way since “Candy Girl.”

Staying authentic to their history was important to the band, and much of the miniseries was filmed in Boston. The actors had a 30-day intensive bootcamp with band members and worked hard to pick up both the mannerisms and choreography necessary for the musical numbers. “It’s incredible to watch the art of the actors,” says Ricky Bell. “They’re mimicking things we’ve done for 30 years.” The star-studded cast of the film includes Bryshere Y. Gray of “Empire,” Elijah Kelley of “Hairspray” and Keith Powers of “Straight Outta Compton,” among others.

The families of many band members continue to live in Boston and the group says they still feel strong ties to the city. Michael Bivins, who went on to found Bell Biv Devoe and then Boyz II Men, still lives in the New England area.

With so much life experience behind them, the band feels they can now properly reflect on the hard road from the Orchard Projects to stardom. “‘Candy Girl’ expressed our experience as kids growing up in the streets of Boston,” says Ronnie Devoe. “But it became a tug-of-war between what we wanted and what the people controlling our careers wanted. Now is the time we feel we can be honest.”

The New Edition story of six African American boys from Boston is especially poignant in a racially-tense political climate. Though Boston is a liberal city, it hasn’t always been a welcoming place for black artists, and New Edition broke many barriers. In their new album, they hope to express the positive spirit of overcoming challenges. “It’s all about family and community,” says Bell. “That’s how we’re able to persevere through the struggles in the black community, and that’s what we brought to the new album.”

New Edition created the framework for the popular ’90s and early ’00s boy bands, setting the stage for bands like New Kids on the Block, *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. To have them still together and creating music 30 years later is an admirable and inspiring feat. Time has treated the group well and they have progressed from a poppy, eager teen band to mature, polished creators. Bell says, “At some point you need to take your hands off and trust the process.”