The era these particular New Jack Swing themed R&B albums was released in was analgous to the First Golden Era Of Hip-Hop (1986-1989). The style, sound and aesthetic of Black music had changed but soon that would spread to Pop music as a whole. The catalyst behind this change was Bobby Brown. “Don’t Be Cruel” became a #1 R&B/Soul hit and reached the top 10 on the Billboard Pop charts, but that was only the beginning. Bobby Brown’s second single “My Prerogative” not only hit #1 on the R&B/Soul charts but it hit #1 on the Pop charts as well. The Teddy Riley produced single was drenched in Blackness. The New Jack Swing sound, utter funkiness and the attitude and swagger of Hip-Hop were impossible to overlook.

Before “My Prerogative,” a Black R&B artist had to play it safe or release a song in the vein of Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie or Stevie Wonder’s later work to achieve crossover success. Bobby Brown did it essentially by telling everyone to kiss his ass and he’s going to do whatever the hell he feels like. The song ended up being the biggest song of 1988 and it knocked Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” out of the #1 spot on the Billboard Pop charts at the top of 1989.

“Don’t Be Cruel” became a genre defining album, selling in excess of 5 million units by the close of 1989. No longer did Black artists have to play it safe or make songs like Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” or Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” to reach the top of the charts. Bobby Brown did it with Teddy Riley at 120 BPM while giving everyone the middle finger. Bobby then released the ballad “Roni” at the end of 1988 which rose all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1989. Bobby Brown had been grinding on people’s daughters in the front row since 1983 but now no one’s daughters were safe because he was now the biggest star in all of popular music not named Michael Jackson or Prince.

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New Edition’s “Heart Break” album went 3x Platinum worldwide by the close of the 1988-89 Heartbreak Tour and spawned five hit singles (“If It Isn’t Love,” “Not My Kinda Girl,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” Crucial” & “N.E. Heart Break”). Bobby Brown also had five hit singles off “Don’t Be Cruel” (“Don’t Be Cruel,” “My Prerogative,” “Roni,” “Every Little Step” & “Rock Wit’cha”) but it should be pointed out that Bobby had an additional hit from the “Ghostbusters II” soundtrack “On Our Own” that reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 to bring the total to 6 overall. Bobby Brown’s album was so huge worldwide that after the 1988-89 Heartbreak Tour ended in Summer 1989, he immediately had to launch another 120 date worldwide tour that ran from 1989 into 1990.

The 1988-89 Heartbeak Tour was also beneficial to Al B. Sure! who racked up five hit singles (“Nite And Day”, “Off On Your Own (Girl)”, “Killing Me Softly”, “Rescue Me” and “If I’m Not Your Lover”) and multiplatinum sales throughout the duration of its run. New Edition was finally able to rest on their laurels a little bit. Their tour plan worked to perfection and turned out to be a kingmaker.

Where It All Started: 25th Anniversary Retrospective of Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” & New Edition’s “Heart Break”  was originally published on theurbandaily.com

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