You know, they met at the playground. On the monkey bars, to be precise.
The five and a half cute-as-hell kids (Red, Mark, Chris, Dave, Romell, and sometime member GA) were Another Bad Creation, aka ABC. New Edition (and New Kids on the Block) were Boston-born, and Boyz II Men were heirs to the Philly Sound, so these littlest Atlanta additions, “discovered” by Michael Bivins of New Edition and the Biv in Bell Biv DeVoe, rounded out the East Coast Family.
I’ve often wondered exactly what “discovering” them meant, as I’m pretty sure Biv wasn’t just some random creepy guy watching small children in the schoolyard, and I’m equally certain that they weren’t skipping school at eight years old to go harmonize on the street corner. No, this was Biv’s attempt to become Maurice Starr. As this song makes explicitly clear, Biv wants ABC to become the New New Edition. This is neither the time nor the place to get into the “beef” between New Edition and New Kids (cough, Bobby Brown, cough), but it’s clear that Biv looked at these young African-American kids as his musical heirs, to an extent. Not because of their musicality, which was kind of lacking, and not because of their dance skillz either, which were also not entirely there, but because their absolute charm and cuteness, combined with his musical production, made them completely MTV-ready.
It worked – their little high-top fades and baggy overalls (oh, early 90s fashion!) spun their debut album all the way up to #7 on the Billboard charts (#2 on R&B).
Their intended audience was clearly quite young, as the rather juvenile lyrics make clear – they ate cereal, played Nintendo, and swung on the swingset. It’s kind of jarring to me, then, that at the end of the video, as the pre-teens make their escape from the populace, it’s a group of muuuuch older white girls that try to chase them down. Not sure what that’s about, but it’s a little creepy, don’t you think?
Their sound, though, was straight up Bell Biv DeVoe, the New Jack swing production sounding out loud and clear. Jacked up treble, fronted snare, synthed orchestral hits, the works. It fit perfectly right in the pocket of early 90s pop-n-b, so even though lyrically I found it pretty one-dimensional, musically it had some solid features. For example, there’s a touch, toward the end, of the portamento synth that would be more strongly featured in other New Jack swing groups like Tony! Toni! Tone! but which would have a completely different sound in the West Coast gangsta rap about to come out of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (sorry, Snoop Lion). Most of the song’s value, though, is just as an example of Dallas Austin/Michael Bivins production, which turned out to be pretty influential on the sound of music in the coming years.
But come on, the airbrushed overalls just make your day, don’t they?