NEW EDITION has been victimized by its own success. The Boston group's five teenagers have become clean-cut pin-up idols for thousands of teenage girls all over America. To keep New Edition's music in line with its cuddly photos, the band's Hollywood producers have steered the group away from its hip-hop roots and into a brand of bubblegum soul with an especially high sugar content. As a result, its new album, "All For Love," is full of the kind of puppy love songs that hold little interest for anyone old enough to drive.
Recorded just before Bobby Brown left the quintet for a solo career, the album features Ralph Tresvant's cotton candy falsetto, with the four backing voices sighing most soothingly. The album's first hit single, "Count Me Out," is a transparent steal of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." The only song with real originality and credibility is "School," written and produced by the group's four remaining members. This driving rap number honestly examines the temptations that pull students away from school.
A more consistent and compelling album is "Chillin' " by the Force M.D.'s. This Staten Island quintet started out as a "do-wop hip-hop" group much like New Edition, but stayed truer to its roots. The Force M.D.'s give their intoxicating harmonies the believable edge of impatient desires and streetwise arrangements. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis supplied the stunning ballad "Tender Love," which is handled with knowing maturity. The uptempo songs have a rhythmic density that recalls the older Michael Jackson more than the Jackson 5.
NEW EDITION -- "All For Love" (MCA, 5679).THE FORCE M.D.'S -- "Chillin' " (Tommy Boy, TBLP 1010). New Edition, The Force M.D.'s and Cherelle appear Sunday afternoon and evening at The Washington Convention Center.