I explained how I generally feel about songs recorded by kids (mainly how they don’t age well) in my “Candy Girl” post. With “Cool It Now”, New Edition did something only the Jackson 5 were able to do prior (and no one has been able to do since). They released two perfect singles (that still hold up) before the lead singer’s voice broke. Actually, make that three singles. You’ll have to wait a little while to find out what that third one is.
“Cool It Now” is youthful, bouncy, upbeat. It tackled something universal to all kids (and most adults, for that matter); the worry of falling in love with someone too quickly. The production was clearly designed to call “Candy Girl” to mind, but it had enough fresh elements to remove it from Maurice Starr’s original J5 ripoff. I’ve often wondered if Ralph Tresvant’s voice was either artificially sped up or if he was forced to sing outside of his range, because as the remainder of the New Edition album from 1984 indicates, Ralph’s voice was already changing from the squeak America fell in love with the year before.
So far, so good. What makes “Cool It Now” a classic is the rap part. Well, the rap parts. New Edition, collectively, are the MVPs of the hip-hop/R&B fusion. Several members (Tresvant key among them) were equally competent at rapping and singing, and the rhyming has never seemed forced on any of their records. Tresvant’s solo rap towards “Cool It Now”’s conclusion is iconic. If you were are a person of color born between 1968 and 1980 and you can’t recite that rhyme word for word, where the hell were you?
If you now you have “Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike…” in your head, you’re welcome.