(Never read YouTube comments. Form your own opinion.)
Back when I was a wee lad of about twelve or thirteen, I and a few of my friends from the neighborhood, were sitting in my living room, trying our best to copy the hit song “Jealous Girl” by New Edition. When we got to the breakdown where Mike raps to the jealous girl, I sang a few ad libs in the background. My friends were like, “What the hell are you doing?” I said, “I’m singing Ronnie’s part!” They didn’t even realize that Ronnie was singing while Mike was talking.
In NE, Mike barely sang, and Ronnie only sang a little. It was usually the other four members (Ralph, Bobby, Ricky, Johnny) doing most of the heavy lifting. Ronnie and Mike would pitch in here and there with a vocal line or two. I found myself always rooting for Ronnie, happy when he got a second or two to shine on a New Edition or Bell Biv DeVoe track. To me, Ronnie and Mike were the underdogs.
I’ve always identified most with the underdog; the person who doesn’t seek out the spotlight, but always tries to do the best that they can, whenever they can. When it comes to singing groups, there’s always some members who are better at singing than others, which is why they do the lead vocals on most songs. The underdogs may have been better at harmonizing, background vocals, rapping, hyping up the crowd, or even just dancing and looking good. New Edition had Ronnie DeVoe. *NSYNC had Joey Fatone. New Kids On The Block had Donnie Wahlberg. Not the strongest singers; had very few or no solos; could carry a tune, more or less. Still, the groups would not be the same without them.
Let me just get this out of the way right now: I am a die-hard, lifetime fan and admirer of New Edition. All six of them. Since 1983, I’ve been down with these brothers, and I couldn’t be prouder that their legacy has endured to this very day. Yes, I was steppin’ and singin’ right along with them from day one, too. Ralph, Bobby, Johnny, and Ricky all had vocal solos, while Ronnie and Mike did the backgrounds and the occasional rap or spoken word solo.
As far as New Kids On The Block, Donnie was the background/rap guy of the group. When it comes to *NSYNC, my knowledge of their song catalog is admittedly limited, but I don’t think Joey Fatone had many solos. Both *NSYNC and NKOTB owe everything that they are to New Edition doing it first, by the way. Anyway, even though many of them have other things going on: Ronnie is in real estate; Joey’s a game show host; Donnie’s a regular on a TV show; all these guys are still practicing their first love: performing. Have they gotten better in their later years? Well, age is a cruel mistress to us all so, not really.
But, who cares? If you wanna sing, then sing. Here’s Joey singing with Lance on some cruise ship. And here’s Donnie belting out a few tunes during a NKOTB reunion. As for Ronnie, here he is getting the foreground to sing his background part in “Jealous Girl.” These guys are in their forties (and fifties!), and crowds still love ’em.
I’ve stopped living vicariously through Ronnie DeVoe, but I am still proud of everything he’s done, and continues to do. Right now, he’s recording new music with his wife Shamari as Me & Mari. They recently gave a performance of their single “Love Comes Through” on a show called Windy City LIVE. Was it a bad performance? No. Was it a good performance? Also no. The singing and the choreography were… not good. Ron’s outfit was also ill-advised. Many viewers saw this performance as corny, off-key, and reminiscent of an old sketch from In Living Color.
Sure, the studio version of “Love Comes Through” is only slightly better, and they came off looking like Cephus and Reesie on that TV show, but who gives a crap? They were a married middle-aged couple, very much in love, performing on a daytime local talk show, with no band, and probably no rehearsal. What the hell did people want? After everything that Ron DeVoe has given the world of entertainment for the past 35+ years, I’ll grade this performance on a curve.
You keep on doin’ you, Ron. (And Joey. And Donnie.) Damn the haters.