Bell Biv DeVoe

Three Stripes

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Released the week BET broadcasted the three-part mini-series The New Edition Story, Three Stripes is the first album from New Edition spin-off Bell Biv DeVoe in over 15 years. The trio's previous album, BBD, was loaded with undesirable bids at keeping up with the new jacks (and produced no charting singles). Much of this one, featuring productions from Erick Sermon, Kay Gee, Battlecat, and Carvin & Ivan, is characterized by the same issue. Titled after the graphic trademark of a footwear manufacturer beloved by Bostonians, this return isn't poor enough to deserve a rating synonymous with a certain other athletic brand, but just over half of it is on that level. Although Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe are among the co-writers on most of the songs, the majority of the lyrical content resembles adolescent posturing, as heard throughout the likes of "I'm Betta," "Find a Way," and "Run," the latter two of which contain some oddly timed references to Next's "Too Close" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize." The most obvious attempt at trend chasing is "All Dat Dere," a slack slow jam that bares a whole lot of likeness to Bryson Tiller's self-termed trapsoul. Lowest, if not as crass as "Dance Bitch," is "Hot Damn," a bid for club play that resembles Empire-era Timbaland with its wild and busy drums: "Girl, we gon' turn the club into a circus/Ooh, love it when you twerk that." Some latter-half bright spots -- a sweet ballad in the form of the SWV collaboration "Finally," and a sparkling disco-funk pleader, "One More Try," with Boyz II Men -- redeem the album. Those two songs are comparatively effortless, reminiscent yet modern, and adult. Still, specific cuts by the likes of Bruno Mars and Kehlani provide more convincing proof of Bell Biv DeVoe and New Edition's continued relevance to contemporary R&B.

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