It took more than 30 years in the making but New Edition and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) performed together for the first time at the 2021 American Music Awards on Nov. 21.
Introduced by J.B. Smoove, who joked about getting beat out by Bobby Brown for his spot in New Edition, NKOTB, and the original lineup of New Edition——Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant—who had various formations throughout the years with Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill’s solo careers and Bel Biv DeVoe, performed medleys of their songs together as well as their individual hits dubbed “Battle for Boston,” during the live awards ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Both groups, who hail from Boston with New Edition formed in 1978 and NKOTB started out in 1984, switched on and off with New Kids kicking things off with “The Right Stuff” from 1988, followed by New Edition’s 1983 hit “Candy Girl” with singer Ralph Edward Tresvant not missing a pubescent beat of the song, the group first released when they were in their early teens.
The performance marked the first time NKOTB has performed on the AMAs since 2010 and even longer for New Edition, who had their last appearance on the awards show in 1996.
As current boy banders BTS and Joey Fatone of *NSYNC watched in the audience, the performance continued on with NKOTB’s “Step by Step” and New Edition’s “Mr. Telephone Man,” before both groups started intermingling hits “Is This the End” and “Please Don’t Go Girl.” New Edition performed “Can You Stand the Rain,” and NKOTB broke out “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” separately, and both closed their show by dancing around New Edition’s 1988 hit “If It Isn’t Love.”
Though called “Battle for Boston,” the two groups have had more of a brotherhood, said NKOTB’s Joey McIntyre in an interview before the performance. “We’ll play along, but we’re having a blast,” said McIntyre. “We’re just floored. We were knocked out from day one because these guys are the best guys in the world, such heroes of ours, so we’re gonna bring it.”
Following the performance, New Edition’s Tresvant added, “It was incredible. It was a moment we’ve been waiting for for a long time, to be up there with the New Kids, our hometown. To be able to represent our city and celebrate with our longtime friends, New Kids on the Block, it was just a dream come true.”
Both groups are scheduled to get on the road in 2022 with NKOTB continuing The Mixtape Tour and New Edition set for a 30-stop arena tour.