When I was five, New Kids On The Block told me they were gonna put me “in a trance with a funky song.” Twenty years later, they tell me I “ain’t no little girl no more.” And you know what that means.
It means that Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood have reunited after a fourteen-year hiatus. New Kids On The Block returns to the charts with the September release of The Block [Interscope], to the delight of the Generation X women who slept in NKOTB bed sheets, wore their fan club buttons, and kissed their dolls good-night in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
With the album’s lead-off track, “Click Click Click,” the group evokes a soulful and sultry side not seen in their previous works. Lyrics in “Sexify My Love” and “Put It On My Tab” drip with sexuality, signaling a sharp departure from their bubble gum pop persona, much like Bob Saget’s uncensored stand-up comedy departure from his Full House Danny Tanner persona. This album sets out to prove that they’ve still got the right stuff, can grow facial hair, and are willing to spit their game at the same women who, as little girls, read their comics and tuned in to their short-lived animated series.
With big names like Ne-Yo, The Pussycat Dolls, and Akon featured on The Block, NKOTB tries to remain relevant twenty years after helping pioneer the boy-band movement, for better or for worse. Melodic vocals and tight harmonies strengthen songs like “Single,” but in today’s homegrown American Idol pop star culture, the quintet blends into the mold instead of creating a new one, as they did when they first step-by-stepped onto the scene.
While the album’s first single and chart topper “Summertime” is reminiscent of their carefree teenage tunes, other songs like “Grown Man” and “Big Girl Now” seem heavy-handed in the group’s effort to prove that they’ve become adults who can still deliver to both loyal fans and a freshman audience.
For die-hard Blockheads only, the nostalgia value alone will make the album worth the money. But after the fans roll up their tattered Donnie posters and stuff their fading Joey t-shirts back into the attic, The Block fails to pack the unique punch that the group brought to their fans many years before.