Okay, let’s start by saying something nice. With catchy songs, good looks and great performance value, New Kids On the Block certainly deserved the popularity and success they achieved in the late 1980s, setting a new standard for the pop “boy band” that influenced acts like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys. Their success even provided a platform for the recent success of One Direction and their ilk. Neither was it entirely New Kids’ fault that the market became oversaturated with them, and people grew very tired of them very quickly. They had talent, looks and the “it” factor, and they are now an indelible part of American pop culture.
But that doesn’t mean they have to come back. Or that they should. Especially now.
The “boy” band’s (that’s a stretch at this point) latest release 10 (it’s their seventh studio album, don’t ask me why they named it 10) is hitting the market at a time when actual, age-appropriate boy bands like One Direction and The Wanted are monopolizing the ‘tween demographic. That fact alone pits them against almost insurmountable odds. To make a mark at this point, the band would have to put out one of the greatest records of all time—and this one doesn’t even come close to that benchmark. It’s pop music that’s passable, but there’s nothing about it that stands out. Even the lead single “Remix (I Like The)”, while one of the strongest tunes on the record in context, is going to have a hard time competing with the high-energy pop hits of today, let alone anything 1D is putting out.
In short, this was a bad idea, for three reasons:
- The New Kids on the Block were “new” 25 years ago. Each of these guys, while talented, have long outgrown their pretty-boy personas. It doesn’t make much sense for them to “come back” under that moniker.
- The NKOTB brand still carries a stigma that places them in a different era. No matter how current they try to make their sound (and they didn’t, really—most of this still sounds like early 90’s pop), people are likely always to associate them as a has-been act.
- It looks like they’re competing directly with the next generation. This is more a matter of context than anything else. No matter the actual motives of the band, with One Direction dominating the market, it’s hard to view a return of NKOTB as anything other than a pathetic attempt to steal back a part of the spotlight. Kind of like Madonna’s recent disses of Lady Gaga, only maybe a little subtler.
Now, to be clear (and to be fair), this isn’t a rant on the talent of any of the guys in the band. They do have talent, and their age shouldn’t stop them from finding success in the music industry today, especially given the successes of their past. But not. like. this. Not as New Kids On the Block. The tepid response to their last attempt at a comeback with The Block in 2008 should have been an indicator—and back then, they didn’t even have 1D to compete with. For die-hard NKOTB fans (i.e., ladies who were young girls in the late 1980s), 10 may serve as a nice dose of nostalgia—and hell, they might even sell some concert tickets out of this. But I don’t see any way that this record is going to re-establish the band’s relevance. They would have been better off keeping NKOTB as a pleasant memory and pursuing other musical endeavors.