Title: New Kids On The Block: How the Boys from Boston, Massachusets Blew the World Away
Written by Jamie Ortega
They made us reach for our dreams "Step By Step", and when things were too much to bear they reminded us to "Hanging Tough". Each song they sung was as breezy as "Summertime", and when we thought we’ve finally outgrown them they’d sing "Please Don’t Go Girl". With songs as sweet and lovely as these there is no doubt in anyone’s mind why Jordan, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood made many a girl scream in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Styling is very much a part of any boy band, and this writer will always remember the New Kids On The Block boys for their slicked back ‘dos, leather jackets, and utterly charming smiles. Oh, and for an animated TV series they starred in, making them pretty much the only-quite literally-animated boy band in existence. But we are getting way too ahead of ourselves. For the second part of our MCS Exclusive let us relive the humble beginnings of New Kids On The Block!
In the early 1980’s talent manager Maurice Starr auditioned more than 500 teenage boys in Boston, Massachusetts, in the hopes of making a white counterpart of the boy band New Edition. A then 15 year old Donnie Wahlberg was first accepted into the group. Donnie recruited his younger brother Mark, as well as good friend Danny Wood. After hearing his exceptional falsetto, he convinced another buddy, Jordan Knight as well as Jordan’s older brother Jonathan Knight, to try their luck as well. As the group began to take shape, Mark suddenly quit. Wahlberg was eventually replaced by Joey Mckintyre.
The group’s rise to fame wasn’t a steady one. Their self-titled debut album in 1985 received minor airplay around Boston but failed to capture nationwide attention. They decided to take a more hands-on approach, touring around the New England states, singing at bars, school dances, etc. It seemed as if their second album Hanging Tough would have the same fate until a radio station in Florida began playing the song Please Don’t Go Girl. The tune quickly became the most requested song in that radio station’s playlist. Please Don’t Go Girl officially became the group’s first hit.
This was followed by their album’s second single, You Got It (The Right Stuff) which was given a huge boost when MTV began playing the song’s music video in regular rotation. By 1989 they bagged their next hit, the single I'll Be Loving You (Forever), which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in June. By the end of 1989, Hangin' Tough had climbed to number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and had gone eight-times platinum. They, subsequently, became the first 'teen' act to garner five top ten hits from a single album.
Hangin' Tough would go on to spend 132 weeks on the chart, and in January 1990, the album won two American Music Awards for "Best Pop/Rock Album", and "Best Pop/Rock Group." With the success of three more singles, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)," "Cover Girl," and "This One's For the Children," the group pulled off a rare feat of having three singles on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, but each from a different album. Their days of Hangin Tough were now over.
For their next album, Step By Step, the boys decided to have a larger part in the album’s creative process. Thus, Step By Step featured slightly more than half of the songs co-written and produced by the members themselves. That turned out to be a good decision as their first single Step By Step, shot to number one on the Hot 100 Singles Chart and became the boys biggest selling single. The entire album was eventually certified triple platinum, selling close to twenty million copies worldwide.
What could possibly follow after being certified triple platinum? A concert tour, of course! The group performed at an estimated 200 concerts a year, the most memorable of which was The Magic Summer Tour sponsored by Coke. The international superstars slowly ventured into merchandising. The NKOTB –licensed merchandise included pretty much anything people could get their hands on including lunch boxes, buttons, T-shirts, comic books, dolls, trading cards and that very memorable Saturday morning cartoon. In 1991 the group topped Forbes list of highest paid entertainers, beating out the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Bill Cosby!
Unfortunately, the next couple of years saw a huge dip in the boys’ popularity. Their fourth studio album after nearly four years entitled Face The Music, drew a lukewarm response from their fans. The most successful song from that album was Dirty Dawg which peaked at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The group finally decided to split in 1995. After the group's disbanding, majority of the members decided to focus on their personal lives. They began to settle down and started to have families. Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood maintained low profiles, while the other three members continued their solo careers individually.
Amid staggering clamor from their fans, the group reunited for a reunion tour 13 years after their break-up. The tour began on September 18, 2008 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, touring the United States with Natasha Bedingfield and Lady Gaga as their supporting acts. They proceeded to take over the world with a total of 48 concerts scheduled for Canada and the United States, ten in the United Kingdom, one in France, one in Amsterdam, Netherlands and two in Germany. To make their fans even happier a NKOTB-sponsored "theme" concert cruise traveled from Miami, Florida, to the Bahamas from May 15–18, 2009. On November 3, 2010 it was formally announced, in all major media outfits around the world, that two of the biggest boy bands the music industry has ever witnessed, NKOTB and Backstreet Boys, will be circling the globe together, making boy band fans happier than they’ve ever been before!