Sunday, May 19, 2013

The original boy banders

album review

New Kids on the Block was the first boy band and while others came and went, NKOTB are still 'hangin’ tough'

Band: New Kids on the Block
Album: 10

The recent resurgence in the boy band phenomenon has not only inspired new groups to sprout up but has also encouraged pop acts from the past to make a comeback. Giving rise to the concept of the ‘man band’, these reunions have ridden high on a wave of nostalgia and often proved fruitful.

New Kids on the Block's reemergence a few years ago is in sync with this trend. Often attributed with paving the way for groups like the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync to subsequently take over the charts, the premier boy band of the '80s found home in millions of teenage hearts before disbanding in 1994. Solo ventures and acting careers followed, albeit with varying levels of success, until 2008 when the group reunited, released a solo album, and subsequently set out on a tour with the Backstreet Boys in 2011.

Continuing on their comeback journey, the group has now released 10, their second new set since their reunion (sixth studio album overall). Another collection of straightforward pop, 10 makes no attempts to be different or innovative. Often taking its cues from Europop and making frequent use of electro beats, the set sees NKOTB rely on outside songwriters to come up with more generic boy band material that mulls over love and heartbreak.

Helmed largely by Danish production and songwriting team Deekay, the album's 12 songs (plus one hidden track) offer enjoyable urban pop propelled by catchy beats, and it's all clearly meant to sound stylish and modern. What's missing though is any sense of freshness, novelty, or even distinctiveness. Standouts include the playful first single 'Remix (I Like It)' and the upbeat, synth-ridden 'Crash' (which brings Nicki Minaj's 'Pound the Alarm' to mind), but songs like 'Fighting Gravity', 'Now or Never', and 'Back to Life', while competently delivered, offer little in terms of uniqueness.

All too often, it feels like New Kids on the Block - who, let's face it, are neither new nor kids - are yearning for the glory of their heydays while trying to sound relevant in the contemporary market. However, it ultimately feels like the group members - Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood - who are now middle-aged men, are singing songs that would have made more sense coming from younger artists, like Justin Bieber, Conor Maynard, or One Direction. Songs like the synth ballad 'We Own Tonight' and the propulsive 'Crash', for instance, would be at home on one of these artists' albums and could potentially even be hits. Coming from NKOTB though, the effort seems unconvincing.

On the whole, 10 is serviceable commercial pop, but there is absolutely nothing exceptional about it. The set is a collection of songs that have been competently put together but sound generic and uninspiring. It's the kind of middle of the road pop that NKOTB's fans will probably enjoy but that is very unlikely to expand their appeal or win them any converts. 

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday- 19th May, 2013

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