The mature boy band is a fast growing trend in the world of music, as demonstrated by Take That’s phenomenal comeback in 2010, which had many mothers and daughters screaming enthusiastically as one. New Kids On The Block, after secretly reforming in 2007 and – not so secretly – touring with The Backstreet Boys (yes, they’re back too) and releasing a new album in 2008, they’ve made 10, as if to say the reunion is no one-album wonder.
Formed in 1984 by producer Maurice Starr, New Kids On The Block initially struggled to hit the big time with their debut album and were forced to regroup, creating as they did so music that presented their own style and yet still held that semblance of cheesy boy band lyrics. Their second album Hangin’ Tough was a smash hit in the US, leading to the announcement of their very own day in Massachusetts. A winding down, a split, solo albums, the reunion and, two decades later, the boys are back on the block. But this time they’re attempting to make a name for themselves as fortysomething men in a pop music world dominated by occasionally sleazy rap and much younger boy bands – One Direction, The Wanted and JLS chief amongst them – receiving most of the attention. Do NKOTB stand a chance?
10 kicks off with We Own Tonight, an empowered little number with some toe-tapping beats that implores listeners to hold on to the moment and enjoy the fact that they do indeed own the night. The new single Remix (I Like The), described in their press release as “thumping, guitar infused, sure to be smash single” is undeniably catchy; though not quite what one might describe as a “thumping, guitar infused” track, the video shows the boy-men suited up and looking rather suave with their clean, matured good looks. It includes the feel-good addition of a curvacious lady glimpsing herself in the bathroom mirror, releasing how bootylicious she is and proceeding to sexydance all over the darn house.
Unfortunately, after that promising start, the album plummets. The chorus of Take My Breath Away leaps not-so-subtly from a tinkling, melancholic piano into a throbbing club beat that wouldn’t go amiss in Ibiza. And sadly, the rest of the album is a typical boy band product of sappy lyrics and emotional ups-and-downs that would exhaust the most eccentric teenage drama queen. Now Or Never shows some promise, with a slightly more upbeat feel, but it retains much of the same stereotypical boy band hallmarks. Miss You More and Jealous (Blue) are basically the same song, with a chord changed here and there. The Whisper and Crash take a stab at a more youthful sound, the latter being reminiscent of something JLS might release; it could be chart-popular. And at the close, the super-secret hidden track Survive You/Let’s Go Out With A Bang coos on about the turmoil of a break-up in which your lovely lady simply asks to be friends and leads to much angst.
As much as everybody appreciates a good reunion, 10 isn’t really worth getting excited about unless you’re a diehard fan. The whole album, despite being sung by men in their 40s, gushes with bog-standard boy band sentiments and feelings of lost and unrequited love. Subtle hints of guitar and funky techno beats rub up alongside soft (auto-tuned?) harmonies and gentle ‘wooooooo’ noises that give each and every track that oh-so-special boy band feel. Despite the passing of the years and decades, 10 suggests New Kids On The Block are either incapable of creating or unwilling to create a new sound to present to the world. If it’s true that an album is supposed to take you on a musical journey, then 10 is the perfect accompaniment to a horrific break-up, or for an older, possibly wiser generation to recall their youthful days swooning at NKOTB posters.