I remember working at a radio station back in 1987, and coming across a 45 from a new group called New Kids on the Block called “Please Don’t Go Girl”. Despite a lame name, the song actually was intriguing to me, and I kept an eye on it. A couple of months later, the song went Top 10, and a phenomenon was begun. More than twenty years later, are we looking at a revived frenzy for these five guys from Boston? I wouldn’t put money on it, but the odds are much better now than they were a few months ago.
“The Block”, which is a pretty clever way to rebrand yourself if you’re an aging boy band, opens with “Click Click Click”, one of my favorite pop songs of the year so far, and it hasn’t even been released as a single. Handclap percussion and Close Encounters-style synths bubble with a slick, subdued, and sexy vocal (almost a carbon copy of Nasri’s) that becomes as modern a single as NKOTB has ever released. Follow that with the Ne-Yo duet “Single”, the Lady GaGa duet on “Big Girl Now”, and their first top 40 hit in 16 years “Summertime”, and you have what shapes up to be a surprisingly legit CD from a band that was dead and buried at the start of 2008. The key here is the production. The boys can sing, and finally laid the lip-synch charges to rest a long time ago, but their musical choices were suspect at best. Now that they control their own destiny, they can be as grown as they wanna be, and they do that on tracks like “Grown Man”, “Dirty Dancing” and “Sexify My Love”. Highlights include “Full Service”, which surprisingly works with New Edition along for the ride, and “One Song”, despite the vocoder.
The Kids aren’t meant to change the world…they’re designed to cruise along with on a sunny day with the windows. If that’s your benchmark, they hit it with no effort.
The Block – B