New Kids still have the right stuff
By Mary Emerita Montoro
Moms always said that a second helping is better than the first. She was referring to food of course, but the sentiment could also apply to music. Tina left Ike and soared, Run-D.M.C.'s version of Aerosmith's classic "Walk This Way" reached No. 1 and Jordan Knight and Joe McIntyre, formerly of teen group New Kids on the Block, can claim their spot in the second coming.
In 1988, NKOTB's first hit single "You Got It (The Right Stuff) made millions of young girls and teens embrace the return of the boy band genre.
Jordan Knight unofficially led the quintet with his baby doll looks and cool dance moves. For eight years, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood, Knight and his other brother Jonathan and McIntyre, made girls fall hard and opened a path for the success of future boy banders.
What separated NKOTB from other groups back in the day, was their lyrical devotion to the romantic ideals of love and commitment. There wasn't a hint of impropriety in their music, just good old-fashioned girl-you're-my-world-and-forever-my-queen. Their faces were quickly plastered everywhere.
However, with music changing so quickly and fans looking elsewhere for musical enlightenment, NKOTB broke up in 1994. The guys separated and went on with their lives. Then, slowly but steadily Knight and McIntyre bided their time to return to the spotlight. They were gone for a while but their desire to sing never died.
After a five-year hiatus, Knight and McIntyre returned to the music scene this year. True, it wasn't the same fanfare of NKOTB where in 1990 alone they made over $800 million. This time around the fans got older, some new ones discovered the group and the guys had to start all over but this time, on their terms.
McIntyre grew up in Needham, Mass., as the youngest of nine listening to Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. His musical influences are definitely felt in his CD "Stay the Same" released in April.
The title track, which McIntyre wrote, was the top-requested song on 108 KISS FM radio station in Boston -- and he didn't have a record deal. MTV's "Total Request Live" took notice and the video made the top 10. During his absence, McIntyre wrote songs and took up acting. While McIntyre's video made its way to the countdown, fellow New Kid Knight's video "Give It to You" crept alongside.
The single is a far cry from the innocence of Knight's NKOTB days. He is a lot more risquŽ and sexier. Here's an example from the song: "Anyone can make you sweat/But I can keep you wet."
Well now, that's definitely a long, long way from "The Right Stuff". But that's the point. The progression from teen idol to male singer isn't easy, especially when fans yearn for the familiarity of yesteryear. Luckily, Knight hasn't had many problems.
With the help from funk-doobiest R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they will do for Knight what they did for Janet Jackson with her 1986 "Control" album -- release him from the teenybopper image. Both singers' CDs are still banging high and fans are happy that Knight and McIntyre are back.
"I have both ... CDs and I think they are wonderful. They have both grown and changed in the last few years since NKOTB but it is definitely for the best!" said Kristi L. Truman a senior at the University of Kansas whose been a fan of Knight and McIntyre for 10 years. "I think it is great that they are out there on their own and they can now prove that they are legitimate performers, not just some good-looking guys in a boy band."
Besides their sexually charged energy, Knight's lyrics are emotional. Along with singing about love lost and new, he gets his boogie on at an adult level. McIntyre does the same indicating that he is grown.
The guys are back, stronger than ever and the fans are appreciative of their return.
Twenty-two-year-old Michelle Proctor, an office manager of a heating and air-conditioning company in Indiana, doesn't hide her avid admiration for Knight and McIntyre. "I'm glad that when I was young I spent my time watching, listening to and collection New Kids memorabilia instead of doing drugs or getting involved in other harmful things," says the wife and mom.
Proctor couldn't stop praising the CDs. "Both albums have a good mixture of dance tunes and ballads. They both show a lot of growth musically. The reason I have stayed a fan for so long is really quite simple. I am a firm believer that if you love something or someone, you never stop."
After the 1994 break-up, Knight was hit with an overwhelming case of stage fright. To overcome it, he performed incognito at Boston piano bars on open-mike nights. Pretty soon, the stage fright dissolved and Knight was ready to perform live again. He collaborated with writer/producer Robin Thicke, son of actor Alan Thicke, on the CD.
Knight kept himself on the d-lo writing songs, collecting material and finding the right people to work with. Let this be a lesson to all arts aficionados: you never truly stop doing what you are meant to do. In Knight and McIntyre's case, music is a calling.
McIntyre was the last member to be chosen for the fledging group NKOTB. Knight had already been selected. The band's second single, "Please Don't Go Girl" from the 1988 album "Hangin' Tough," marked the first time 15-year-old Joey sang lead. The powerful range he displayed was just a small sample of what he can do. The group's third single, "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," could be considered Knight's signature song.
Tender. Romantic. Heart and gut wrenching. Hey for a 16, 17 or 19 year-old girl, that's all it took to make it through the next day.
In 1986, producer Maurice Starr was looking for a vanilla version of his popular R&B group New Edition. Columbia Records signed the group in 1986 but their self-titled album didn't cause much commotion. However, the following record "Hangin' Tough" went through the roof.
Almost overnight, their faces graced the covers of teen magazines and People, had sold-out concerts and appeared on "Oprah."
Not even a potentially damaging rumor in the late '80s stopped their success. Apparently, word leaked out that NKOTB lip-synched ‡ la Milli Vanilli. The boys flew from their last concert in Australia to the States to quash the unfounded allegations on the "Arsenio Hall Show." Of course, legions of die-hard fans supported the group. Backstreet Boys, pray that you'll receive the same devotion.
Currently Knight, who is the youngest of six born in Dorchester, Mass., is touring with 'N Sync and 5ive for the summer. McIntyre's summer tour includes stops in Pennsylvania, California, Nevada and New York. The exhausting tour schedule is the beginning of returning to the forefront.
"I'm very excited that Joe and Jordan are back. I've been a New Kids fan for 10 years and think I will always be one," said proud junior sociology major Beckie Palmer of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. "I like Joe's album. His vocals are amazing and I love the fact that is writing his own stuff these days. Jordan is on another level, though he is amazing!"
As for the rest of the group, the brothas are doing well.
Wahlberg wrote and produced some tracks for McIntyre's CD. When he's not playing boss of Donnie D Productions or being daddy to his 6-year-old son Xavier or running his new restaurant, he acts.
Wahlberg's movie credits include "Ransom", "Southie" and the new Bruce Willis psychodrama "Sixth Sense."
Danny Wood lives in Miami with his wife and three children. He wrote and produced songs on McIntyre's CD and has a production company, Damage Productions. Jonathan is completely gone from the music industry. He is now a successful real estate developer.
Not all fans of NKOTB were women. Junior theater major Derek Thomas from UCLA is one of their male following.
"It's great that they take the opportunity to explore their careers at different angles. I wish Knight and McIntyre] great success," he said.
The two have proved they are more than pretty faces. They give good voice, and their new material is more mature. Now they are running things. NKOTB's success has contributed to the plethora of boy bands today.
It began with the Beatles, The Osmond Brothers and the Jackson 5. They were more than one-hit wonders. They avoided the scarring of becoming has-been singers who drown in an excess of alcohol, groupies, drugs and jail time. What's so phenomenal about Knight and McIntyre's resurrection is how their fans never left.
"Well the guys I think sound much better now than they did when they were in NKOTB, because they get to show off their voices more, said Melaine Megginson in Virginia a high school student who is home-schooled.
Check out the dozens of Web sites dedicated to individual members of NKOTB or the group as a whole. Just because a band is out of the public eye, doesn't mean that people forget. Pay attention, A.J. (Backstreet Boys), Justin ('N Sync) and Abs (5ive); you might just learn something.