New Kids on the Block
(also known as NKOTB
) are an award-winning American
pop group that enjoyed success in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a boy band
, being widely regarded as the first true example of the genre. Assembled in Boston
in 1984 by producer Maurice Starr
, the members consist of brothers Jordan
and Jonathan Knight
, Joey McIntyre
, Donnie Wahlberg
, and Danny Wood
. The group went on to sell over 70 million albums worldwide, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in concert revenues, and paved the way for acts like Backstreet Boys
, Take That
. They won two American Music Awards
in 1990 for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group and Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Hangin' Tough
. After having disbanded in 1994, several attempts were made to get the group back together, all of them unsuccessful. They reunited in 2008 and took on a new style, and have released a new album and will embark on a concert tour in the fall. The album, entitled The Block
was released on September 2, 2008.
In the early 1980s, Maurice Starr
quintet (later sextet) New Edition
and guided their early success. After breaking ties with them, Starr and his business partner, Mary Alford, sought to create a white counterpart act. Auditions were held around Boston, at which some five hundred teenaged boys auditioned. Among them was 15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg, who immediately impressed Starr and Alford with his dancing ability and showmanship, becoming the group's first member. Wahlberg assisted in helping to recruit other members. Among them were his younger brother Mark
, and his best friend Danny Wood. He also coaxed one-time schoolmate Jordan Knight, who sang an exceptional falsetto
, into auditioning as well. Upon Knight's passing the audition, his older brother Jonathan (also possessing a strong singing voice) was accepted into the group as well. At first it was rumored that Jordan was gay due to his earrings and voice, but Jordan always denied. Later on Jordan woud go on to marry his longtime girlfriend.
As the group began to take shape, Mark became disillusioned with its bubble gum direction, and opted to quit. Another one of Donnie's neighborhood friends, Jaime Kelley, took his place. Kelley, though, would eventually be dismissed for lack of concentration and discipline. Seeking a Donny Osmond-esque singer to sing the high solos, Starr replaced him with 12-year-old Joey McIntyre—whom the other guys initially resented for being the one to replace their friend. With the final line-up in place Starr rehearsed the boys diligently, after school and on weekends, and eventually secured the group (which was being called Nynuk) a recording contract at Columbia Records. The label, however, demanded Starr change the name of the group. Subsequently they settled on New Kids on the Block, after a rap song that Donnie had written and arranged for their first album.
1986: New Kids on the Block (debut album)
In April 1986, Columbia Records
released the group's self-titled debut album
. The album, almost exclusively written and produced by Maurice Starr, featured mid 80s bubblegum pop
material. The first single, "Be My Girl
" received minor airplay around the group's native Boston, but failed to capture nationwide attention. The album's second single, "Stop It Girl
," fared even worse. The New Kids went on tour around the New England states, singing wherever Starr could book them: in bars, school dances, and clubs. Nevertheless, Starr remained diligent and persuaded the label to allow the group to record a second album. The album, however, would later go on to be certified triple platinum by the RIAA
, largely on the strength of the popularity the group attained with their next album.
1988-1989: Hangin' Tough
After the failure of the first album, Starr had the group back in the studio for most of 1987 and 1988 recording their second album. Dissatisfied with the excessively bubblegum sound of their first album, the group wanted to have more input on their look, direction and song material. As a result, Donnie, Danny and Jordan received associate producer
credit on the final product. The album's first single was "Please Don't Go Girl
," a ballad released in the spring of 1988. Failure seemed destined a second time when the song became another that went unnoticed by the listening public, and Columbia Records made plans to drop the New Kids from the label. At the eleventh hour, however, a radio station in Florida
began playing the song. Scoring listener approval, it soon became the most requested song on their play list. When Columbia caught wind of the positive response, they decided to keep the group on its roster and put more effort into promoting the single. National attention soon followed and it eventually climbed to #10 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart
—becoming the group's first hit.
New Kids on the Block's second album, Hangin' Tough, was released to modest fanfare in September. In the meantime, the group began making national televised appearances on such music programs as Showtime at the Apollo, and Soul Train. They later landed a spot as an opening act for fellow teen-pop act Tiffany on the U.S. leg of her concert tour. Sales of Hangin' Tough steadily increased as the group's national attention slowly rose. At year's end, the album's second single "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" was released. The song was given a huge boost when MTV took notice of the group and began playing the video in regular rotation. By early 1989, it cracked the top five. The New Kids hit pay dirt with their next single, "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in June. The group had been scheduled to open for Tiffany once again on a second tour, but their sudden popularity caused a reversal, and she wound up opening for them (although the two acts were technically billed as "co-headliners.")
More top five singles from Hangin' Tough followed into the summer and fall, including: the title track and "Cover Girl." Columbia Records also released the single "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", from the groups previously overlooked debut album. The song went #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles on the strength of the group's popularity and effectively jump-started the sales of that album as well. 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.
Meanwhile, a top ten charting holiday album, Merry, Merry Christmas, was released in the fall—spawning another top 10 hit, "This One's for the Children" and going double platinum in the U.S. The proceeds were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, the New Kids' favorite charitable cause. 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."
1990-1991: Step by Step
By early 1990, New Kids on the Block had become one of the most popular acts in the world. The following May, they followed up Hangin' Tough
with Step by Step
, which featured slightly more than half of the songs co-written and produced by the members themselves. The first single, the title track
, raced to number one on the Hot 100 Singles Chart and became their biggest selling single. It was followed up with the top ten "Tonight
," which extended the consecutive top ten singles chart run to an nine records. The album was eventually certified triple platinum, selling close to twenty million copies worldwide.
The group performed an estimated two hundred concerts a year, with an extravagant worldwide concert tour that summer, called The Magic Summer Tour, sponsored by Coke. Their 1990 pay-per-view special broke cable-TV history at the time. During this time, the group became heavily merchandised. NKOTB licensed merchandise included lunch boxes, buttons, T-shirts, comic books, dolls, and even a Saturday morning cartoon in their likeness. In 1991, sales for the group's merchandise was estimated at US$ 400 million.
New Kids on the Block's official fan club had a membership of over 200,000 members and was one of the largest fan clubs in the world. Approximately one hundred thousand calls per week were dialed to 1-900-909-5KIDS, the Official NKOTB Hotline, as well. In 1991, the group topped Forbes list of highest paid entertainers, beating out the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Bill Cosby. Further capitalizing on the fame, at year's end, Columbia Records released No More Games/The Remix Album—a compilation of the group's biggest hits remixed, the album also brought along two more released songs in "Call It What You Want" and "Games" in which videos were released also.
The group released no new material in 1991, but went overseas and continued to tour throughout Europe and Asia. That summer, Wood and Wahlberg co-wrote and produced the debut album from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch—headed by Mark Wahlberg, Donnie's brother and former New Kid. Mark Wahlberg's album scored a number one hit with "Good Vibrations," and a platinum album.
1992: Allegations of lip syncing and waning popularity
In early 1992, the group released the stand-alone single, "If You Go Away
." The song peaked at #16 on the US charts and #9 in the UK charts. Meanwhile, as the music industry was still reeling from the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing
scandal, the group found themselves accused of lip-syncing by Gregory McPherson, a music teacher who was listed as an associate producer and string arranger on the group's third album, Step by Step
. McPherson alleged that Maurice Starr sang the vocals while the group lip-synced to pre-recorded vocals during their lives performances. McPherson also filed a breach of contract
and creative infringement lawsuit against Starr. The group immediately responded to the allegations and interrupted the Australian leg of their tour to fly to Los Angeles to perform live on The Arsenio Hall Show.
After performing a medley of their previous hits and their new single, the group (along with Starr) were interviewed by Hall. The group admitted to singing with a backing track during live performances and also admitted that Starr sang harmony on some background vocals.
On February 10, 1992, the New Kids filed a defamation lawsuit against McPherson regarding his lip-syncing allegations. In April 1992, McPherson dropped his suit against Starr and released a statement recanting his previous allegations stating, "They [The New Kids] did sing lead on their vocals".
By the time the lip-syncing allegations surfaced, the group was starting to experience a backlash. Despite their success, the group was regularly dismissed by critics for their attempts to promote themselves as an urban act and their practice of using backing vocals for live performances. The group's record sales also began to decline due to a shift in musical tastes to gangster rap and grunge rock.
1993-1994: Face the Music
In 1993, after having split from Maurice Starr, the group shortened their name to the acronym NKOTB
. In January 1994, their fourth studio album, Face the Music
, was released. Their first studio album in close to four years, Face the Music
, was a musical departure from the group's previous efforts. Nearly all the songs were written and/or co-produced by the group. In spite of some positive critical reception, the album failed to live up to commercial expectation. The album's final single to chart was "Dirty Dawg
" (which featured a rap cameo by Nice & Smooth
), peaking at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100. The followup single, "Never Let You Go", failed to chart in the U.S., but did reach #42 in the UK Singles Chart
and #18 in the Canadian
NKOTB went on tour to support the album, playing smaller venues such as clubs and theaters, as opposed to the arenas and stadiums they were once accustomed to. After experiencing increased panic attacks and anxiety, Jonathan Knight left the band. Shortly thereafter, the remaining four decided to officially disbanded the group.
1995-2007: Post-NKOTB/Reunion Attempts
After the group's split, most of the group members started families and began to venture into other avenues. Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood maintained low profiles, while the other three continued their careers individually.
In 1999, MTV attempted to reunite the group and get them to perform on that year's VMAs. All of the members were on board for the project, except Jonathan. Consequently, the performance didn't happen.
In 2004, Aamer Haleem, host of VH1's Bands Reunited, also attempted to coerce each of the members of New Kids on the Block to reunite for a one-night performance for the show. This time Jonathan agreed. However, Joe , Donnie, and Danny all declined. While Wood and Wahlberg declined on-camera interviews, McIntyre cited that the only way he would perform with the band was if the group would make the decision to reunite permanently.
2008 Reunion: The Block
On April 3, 2008, Donnie Wahlberg told CNN
that the band had reunited, and were recording an album of new material, and was planning to tour.
In May 2008, the group released "Summertime", as a download single on various online digital music services. They also posted the tune on their MySpace page. The new album, according to Billboard magazine, was not expected until the fall.
The group performed a medley of their hits and their new song "Summertime" live at the MuchMusic Video Awards on June 15, 2008.
The group's reunion tour, New Kids on the Block: Live, is scheduled to begin at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on September 18, 2008. They will tour the US with Natasha Bedingfield and Lady Gaga as supporting acts. There are seven concerts scheduled for Canada and forty-one in the US and ten in the UK.
The group released "Single" featuring famous R&B singer/songwriter Ne-Yo, on August 12, their second single from their latest album entitled The Block which was released on September 2, 2008 in two editions: a 13 track standard album, and a Special Edition which came with a fold-out poster and 4 bonus songs. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 charts, and at #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Album Chart.
- Jonathan Knight
Left the entertainment business and began a new career in real estate.
- Jordan Knight
In 1999, Knight released a self-titled solo album, Jordan Knight on Interscope Records. The album was certified gold. He also scored a top 10 hit with "Give It to You", which went platinum. That summer, Knight opened up for Nsync on their concert tour. He currently continues to record and tour. Knight appeared on VH1's The Surreal Life in 2004, he also appeared in the Five reality show Trust Me - I'm A Holiday Rep, along with British comedian Syd Little and glamour model Jodie Marsh. In 2004 Knight relased his second solo album entitled "Jordan Knight Performs New Kids on the Block: The Remix Album". In 2005 Knight released his third solo album "The Fix". His most recent solo album Love Songs was released September 2006.
- Joey McIntyre
In 1995, he completed filming the role of Matt Hucklebee in The Fantasticks which was not released until 2000. In 1999, McIntyre released a solo album, Stay the Same, on Columbia Records, scoring a top 10 hit with the album's title track. He has also released further albums Meet Joe Mac, One Too Many — a live compilation album of his work — a pop album 8:09, and most recently, a standards album called Talk to Me. McIntyre later became a regular on the FOX television show Boston Public and has performed in Broadway musicals including Wicked. In 2006, he was a contender on the reality show Dancing with the Stars and toured with the series in a 2006 live show. He still continues to record music and tour. In 2007, he starred in an independent film titled On Broadway and released his recent solo album, Talk to Me, was released December 20, 2006.
- Danny Wood
He started a Boston-based record label, and did some producing and performing, but for the most part he remained out of the spotlight. He was featured in MTV's follow up to Totally Scott-Lee called Totally Boyband, as a member of a new group with other former boyband members called Upper Street. With D-Fuse, he released a 1999 album called Room Full of Smoke. In 2003, he released Second Face, followed by the 2007 album Coming Home.
- Donnie Wahlberg
Has followed in the footsteps of his brother Mark Wahlberg, forging a career in acting and appeared in movies such as Ransom (1996), Southie (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), the Saw film series, and the critically-acclaimed mini-series Band of Brothers. He has starred in two short-lived television series: Boomtown and Runaway. In 2007, he starred opposite John Leguizamo on the TV series The Kill Point. The pair went on to star opposite Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in the 2008 film 'Righteous Kill. '