By CHRIS JORDAN • Gannett New Jersey • October 6, 2008
In a ringtone world speeding by so fast, maybe we need a cassette group to make it slow down a little. That's where the New Kids on the Block come in.
"We're like comfort food," says New Kids member Joey McIntyre. "There are certain things that bring you comfort and people latch onto that. Things go by so fast and the fact that we have such a history and connection with our fans, we can share that with them and bringing something new is even more exciting."
The Boston vocal group, founded by music impresario Maurice Starr in 1984, is in the midst of a comeback and it's going well. There's an upcoming North America arena tour (they hit the Wachovia Center Nov. 5 and the Borgata Nov. 7), which is a far cry from the clubs the guys hit during their mid-'90s NKOTB phase. A new album, "The Block," is a critical hit, proving to be a work more of conviction than confection.
"We had a stage, but we also wanted to make music that we're proud of and make an album that we're excited about," McIntyre says. "Luckily, our fans are back, too, and they keep thanking us, but we thank them for coming back. If they didn't come back, this would be a really fast story . . . we're willing to take that risk, but we're glad they showed up."
Paul "Cubby" Bryant, morning jockey for New York City's WKTU, says excitement is high for the reunion tour.
"If they did it 10 years ago, people would be making fun of them," Bryant says. "The music cycle has spun around enough, and enough time has passed -- 10 years isn't as fun -- so that there's a wow factor."
In show business, timing is everything.
"It's the right amount of time," band member Danny Wood says. "We had been away from the business and we got back together for the right reasons, not for someone else's idea. We got back together because of the music. Donnie (Wahlberg) played me a song called "Click Click Click' and I loved it and that's how it started out."
"The Block," sultry and a bit saucy rhythm 'n' blues, is more adult-contemporary than pop. Yet, the album features several notable figures from today's charts, including Ne-Yo, Akon, the Pussycat Dolls and producers Timbaland and Teddy Riley. Old pals New Edition also are featured on the track "Full Service."
"We didn't try to push and we didn't try to pull and we weren't begging people to work with us," McIntyre says. "We just wanted people who were excited about it."
The Kids, childhood friends from several Boston neighborhoods, were formed by Starr as a white counterpart to New Edition, which he also shepherded to superstardom. The group went on to sell more than 70 million records and set the table for the boy-group boom of the late '90s.
"The second time around is definitely sweeter," Wood says. "It means more because I'm going to be able to share it with my kids. They've been wondering what I used to do and they've seen the old videos, but now they're going to come home from school and I have "The View' on TiVo and we'll watch that. It's satisfying to share it with the kids."
The New Kids may be riding the wave of success again, but kudos should also go to Maurice Starr, who founded the group and whose work ultimately begot the teen pop rage of the late '90s.