MUSIC: ‘The Block' is hot; the block is hot

Submitted by Darcy Newell on 10-06-08, 4:41 pm | More from this Writer | Submit to Digg or Facebook

I'm not going to preface this review with some cool, face-saving, I'm-really-surprised-at- how-much-I-like-this-album routine in an effort to preserve my street credibility. No, instead I am going to give it to you straight. “The Block,” the first studio album since 1994 from the '90s adolescent sensation the  New Kids on the Block , is legitimately good.

The rumors are true: the boys are not only back in town, but also have a new record and a fall tour underway to prove it. Bandmates Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood have reunited after years apart, years spent on semi-successful solo careers, stints in the cinematic world, and for some, the acquisition of wives and babies. Yet, it seems that now the fab fivesome has realized that “The Right Stuff” just might have been what they had back in the day, inspiring the musical gamble that is “The Block.”

Why a gamble, you ask? Well, making “The Block” runs the risk that all past, glorified pop sensations run when they decide to see if they “still have the magic” years later. Didn't the Backstreet Boys do this recently? The Spice Girls? It won't be long, I don't imagine, until 98 Degrees re-emerges, trying to piggyback off of the semi-success they once had in matching khakis outfits. For this reason, one must approach an album like “The Block” with a certain combination of trepidation, curiosity and anticipation, hoping that the magic is, in fact, still present.

How do the boys fare? In this expert opinion, the magic is present and accounted for. “The Block” is a batch of sweet PG-13 songs that are easy to learn and even easier to like. The subject matter of most of these jams is, like most of the “hip-pop” talent out there, meeting women in clubs, wanting to meet women in clubs and buying women drinks in clubs. Sometimes they know the women beforehand, sometimes not. Though the lyrical prowess of some of these songs is sometimes rather silly (on the song “Click Click Click,” a song about taking a woman's photograph, one New Kid raps with gusto “click with my Nikon, click with my Sony, girl I ain't no phoney”), the melodies are infectious enough to forgive the boys for their lyrical discretions. The album even boasts collaborations with hit-makers Akon, Ne-Yo, New Edition and  The Pussycat Dolls , lending even more familiar voices to this pop choral symphony.

Still not sure? For a gradual introduction to “The Block” download “Full Service,” “Dirty Dancing” or “Put It On My Tab,” and play them when you are looking for something upbeat, light and fun. Enjoy the goofy goodness.