?New songs, new direction, old sound, 14-years-later

Tawny Gestuvo

Fourteen-years-ago they stole the hearts of young teens and set the stage for boy-bands.
Their newly released album, appropriately titled ‘The Block,’ is here and the kids are ready for another round. They have come back with virtually the same sound incorporating vocal cameos from past and current R’amp;B heavy hitters.

After going their separate ways in 1994 the group that enjoyed multi-platinum selling records moved on to experience other avenues of life. With members Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre and Danny Wood now in their mid-to-late 30’s this album is a great tribute to the group’s career.’ ‘The Block’ proves to the audience that their singing abilities have withstood the test of’ time.’

Ten minutes into the CD I was reminded of the quintessential sound that has come to define the term boy-band. Emphasizing vocals from Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre the five together can still harmonize and produce hits.’ However, with obviously more mature, racy lyrics the NKOTB almost try too hard to step out of their teenage shadows. Ballads suggesting voyeuristic, pretentious scenarios and personas are almost annoying.

With tracks like ‘Click, Click, Click’ and ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ I was weary of what I was tuning in for. Their money making hit from the 1990’s Step by Step had no significance here as they took a gigantic step from sounding low key and anxious to overly confident and smug. Closing the time lag induced by their absence in the music scene is a little awkward but manageable.

The collaborations are definitely the saving graces of ‘The Block.’ Listening solace came with tracks linked to both current and past music gurus. Bridging the generation gap in the new era the kids tastefully collaborated with some of R’amp;B and hip-hop’s current crazes such as Akon, Ne-yo, Lady Gaga and the Pussycat Dolls.’

Other featured artists such as Teddy Riley of Blackstreet and New Edition were a great contribution to the album. In the 90’s they dominated the radio air waves along with NKOTB and their tracks on ‘The Block’ were a reminder of these times.

The best track on the album is Single featuring Ne-yo. It stays in sync with the direction that today’s R’amp;B is headed in and is melodious and unpretentious. This comeback album will do well among the steadfast followers of NKOTB and beckon to new fans. The presence of these important vocalists definitely carries the weight of the album.

In terms of logistics ‘The Block’ has something for everyone. Their current efforts cater to fans from the 90’s and allows the album to gain momentum from today’s artists. For a comeback album after their days in the limelight, this is a very good attempt.