PROOF OF PURCHASE: Sometimes a “music journalist” has to put his body on the line and buy an NKOTB CD.
Last week, I offered my fragile body up for a heinous act of self-abuse in the name of science: if a certain number of readers dared me, I’d buy the New Kids on the Block comeback album in a retail store with my own money, listen to every goddamn second of it, and write an enthusiastic review worthy of a PR clipping. Within hours of the column’s release, my inbox was flooded with pages and pages of dares (several of them double-dog dares).
Roughly 90 percent of them came, to my surprise, from female NKOTB fans who were, by some stunning miscalculation, convinced that I’d love the album if I gave it half a chance:
I dare you to do like you said with the NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCKS cd, THE BLOCK. . . cause you will find out one thing . . . IT IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks bunches and remember hang tough!
A BLOCKHEAD FOR 20 years and proud of it!!!!!!
Some “Blockheads” scoffed at my dare, accusing me of underestimating the power of their fandom. Au contraire, ladies: if anything, I overestimated the rabid NKOTB fan base (by charitably assuming it didn’t exist). But I’m a man of my word: I drove to the local big-box store and bought The Block, straight-faced, from an actual human clerk. I regret to report that there were no cute female employees present; I promised last week that I’d talk the album up a little if I saw one, but no such luck (thank God).
So, on to the glowing, conspicuously quotable review:
THE BLOCK: From New Kids to elder statesmen
It’s been an excruciating wait since 1994’s Face the Music, but the New Kids are finally back on the Block. The platinum-selling boy-banders may have aged a decade or two since their fresh-faced glory days, and some have gone on to raise families and pursue useful vocations. But with The Block (Interscope), their completely unexpected comeback album, they’ve made a great leap backward into the spotlight.
The New Kids’ voices have held up remarkably well over the years. They’re sounding just about as good as ever, with frequent boosts from a highly saturated Auto-Tune that gives the tracks the kind of warbly, Akonesque pitch-perfection that’s pushed popular music to such technical excellence in recent years. With synthed-out tracks from the likes of Polow da Don and Timbaland, the set’s sleek production is every bit as hip and ground-breaking as the iconic beats of “Hangin’ Tough” and “The Right Stuff” sound today.
“Click Click Click” starts things off with a bang, proving that these “Kids” are all grown up. The lyrics tell of a romantic boudoir photo shoot — the lads’ intellects may have retained all the wit and humor of their 13-year-old selves, but their bodies have matured into well-oiled machines of sensual curiosity. Donnie throws some extra heat on the already spicy proceedings with a rap verse reminiscent of such classic crossovers as Blondie’s “Rapture” and Madonna’s “American Life.” No doubt about it: he possesses every bit as much rhyming talent as his younger brother, Academy Award nominee “Marky” Mark Wahlberg.