At some point, every kid from Boston dreams of hitting the field at Fenway Park. The home of the Red Sox represents the city just as much as the Bunker Hill Monument does. If you can get on that green, you're a legend as far as any Bostonian is concerned. In June 2011, three years after reuniting, that dream finally came true for New Kids On The Block— Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood.
The Boston pop icons co-headlined the stadium alongside Backstreet Boys as part of the historic NKOTBSB Tour. Selling out 140 arena shows on their reunion jaunt and numerous co-headline dates, the Fenway Park gig remains a high watermark for the group.
However, it didn't stop in front of The Green Monster. Only a year later, the group played two sold-out nights at London's storied O2 Arena. It continued a tradition at the O2 the group began in 2009 by headlining the venue twice and selling it out. They also made history in 2012 by headlining the Summer Mixtape Festival, the world's very first pop music festival in Hershey Park, PA. Along the way, they didn't stop making music either.
That brings us to 10, due out April 2, 2013. The record encompasses everything fans have loved about the group since day one. It's got those unforgettable hooks, massive harmonies, and each member's inimitable, individual "swag."
The first single, "Remix (I Like The)" shimmies from a 1950s-style bounce punctuated by surf guitar and tambourine to a driving 21st century beat. It's a sultry, slick, and sexy anthem. Upon debuting, the music video immediately turned heads with its doo wop-inspired atmosphere and incendiary dancing. Billboard called it the "best video of the year," while Entertainment Tonight exclaimed, "The boys have still got it." As Wahlberg soulfully croons, "I like the new you," it's clear New Kids on the Block have reached the next plateau.
Elsewhere on the record, "We Own Tonight" ignites the dance floor with propulsive production and another unshakable hook. As soon as they announced the first tour in support of the album, The Package Tour with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men, dates across the U.S. instantly sold out. There's no doubt about it. 10 is the only number for pop music in 2013.
Pushing the envelope is something of a tradition for New Kids On The Block though, and it has been since the beginning.
After 15 years out of the spotlight, the 21st century saw the boys from Boston stage one of the biggest and most anticipated reunions of all time. In 2008, they officially revealed their return on The Today Show. An enormous crowd gathered at Rockefeller Center for their first performance back, and everything snowballed once again from that magical moment. Their long-awaited and hotly anticipated return album, The Block, debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 and the supporting tour reached a cumulative audience of over one million people.
"I wanted the reunion and The Block to be redemption—but not for us," exclaims Wahlberg. "I wanted it to be redemption for the fans. I wanted them to feel entertained and to feel treated to something special. Mostly, I wanted them to feel satisfied with what they were getting now. I wanted them to know they put their hearts into the right place back then, and it was worth the wait to come back again."
With both the record and subsequent tour, they certainly delivered on all of those promises. Nevertheless, the phenomenon still sparked from the same starting point it always had—the songs.
"The new music reignited the whole thing," adds Knight. "It wasn't about nostalgia for the old days. It was about the music. Everything came back to that."
Galvanized with new tunes including hot collaborations with Lady Gaga and Ne-Yo and an undeniably impressive modern stage show, "the guys now", as Wahlberg puts it, reclaimed their spot at the top of modern pop. It certainly would've been easy for the five-some to simply careen along on past glories.
If you don't recall, they'd sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and dominated airwaves with a bevy of hits such as "You Got It (The Right Stuff)", "Cover Girl", "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", "Hangin' Tough", "I'll Be Loving You", "Step By Step", and "Tonight".
Not to mention, in the early '90s, the band had smashed box office records performing 200 concerts per year at stadiums across the globe and were named "highest paid entertainers of 1990" by Forbes Magazine. However, they weren't content to simply rest on their laurels in the '00s. Instead, they upped the ante immensely with a series of career firsts over two decades into their illustrious legacy.
The group launched the maiden voyage of the "New Kids On The Block Cruise" departing from Florida to the Bahamas in 2009 to unanimous fan fervor. Boasting special events, parties, and performances, the cruise was a massive success during its inaugural run. A year later, the ship's cabins sold out within mere minutes, and it was named the fastest selling cruise charter of all time. The cruise remains a new tradition for the quintet and fans celebrating its fifth year running as of 2013.
On their acclaimed Coming Home DVD, New Kids On The Block captured the reunion "step by step" from the moment all five men reconvened in a Los Angeles rehearsal space for the first time since 1993. Coming Home gave viewers new perspective on one of the world's most important pop presences with live performances, behind-the-scenes footage, fan encounters, bloopers, and more.
For McIntyre, Coming Home remains a special milestone. "It was always an important thing for us to document this journey," Knight enthuses. "From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to capture every moment of this ride and all the support our amazing fans continue to give us. They have never left. It's not only our journey; it's their journey, too."
The fans remain at the center of everything New Kids On The Block do. In the summer of 2010, New Kids On The Block experienced another first, gracing the stage of the legendary Radio City Music Hall. However, they had a big surprise up their sleeves when pop juggernaut Backstreet Boys joined them on stage for the first-time ever. Along with a stunning dual performance at the American Music Awards, the union perfectly preceded the launch of their joint tour, NKOTBSB, the following summer.
"The chemistry was instant. We just had a blast from the moment we first hit the stage together. It really was an incredible time for both groups. Plus, we're still young, and we're still hot," chuckles McIntyre.
It was a lot more than that though. The co-headlining tour immediately made massive waves covering North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Bringing countless fans to their feet for an unforgettable night of music, NKOTBSB ranked high on both Pollstar's "Top 50 Worldwide Tours (Mid-Year)" and Billboard's annual "Top 25 Tours".
In the middle of everything, New Kids On The Block always find time to continually give back. Starting in 2009, the guys and their fans started supporting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Since then, they've collectively raised in excess of $200,000 towards finding a cure for breast cancer. Fans continue to host fund raisers and jumpstart events like "Race for the Cure" and "3-Day for the Cure" teams furthering the cause. After losing his mother to the disease, Wood created "Remember Betty" in order to celebrate her memory, while collaborating with the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Their charitable pursuits extend even farther. Supporting Toys For Tots in 2010, they put on an intimate show at the Boston House of Blues, and the hometown gig sold out in a matter of minutes and raised over $60,000 for the charity.
In the end, they still do feel new in many ways, if not a bit wiser. "We've been extremely fortunate to have accomplished so much and then to come back and do it again like this," says McIntyre. "None of it is possible without the most amazing fans in the world, but we are proud of the work we've done and the faith we have in each other. The New Kids are a part of pop history. We're honored to have influenced those who came after us—such as N*Sync and Backstreet Boys—as we were so influenced by those who came before—New Edition, The Osmonds, and The Jackson 5. We will make sure we continue to honor our heritage, our fans, and ourselves and have a blast while we're doing it. We can't wait to see what happens next."
There are even more firsts on the horizon for New Kids On The Block though, and they've still got "the right stuff" after all these years. — Rick Florino, March 2013