Greatest Hits

New Kids on the Block

Columbia / Legacy Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It has been a rough day here in the administrative offices of "The Daily Vault" and the Pierce Memorial Archives. All day long, I've been living on Pepto-Bismol and Necco wafers, and I've been confined to the couch in my office, with cold compresses on my head and my Grateful Dead "dancing bears" comforter wrapped around me tight.

The flu, you ask? Nope, worse... I made the mistake of listening to the latest greatest hits compilation from New Kids On The Block. May God have mercy on me.

To flocks of pre-pubescent girls in the mid- to late-'80s, New Kids On The Block - Jon Knight, Jordan Knight, Joe McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood - were to die for. Their music - that generation's Jackson 5 (and that's not doing the Jackson 5 justice) - went straight to the top of the charts, and their faces lined many a bedroom wall. Even my wife has one or two New Kids On The Block tapes in her collection. (But, hey, I married her anyway.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Granted, I entered into this album with a historical mindset against the Boston quintet. After all, when they were in their prime, I was happily banging my head to Motorhead and AC/DC, and didn't want to listen to any other form of music other than hard rock or classic rock. But one would think, now that I'm approaching 30, that I could objectively sit down for one hour and listen to 14 songs.

I tried, I swear I did. But kicking things off with "Step By Step," a song that doesn't know whether it wants to be a dance track or a decent vocal piece, is not a sign of good things to come... and I knew I was in for a long day at the CD player.

Of course, if you happened to like any of New Kids On The Block's songs at any time in their career, then anything negative I say isn't going to convince you that you're wrong. Hey - won't hurt my feelings. If you get off on the falsetto of songs like "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" - I swear, I cringed in pain, 'cause that high-pitch sounded like someone got their manhood caught in a vise - or the pseudo-toughness of "Hangin' Tough", then go for it.

For the rest of us, one listen to Greatest Hits will show New Kids On The Block to be a cookie-cutter studio band, backed by terrible synthesized instrumentation. I mean, at least the Jackson 5 (hell, Hanson, for that matter) played their own instruments in the band. The overall sound to this album is sterile and manufactured.

And I don't care that they were the first teen group that hit the top 10 with five singles from the same album. I don't care if Hangin' Tough was on the charts for over two years. Just because it sells doesn't make it any less crap.

If anything good came from the New Kids saga, it's that it taught teen bands what not to do. Groups like Hanson, Backstreet Boys and N*Sync all show marked improvement over what New Kids On The Block put out on the market. There's more substance to the music - even if the synthesizers are still overused.

It's enough to make you feel faint - and Greatest Hits, except for the rabidly devoted fans, is not an album for the faint of heart or those who like their pop pure. I know I'm going to get flame mail for this review - that's fine, 'cause I know in my heart I based this review on the technical quality of the music and the performances, and not what I thought of the band as a freshman in college.

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.