One of the late ‘80s preeminent pop acts, New Kids on the Block reigned on the charts and foreshadowed the pre-millennial resurgence of the boy band and the teen pop star. As with many musical groups, success tends to fade or the musical union disbands. After a lengthy 14-year hiatus, New Kids on the Block released their first new album, 2008s The Block. While the album was not a commercial hit, it debuted strongly in respect to a lengthy hiatus, more importantly serving as the catalyst for the band to continue musical endeavors. The five-year gap between The Block and 2013s 10 is even gentler if 2011 compilation NKOTBSB is considered. 10 isn’t innovative by any means, but does deliver an album that attempts to maintain relevancy for the aging pop vets.
“We Own Tonight” starts the affair off solidly, characterized by adult contemporary pop production intact with pounding drums. The anthemic chorus easily eclipses the verses, helping to make “We Own Tonight” worthwhile. Single “Remix (I Like The)” is easily more fun, particularly given the throwback, old-school groove, somewhat reminiscent of the group’s ‘80s work. The songwriting is schmaltzy and somewhat narrow, particularly the ridiculous hook (“Ooh, ooh / I like the remix baby…”). Ultimately, however, “Remix” feels appropriate, particularly considering tongue-in-cheek songs seem vital to pop boy band success. “Take My Breath Away” follows, slowing the tempo on the verses only to adapt the trendy driving electro-/Europop-inspired cues on the refrain. Like “Remix” before it, “Take My Breath Away” is one of 10‘s best, regardless of its conformist script.
On “Wasted on You”, intensity arrives later than sooner (the bridge specifically), raising the question of the soundness of its pacing. “Fighting Gravity” is middle of the road, lacking in personality and feeling inauthentic and raising inquiry of so what?. “Miss You More” arrives timely, featuring lovely falsetto and superb vocals on the chorus: “Do you even know what you do to me / how I’m drowning in your memories? So what to breath, now that you’ve gone?” Well produced, strings add to the yearning lyrics. The sole detraction? The rap, errr, spoken-word vocal seems a bit awkward.
For “The Whisper”, conformity to modern pop doesn’t do much for it, yielding a rather unremarkable, filler cut. “Jealous (Blue)” isn’t complete atonement, but some thoughtful production cues and vocal moments make things better. “Crash”, another stab at modern pop is a huge, manic adrenaline rush. Corny as it is, the driving dance-pop cut somehow manages to suit the sensibilities of New Kids. “Back To Life” goes lighter while “Now Or Never” mixes acoustic-guitar driven pop with hip-hop cues. “Survive You” closes, switching from the typical 4/4 grooves to lilting 6/8. “I can’t pretend that I don’t love you anymore / I can’t be friends cause it hurts like it’s never hurt before,” the boys sing on the refrain. A contrasting hidden track is featured on the back half of the cut.
10, when it’s all said and done, lacks exceptionalness, polish, and memorableness. It is an album that does just enough to retain New Kids on the Block in the spotlight, but more clearly reflects that NKOTB’s prime and hits have long passed. 10 is an album for the fans who have followed the band since their days as kids, not one that has the juice to breakthrough to the new generation of listeners.
// Notes from the Road
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