[10 September 2009]
Both singles from New Kids on the Block’s self-titled debut album, “Be My Girl” and “Stop It Girl”, failed to chart. But on October 8, 1988, their first charting track, “Please Don’t Go Girl” (from their follow-up album, Hangin’ Tough) also became their first top ten hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. In less than two years, they’d have eight more top ten smashes, including three that went all the way to number one (“I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)”, “Hangin’ Tough”, and “Step by Step”).
And then it was over. In the next few years, they’d chart three more singles, but none of them would climb higher than #53. Their time had seemingly come and gone.
Then something unusual happened. More than eight years after New Kids on the Block’s last major hit, Joey McIntyre (one of the members of the group) released a single that, like “Please Don’t Go Girl”, peaked at #10. Five weeks later, “Give It to You” by Jordan Knight (another member of the group) also peaked at #10.
It can be debated whether or not either of the singers would have gotten contracts or become one-hit wonders as solo acts if both pop music and boy bands hadn’t become tremendously popular again in the late 90s. For the April 17, 1999, chart, while Joey McIntyre ruled a second and final week at #10 with “Stay the Same”, Backstreet Boys were right behind at #11 with “All I Have to Give” and ‘N Sync were at #27 with “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You”. Other pop acts in the top 40 included B*Witched at #9 with “C’est La Vie”, Britney Spears at #19 with “...Baby One More Time”, Jordan Knight at #25 with “Give”, and Vengaboys at #26 with “We Like to Party!”.
What’s most intriguing, however, is how well Joey and Jordan’s solo hits stand the test of time. While some of New Kids on the Block’s songs are just as good as ever (surprisingly so, to be honest), it’s hard to listen to the awkward clichéd lyrics of “This One’s for the Children” or the laughably bad “Hangin’ Tough” without cringing. As solo artists, however, Joey and Jordan have nothing to be ashamed of.
Joey McIntyre’s “Stay the Same”, which urges listeners to believe in themselves, comes close to being a cheesy disaster. Lines like “when you learn to love yourself, you’re better off by far” don’t exactly help matters. But somehow the song ends up being more than the sum of its parts. By the time the choir kicks in at full force towards the end, it’s difficult not to completely fall in love with this slice of pop empowerment.
Joey’s follow-up, “I Love You Came Too Late”, stalled at #54, sealing his fate as a one-hit wonder (at least for now). Both the song and the video are much stronger than “Stay the Same” in my humble opinion, though, and I have to admit that I still watch this on a regular basis.
Jordan Knight’s first single was also a pop confection, but instead of going the ballad route, he chose a dance number with an edge. In another interesting coincidence, although “Give It to You” was his only solo single that charted, it spent the same number of weeks (20) on the Billboard Hot 100 that Joey’s two singles combined spent.
Jordan released a cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” after his success with “Give”, but it never charted. However, I liked the follow-up track enough to buy his CD. It’s been years since I’ve listened to the album, but like Joey’s “I Love You Came Too Late”, I still watch this video often.
One other member of New Kids on the Block had a solo release chart. Back during the height of the group’s popularity, Donnie Wahlberg recorded a duet with Seiko Matsuda, a musical superstar in Japan. Seiko had 24 consecutive singles go to number one in Japan, but “The Right Combination”, her collaboration with Donnie, wasn’t one of them. Let’s just say this song hasn’t aged well and leave it at that.
New Kids on the Block recently reunited and had their first top 40 hit since 1990 with “Summertime”. Who knows? Maybe in 2018 Joey and Jordan will have solo hits again.