If you're an 80's kid and say you don't remember a New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) song, you're a liar. It's that simple. "Step By Step," "Hangin' Tough," "Blurred Lines." Sorry, not that last one. But seriously, you're lying to yourself and the world at-large if you don't acknowledge how important the New Kids on the Block were to modern pop music. They're probably the most talented boy-band to ever exist. There wasn't just one stand-out talent like in N*Sync or Backstreet Boys. Every member of NKOTB was a legitimate threat on the microphone. It sounds like I'm describing the Wu-Tang Clan here, but seriously, NKOTB were all solid.
Joey Joe. Donnie. Jordan. Jonathan. Danny. I always had a soft spot for Danny. As a straight dude who openly admits his fondness for boy bands and schlocky pop music (I'll listen to "We Don't Have To (Take Our Clothes Off) by Jermaine Stewart until they lower my cold corpse into the ground, there are no fucks to give), Danny seemed the most "manly." I think I wanted to be that manly. Of course, that was an illusion and it would turn out that Donnie was really the most manly, playing a series of soldiers and cops and just being generally awesome in his non-musical endeavors.
Of course, my opinion on the New Kids might be colored by the fanaticism of my sister, who is, without question one of the group's most hardcore fans. Lifelong. When my niece and nephew were born, I honestly thought that one of them would've been named Jordan or Joey. Thankfully, this is not the case. At the same time, I can appreciate her level of fandom. I'm an unabashed fan of superheroes, film and video games. I can talk about Watchmen the way normal people talk about baseball or football (that's the one with the guys who shoot guns and make homophobic slurs about one-another, right?). I'm comfortable in my nerd-dom. And so is my sister.
It was in the midst of the NKOTB's stardom that my sister, a teenager at the time, convinced our doting father to drive to Boston and stalk the boys. "Are they home?" my father would ask. My sister would say "Sure!" This would lead to gassing up the car and driving off to Boston to wait outside Joey Joe McIntyre's house hoping to catch a glimpse of the talented and best-looking of the teen idols. I'm not going to fight you about it, the dude was the best-looking of the crew. While Donnie could easily beat up anyone who stepped to the crew, Jordan and Jon would be practicing dance moves, Danny would be lifting weights, Joey would be too busy being dreamy and seducing all the ladies to worry about fisticuffs. I wish the animated series about the band was as awesome as the scenario I just envisioned, but you get the point.
We'd sit outside the McIntyre home. I'd have been in elementary school at the time, wearing a Ninja Turtles sweatshirt (represent!), waiting with my sister, one of her friends and my dad. Miraculously, Joey Joe would emerge, beaming, super-friendly, all smiles. Not knowing what else to say to the talented singer, I would simply tell him that everyone in my school (Timber Point Elementary School) likes him. Which is most likely not far from the truth. There would be subsequent trips to Boston, with my pudgy and absurd self following along.
Eventually, the New Kids' star faded. But let's be serious here. Just because they aren't as popular as they used to be doesn't mean their fanbase is going anywhere. The ones that move on to lesser groups like the ones mentioned previously are airheads anyway and not really fans. In a fight to the death, Donnie Wahlberg would probably smoke the entire crew of N*Sync. It's a fact. There's no argument. Not to mention that if you adjust for inflation, the amount of money generated by records, merchandise and concert tickets most likely eclipses anything N*Sync or Backstreet could fathom.
Not long ago, I joined my sister and her friends to a record release party at a Wal-Mart on Long Island. NKOTB would be there, signing. I figured, "Why not?" and tagged along, towing my box set of Band of Brothers with me. Not only is it the best take on WW2 we'll ever get, it's also the greatest miniseries ever created for television and I will fight you if you disagree. It also happens to feature Donnie Wahlberg in the role of Lt. Carwood Lipton. Burying his Boston accent and undergoing rigorous training for the part (alongside the rest of the amazing performers in the series), the line between Wahlberg and the real Carwood Lipton became drastically blurred. Wahlberg's performance in Band of Brothers is easily on par with his brother Mark's finest performance to date, that, of course, being in The Departed. I've long-maintained that Donnie is an underrated and underutilized performer in Hollywood. I know he's got Blue Bloods, but this guy needs some Avengers-level heat.
Anyways, I met the dudes again. On the line, we were told we couldn't bring anything extra with us on the line, so I left my Band of Brothers box set in the car. When I got to Donnie, I told him how brilliant his performance was and he thanked me, talking about how fun it was to shoot the series and how it was a great opportunity. He then told security to let me get my copy of the series from the car and bring it back up to him to sign, since he's so proud of the series. To this day, that's one of my favorite autographs. I don't go crazy for autographs and I'm never starstruck (I interview filmmakers, actors and other tastemakers for a living as a journalist so it's second-nature to me now), but Donnie Wahlberg was super cool.
I'm listening to the NKOTB right now. I never realized how many of their songs have "girl" in the title. That's pretty clutch, New Kids. Stay awesome.