Despite the fact that I was once so infatuated with New Kids on the Block to the point of collecting official trading cards, a NKOTB reunion did not excite me in the least. Although it’s probably safe to assume that none of the members are desperately seeking to refinance crack addictions (that I know of; my interest in the members’ personal lives lie on the scale somewhere between 0 and 1), like all reunions, it still reeked of an almost desperate assurance that relevance can be timeless.
The boys, once loitering in the seedier section of Generation X are now catering to the fresher demographic of pop’s Generation Y. Picture listening to Hangin’ Tough then spinning The Block and there is no doubt an exhuastive gap looms between the two releases: something happened between then and now in the world of music that has produced the almost ludicrous, abrupt switch from bubblegum pop to smooth, R&B/hip hop, complete with the acquisition of an entirely new language. These guys aren’t from the block anymore, they are from The Block, and they will do everything on this record to remind you that not only were they once younger, but they are now older. And like to have sex. Lots of it. In “Big Girl Now”: “Drop it to the floor, let’s get raw”; in “Full Service”: “I’ll pump you up, up / Cause I got the premium,”; in “Sexify My Love”: “Tonight I wanna’ try every position we can dream of” (not that the lyrics will find themselves into MySpace profiles any time soon, but that’s kind of arbitrary considering emo has a monopoly).
Aside from these questionable attempts at a) recapturing youth (“One Word” is probably the only song to harken to old-school NKOTB, the rest is really just reinvention of the most blatant kind), b) playing the lucky older bachelor types (“Put it on My Tab”), and c) trying to be ‘hood with countless references to the album’s title throughout the entire disc, the sound of the record itself is passable. The songs aren’t so much irritable as they are stereotypically written to please; they can’t be bad (they’re catchy, they’re culturally relevant, and they appeal to large numbers of people [or ladies, whichever]), but the barest, most essential lowest common denominator appeal immediately disqualifies it from being good.
Not gonna’ lie, though; the fundamental poptimist in me is really diggin’ “Big Girl Now.”