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New Kids On The Block

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New Kids On The Block - The Block

(Tuesday September 16, 2008 1:27 PM )

Released on 08/09/08
Label: Polydor

While few probably expected the return of the fivesome who practically invented the modern boy band to be great, few could have predicted that it could be quite this bad. Almost two decades after being the biggest thing in pop, New Kids On The Block have returned as the least relevant - short on personality, short on songs and, far from inventing anything, sounding like they're struggling to keep up with a pop world they don't really understand. Where once Jordan, John, Joey, Donnie and Danny were met by the hysterical cries of female fans, now the only sobbing they're likely to encounter will be that of their accountants, mourning a criminally missed opportunity.

It shouldn't have been like this. Not only have they aged better than most of the acts which followed in their wake, vocally they were always more talented, and as Take That proved, add genuine ability to some good songs and being the wrong side of 30 doesn't have to be a barrier to a viable pop career. Unfortunately good songs are something "The Block" has few of. They may have mercifully left the ripped jeans rock of "Hangin' Tough" where it belongs - ie 1988 - but the decision to return as a fully fledged R&B act is fraught with problems, chief of which being finding decent material.

Understandable though their style choice is - their greatest hit, "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" was after all inspired by Bobby Brown and Janet Jackson's pneumatic swingbeat grooves - R&B in 2008 is a far less exciting place to be and after so many years away they aren't best placed to get the most out of it. The resulting career update is a by-the-numbers drone of monotonal synths and clicks, which at its very best, as with harmony laden single "Summertime" and Timbaland-lite "Big Girl Now", could fleetingly be mistaken for Justin Timberlake. For the most part though, the whiny vocals and listless beats have them mining a vein which Akon exhausted long ago.

Indeed, as if to reinforce the point, Akon himself appears on "Put It On My Tab", which like everything else relies on too much vocoder and nowhere near enough substance. "Grown Man", a Pussycat Dolls collaboration, produced fittingly by Bobby Brown producer Teddy Riley, is one of the few sparks of imagination, the bluesy hip-hop slouch resembling something Will.I.Am might put his name to. But it only highlights the real problem: good or bad, everything here sounds like a lesser version of someone else.

    by Dan Gennoe

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