1984-1985: Early years
In the early 1980s, Maurice Starr discovered R&B / Pop quintet (later sextet) New Edition and guided their early success. After breaking ties with them, Starr and his business partner, Mary Alford, sought to create a white counterpart act. Auditions were held around Boston, at which some five hundred teenaged boys auditioned. Among them was 15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg, who immediately impressed Starr and Alford with his rapping skills, dancing ability and showmanship, becoming the group's first member. Wahlberg assisted in helping to recruit other members.
Among them were his younger brother Mark, and his best friend Danny Wood. He also coaxed one-time schoolmate Jordan Knight, who sang an exceptional falsetto, into auditioning for Starr as well. Upon Knight's passing the audition, his older brother Jonathan (also possessing a strong singing voice) was accepted into the group as well
As the group began to take shape, Mark became disillusioned with its bubble gum direction, and opted to quit. Another one of Donnie's neighborhood friends, Jaime Kelley, took his place. Kelley, though, would eventually be dismissed for lack of concentration and discipline. Seeking a Michael Jackson-esque singer to sing the high solos, Starr replaced him with 12-year-old Joey McIntyre—whom the other guys initially resented for being the one to replace their friend.
With the final line-up in place Starr rehearsed the boys diligently, after school and on weekends, and eventually secured the group (which was being called Nynuk) a recording contract at Columbia Records. The label, however, demanded Starr change the name of the group. Subsequently they settled on New Kids on the Block, after a rap song that Donnie had written and arranged for their first album.
1986: New Kids on the Block (debut album)
In April 1986, Columbia Records released the group's self-titled debut album. The album, almost exclusively written and produced by Maurice Starr, featured mid 80s bubblegum pop material. The first single, "Be My Girl" received minor airplay around the group's native Boston, but failed to capture nationwide attention. The album's second single, "Stop It Girl", fared even worse. The New Kids went on tour around the New England states, singing wherever Starr could book them: in bars, school dances, and clubs. Nevertheless, Starr remained diligent and persuaded the label to allow the group to record a second album. The album, however, would later go on to be certified triple platinum by the RIAA, largely on the strength of the popularity the group attained with their next album.
After the failure of the first album, Starr had the group back in the studio for most of 1987 and 1988 recording their second album. Dissatisfied with the excessively bubblegum sound of their first album, the group wanted to have more input on their look, direction and song material. As a result, Donnie, Danny and Jordan received associate producer credit on the final product. The album's first single was "Please Don't Go Girl", a ballad released in the spring of 1988. Failure seemed destined a second time when the song became another that went unnoticed by the listening public, and Columbia Records made plans to drop the New Kids from the label.
Columbia decided to re-shoot a music video for "Please Don't Go Girl", hiring director Doug Nichol, and sent the video to thousands of radio stations across the country to show the group's visual appeal. National attention soon followed and "Please Don't Go Girl" eventually climbed to #10 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart—becoming the group's first hit.
The song was given a huge boost when MTV took notice of the group and began playing the video in regular rotation, including an appearance on Club MTV. By early 1989, it cracked the top five. The New Kids hit pay dirt with their next single, "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)", which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in June. The group had been scheduled to open for Tiffany once again on a second tour, but their sudden popularity caused a reversal, and she wound up opening for them (although the two acts were technically billed as "co-headliners").
More top five singles from Hangin' Tough followed into the summer and fall, including the title track and "Cover Girl". Columbia Records also released the single "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", from the group's previously overlooked debut album. The song went #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles on the strength of the group's popularity and effectively jump-started the sales of that album as well. By the end of 1989, Hangin' Tough had climbed to number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and had gone eight-times platinum. They, subsequently, became the first 'teen' act to garner five top ten hits from a single album.
Meanwhile, a top ten charting holiday album, Merry, Merry Christmas, was released in the fall—spawning another top 10 hit, "This One's for the Children" and going double platinum in the U.S. The proceeds were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, the New Kids' favorite charitable cause. Hangin' Tough would go on to spend 132 weeks on the chart, and in January 1990, the album won two American Music Awards for "Best Pop/Rock Album", and "Best Pop/Rock Group." With the success of "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)," "Cover Girl," and "This One's For the Children," the group pulled off a rare feat of having three singles on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, but each from a different album.
Columbia Music Video also released a home video "Hangin' Tough", a documentary on the band directed by Doug Nichol and produced by Bryan Johnson, that included their four hit music videos and a live concert recorded during their 1989 tour. It achieved massive sales, earning a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video nomination, and was one of the biggest selling music videos of all time. The state of Massachusetts declared April 24, 1989, "New Kids on the Block Day."
By early 1990, New Kids on the Block had become one of the most popular acts in America. The following May, they followed up Hangin' Tough with Step by Step, which featured slightly more than half of the songs co-written and produced by the members themselves. The first single, the title track, raced to number one on the Hot 100 Singles Chart and became their biggest selling single. It was followed up with the top ten "Tonight", which extended the consecutive top ten singles chart run to nine records.
"Let's Try It Again" hit #8 on the UK Singles Chart, whilst "Baby I Believe In You" went #1 on the Japanese Chart, further signifying the international appeal of the group. The album was eventually certified triple platinum, selling close to twenty million copies worldwide.
New Kids on the Block's official fan club had a membership of over 200,000 members and was one of the largest fan clubs in America. Approximately one hundred thousand calls per week were dialed to 1-900-909-5KIDs, the Official NKOTB Hotline, as well. In 1991, the group topped Forbes list of highest paid entertainers, beating out the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Bill Cosby. Further capitalizing on the fame, at year's end, Columbia Records released No More Games/The Remix Album—a compilation of the group's biggest hits remixed, the album also brought along two more released songs in "Call It What You Want" (UK #12) and "Games" (UK #14) in which videos were also released.
The group released no new material in 1991, but went overseas and continued to tour throughout Europe and Asia. That summer, Wood and Wahlberg co-wrote and produced the debut album from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch—headed by Mark Wahlberg, Donnie's brother and former New Kid. Mark Wahlberg's album scored a number one hit with "Good Vibrations", and a platinum album.
In early 1992, the group released the stand-alone single "If You Go Away". The song peaked at #16 on the US charts and #9 in the UK charts. Meanwhile, as the music industry was still reeling from the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal, the group found themselves accused of lip-syncing by Gregory McPherson, a music teacher who was listed as an associate producer and string arranger on the group's third album, Step by Step. McPherson alleged that Maurice Starr sang the vocals while the group lip-synced to pre-recorded vocals during their live performances. McPherson also filed a breach of contract and creative infringement lawsuit against Starr.
On February 10, 1992, the New Kids filed a defamation lawsuit against McPherson regarding his lip-syncing allegations. In April 1992, McPherson dropped his suit against Starr and released a statement recanting his previous allegations stating, "They [The New Kids On The Block]did sing lead on their vocals".
In 1993, after having split from Maurice Starr, the group shortened their name to the initialism NKOTB. In January 1994, their fourth studio album, Face the Music, was released. Their first studio album in close to four years, Face the Music, was a musical departure from the group's previous efforts. Nearly all the songs were written and/or co-produced by the group. In spite of some positive critical reception, the album failed to live up to commercial expectation. The album's final single to chart was "Dirty Dawg" (which featured a rap cameo by Nice & Smooth & Live Instrumentals & Background Vocals by Larry Thomas), peaking at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100. The followup single, "Never Let You Go", failed to chart in the U.S., but did reach #42 in the UK Singles Chart and #18 in the Canadian charts.
NKOTB went on tour to support the album, playing smaller venues such as clubs and theaters, as opposed to the arenas and stadiums they were once accustomed to. After experiencing increased panic attacks and anxiety, Jonathan Knight left the band. Shortly thereafter, the remaining four decided to officially disband the group.
After the group's split, most of the group members started families and began to venture into other avenues. Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood maintained low profiles, while the other three continued their careers individually.
In 1999, MTV attempted to reunite the group and get them to perform on that year's VMAs. All of the members were on board for the project, except Jonathan. Consequently, the performance didn't happen.
In April 2008, after months of speculation, Donnie Wahlberg confirmed to CNN that the group had reunited with plans to record new material and to stage a tour. The following month, the group released their first single, "Summertime". The cover of the single featured the name "New Kids on the Block", re-lengthened from the initials NKOTB.
On August 12, 2008, they released their second single, "Single", featuring R&B singer/songwriter Ne-Yo, followed by the release of the group's first studio album in fourteen years, The Block. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums Chart and #2 on the Billboard 200 in September 2008. It was certified Gold in October 2008, in Canada.
On January 11, 2010, it was announced that NKOTB was to play at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan on June 17, 18, and 19, 2010 for the first time. The Backstreet Boys made a surprise performance for I Want It That Way.
* 1986: New Kids on the Block
* 1988: Hangin' Tough
* 1989: Merry, Merry Christmas
* 1990: Step by Step
* 1991: No More Games/The Remix Album
* 1994: Face the Music
* 2008: The Block
- Step By Step
- You Got It (Right Stuff)
- I'll Be Loving You (Forever)
- I Need You
- Cover Girl
- Hanging Touch
- Valentine Girl
- Please Don't Go Girl
- My Favorite Girl
- If You Go Away
- I'll Be Your Boy Friend
- Big Girl Now feat Lady GaGa
- Let's Try Again