Upon announcement of their reunion my shrieks could be heard echoing through out the Hollywood Hills. Though, like many of both the lovers and the haters, in the back of my mind I wondered, could they do it again?
With the tour fast selling out and 20 additional dates added, plus plans for an international leg in 2009, all signs were pointing to yes. But, and I know I'm not the only one feeling this, the appearances on the Today show had me a bit worried. It was clear that, like their fans, the guys had grown up. And one had to wonder if that was a good thing, or signs of a midlife crisis. The dance moves weren't quite so energetic because, let's face it, one wrong move and these guys were likely to throw out their back. Could a group of five guys in their late thirties to early forties really reclaim their status as sex symbols? The group was originally manufactured by super producer Maurice Starr. What if they, like the Jonas Brothers, are simply the product of good PR and the public was distracted from their lack of talent by flashy dance moves and boyish good looks? Excited as I was, admittedly, I had to wonder, did my life experience at age nine qualify me to judge talent?
Due to some personal beefs with certain members, I took somewhat of a sick pleasure in the critics inevitable "Old Guys on the Block," jokes. But secretly, I hoped that yet another childhood memory would not be crushed with the release of their new album. The truth about Santa sent me to a shrink for the first time; could my delicately balanced sanity handle a blow like a flop of New Kids proportions?
Their first album of new material since the 1994 disappointment, Face the Music, (which yes, I had to wikipedia for the name since, like most New Kids fans, I don't remember anything past Step by Step) dropped this past week. And fans, breathe with me a collective sigh of relief because the album is HOT. The guys have, for lack of a better term, faced the music and the reality that they are fast approaching middle age. So instead of trying to recreate the sound of their youth, they have come up with a new, mature style that will keep the asses of their fans shaking. And hey, since everyone's grown up (and one New Kid is on the brink of divorce) they can enjoy the view! Something the Kids sneakily acknowledge in grown up lyrics like those of "Big Girl Now:" You know I like the way you move it/girl you're all grown up and now you're ready to let it go/wanna be a big girl got to prove it/with a body like that you've got a grown man ready to blow.
Oddly, I think the first single off the album, "Summertime", is by far the weakest track. And apparently the listeners agree since the song peaked at 36 on the Billboard chart. Why they didn't pick songs like "Big Girl Now" featuring dance club queen Lady Gaga, "Dirty Dancing", or "Full Service" paying homage to Starr's original boy band creation, New Edition, is beyond me. The songs have irresistible beats and a unique blend of hip hop and electronic dance that will surely earn them wide club play. While the lyrics are not life changing, the BEATS! Oh dear reader, the beats! Had I not been listening to the album for the first time in a crowded café in the Valley, I would've been up and dancing. As it was I was busted by a very handsome gentleman while I was bobbing my head and tapping my feet (and, sexy senor, if you know I'm speaking to you, call me!). The record is so catchy that I couldn't help myself. The guys' collaboration with hip hop heavyweights Timbaland, Ne-Yo, and Akon is brilliant; adding just enough cool factor while still retaining a style uniquely their own. And for those who are just looking for a little pop cheese to get stuck in their head during a boring board meeting, "Twisted" will be the highlight of the album for you.
My only complaint? That the euphoric pop experience ends so quickly! Only as long as a spin class, I was hoping for something that would make my mind numbing cardio experience on the treadmill stretch to an hour or so. But, admittedly, I'd rather the 45 minutes of pure joy the album delivers versus an hour plus of mediocrity. In the entertainment industry, where aging is a sin of epic proportions, the "Kids" have proven that growing up and becoming men is not necessarily a bad thing!