Rumors are flying about a reunion of New Kids on the Block, the seminal late-80s/early-90s boy band whose music reached such heights of cheesy crappiness as to directly cause the subsequent public embrace of grunge and gangsta rap. Because the band originated from the Boston area, the local media is reporting these rumors and inducing vivid, jarring flashbacks to the year 1989.
I was the exactly the right demographic: 12 years old, female, white, middle-class, suburban. I liked music. I liked boys. I had the proven ability to get consumed by fads. But for some reason, despite the frenzied hoopla that emanated from the magazines, radio, and my peer group, New Kids on the Block just did not stick to me.
My circle of friends at the time had some hardcore NKOTB fans (I’m not naming any names, but you know who you are.) At the lunch table, they traded tidbits of personal information gleaned from Tiger Beat and SuperTeen magazines (Jordan puts ketchup on everything! Danny wears glasses off-stage! Donnie is learning Chinese!) They relayed news about tours or how the singles were faring in that week’s Top 40. Most of all, they talked about which NKOTB was their favorite, and why.
At that point, I was looking beyond Top 40 radio and discovering Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin — music that seemed revolutionary in my cloistered suburban world. But if I had to feign delirium over five guys doing faux rap to synthesized pop in order to fit in with my friends, of course I tried. It was the first time I felt peer pressure, and I crumbled like a Chips Ahoy.
So, when it came time to enthuse about our favorite individual NKOTB, I picked Jordan. He was the most visually appealing to me, and I liked his name. Plus, Jordan was the most common crush to have. Had I picked Jon or Donnie, I would be at a loss to summon the requisite fervor. Joey was also popular, but too predictable and also short for my tastes. And picking Danny as my favorite would be like announcing that I’m a sick freak. No one liked Danny.
I couldn’t keep up the charade of being a NKOTB fan for very long, though. I refused to buy their tapes, books, trading cards, lunch boxes, sleeping bags, or t-shirts, and my lack of merchandise revealed my lack of commitment to the band. By the time the band’s popularity waned, I had long moved onto punk music. So, if there is a NKOTB reunion, maybe I’ll indulge in a bit of nostalgia by hiding in my bedroom and blasting “Holidays in the Sun” while the rest of my peer group converges to relive the musical magic that was “Hangin Tough”.