Monday, June 6, 2011

Flashback Fun Week! NKOTBSB - One Ticket, Millions of Memories

They say that money can’t buy happiness. The money I spent on a ticket for this past Saturday’s NKOTBSB show in Boston may disprove that.

When I say that I grew up obsessed with the New Kids on the Block, that’s putting it lightly. I was six when they burst onto the scene, and like many girls my age, they became my whole life for the next several years. The Pay Per View concerts. The VHS tapes they released (Hangin’ Tough, Hangin’ Tough Live, Step By Step.) The Saturday morning cartoon. That episode of Oprah when the crowd was screaming so loud, no one could get a word in. When it came to the merchandise, forget it. If it had Jordan Knight’s face on it, I had to have it. Socks. Pillowcases. Dolls (plush, Barbie-sized, and figurines.) There were the comic books, the trading cards (remember the one with Jordan lifting up his shirt on stage? That was clearly the best of the bunch), the candy, the laminates. I even had a stuffed Shar Pei that looked like Jonathan’s dog, Nikko. And don’t even get me started on the giant pins (perfect to be worn on your denim purse) and the posters. I don’t think there was an inch of my room that didn’t have a New Kids poster on it. (My favorite was of Jordan in an open white button down shirt, exposing his bare chest and shoulder. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.) The fact that they were from Boston – “the five fab brothers from the Beantown land” to be precise – made me feel an even stronger connection. They were hometown boys who spoke with the same accent as everyone else I knew.

Their music was like a dream to every girl from six to sixteen. Didn’t we all want to be Donnie’s “Cover Girl” and Jordan’s “Valentine Girl”? Weren’t we desperate to answer Joey when he asked “Where Do I Go From Here?” Didn’t we want to help Danny when he said that he was “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” and believe that when Jon was singing “Happy Birthday,” he was singing it to us only? And what about the raps? I don’t know about you, but I can’t let a Christmas go by without breaking out Jordan’s “Funky Christmas” ditty, and to this day, any time anyone says “We’re back,” I feel the urge to follow it with “Huh! Stronger than ever! You think we’d sever? Never, we’re too clever!”

I meant it when I said I was obsessed.

When the New Kids announced their reunion three years ago, it was the thrill of a lifetime for women across the globe. The five hardest working kids in show business had grown up, and so had we, but it was just as thrilling (or maybe more so) to see them as it had been back in 1988. Now, the New Kids have teamed up with fellow pop sensations the Backstreet Boys, pleasing even more legions of fans, itching to spend their hard earned money (instead of their parents hard earned money) on one night of sheer happiness.

Part of the beauty of the NKOTBSB concert Saturday night was seeing just how excited everyone was to be there. There were New Kids fans, Backstreet fans, and fans like me who were fortunate enough to come of age during the heyday of both groups. (BSB’s “I Want It That Way” was gargantuan the year that I graduated from high school, and pretty much played on a constant loop at my graduation party.) There was no pushing, no yelling about people blocking anyone’s view, only masses of girls dancing and singing along to the songs that made our childhoods what they were.

(I also noticed that, much like the way that everyone from my parents’ generation dances in the same fashion – you know, fists held close to the chest, bouncing from left to right – everyone from my generation, let’s say ages 26-34, shares the same MTV-style moves. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one watching The Grind every day after school. Thank you, Eric Nies.)

Whether they were singing mash-ups together or singing alone, both bands knew exactly what the crowd wanted. Signature, stellar dance moves, a mix of classic hits and new songs, and the occasional lifting up of the shirt to reveal some gorge abs. (Or, in Donnie Wahlberg’s case, ripping off his tank top entirely and throwing it into the crowd during “Cover Girl.”) The night was a tribute to the things we grew up with and loved – the New Kids throwing a little of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” into “My Favorite Girl,” Backstreet Boys covering some of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” and perhaps best of all, NKOTB performing their hit “Dirty Dancing” dressed as Johnny Castle himself. (Black tanks and black belted pants, obviously.)

Of course, the thrill of the night came from seeing the boys we grew up adoring singing the songs we always loved. There is no feeling in the world like singing along to “Please Don’t Go, Girl,” or “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” or “If You Go Away.” There is almost a sort of magic in hearing “The Right Stuff” or “Hangin’ Tough,” because it instantly brings on that warm and gooey feeling of happy childhood memories - memories of Kool Aid and NERDS and bikes with pom poms and Hey Dude. Sure, we all have to grow up, and along with the responsibilities of adulthood come a lot of fantastic perks, but sometimes, it’s good to have a night where we can remember what it feels like to be a kid again, when we can scream our heads off and giggle like sixth graders and melt over the wonderfulness of a massive crush.

For me, I know that anytime I need that feeling, I can shuffle to “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind” on my iTunes, and I’ll be flooded with joy. For you, maybe it’s not NKOTB. Maybe it’s a certain movie, or a favorite book, or unforgettable song or place. Whatever it is, embrace it, no matter how “childish” it may seem. The things that we grew up loving are important markers in what shaped us, and without them, our lives wouldn’t be what they are – and would certainly be a heck of a lot less fun. With all of the things that go on in the world, it’s so crucial to remember what it is that makes us smile. Whether it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas or pizza from a certain restaurant or five boys from Boston, never forget the little things that you love. Be proud of them. Without them, you wouldn’t be you.

In honor of NKOTBSB, I’ll be devoting an entire week of Brontes, Boots & Butterflies to Flashback Fun, honoring all the things that made my generation so fabulous. Stay tuned!


  1. In the picture in the middle, Joey kind of looks like the girl from Point Break. Just sayin'.

  2. What a fabulous blog! I think I finally learned what love was when I saw the New Kids open for Tiffany at Great Woods (for those who weren't born then, it is now called The Comcast Center) and nobody had ever heard of them. When they took the stage that night (my very first concert ever at, I think, 8 or 9 years old) as I sat there with my Dad just 3 rows from the stage, I believed that I would marry "the tall one with the dark hair and the high voice" aka - Jordan Nathaniel Marcel Knight. I followed that up with growing my own "tail" because, of course, Jordan had one. Even in our college years we jumped at the chance to leave my Economics class early because Jordan was signing his new solo album in the mall down the street! I still swoon at that poster that you so perfectly described, btw. Steph, how about that fantastic t-shirt that you had with a picture of you cropped into a picture of Jordan so it looked like you guys were together? Sigh. That was the best t-shirt. I love your closing paragraph - so true! Oh - one more thing, I find it important to mention that, even though their comeback album didn't do as well, I still love Dirty Dawg and You Got the Flavor.