From kids to men


New Kids are back on the block with the boys from Backstreet.

NEW Kids On The Block frontman Jordan Knight is a boy band icon. But try telling that to his son, Dante, 12. Jordan smiles: “I was at home today doing bicep curls and my son just shook his head. He looked at me like: ‘Why are you working out? What is that?’ “He sees me as his dad – and that’s it.” Knight jokes his wife Evelyn and boys Dante and Eric suffer through his pre-tour preparation of boot camps and bum notes. “They see and hear all the mistakes,” he says, laughing. “When I get on stage, I’m polished. But they know who I am, really.” Knight has been a pop star since 1988. Really.

He joined New Kids On The Block, a boy band created by hitmaker and producer, Maurice Starr, in 1984. Knight was only 14 years old. “I was really optimistic,” he says. “The whole idea of working in the studio, puting a show together, entertaining girls – that stuff was fun. I was young and wide-eyed for sure, but it was an incredible experience.”

Hits – including You Got It (The Right Stuff), Hangin’ Tough and Step By Step – and hysteria soon followed. They toured the world, topped a Forbes magazine rich list and during a visit to Melbourne were given the keys to the city.

Knight vaguely recalls the event, but offers slickly: “I hope the keys still work and nobody has changed the locks.” Never. Once upon a time, New Kids rocked every block. “Our goal was to conquer the world,” Knight says. “When it happened, it was like a dream come true. He sighs: “Then, there has to be a backlash. “If you get so many people loving you, ultimately, the opposite happens. “Yet, through it all, we were the same five guys from Boston. We knew what was going on – and why.”

That said, media scrutiny and celebrity culture wasn’t intense back then, either. “There weren’t as many outlets, but there were definitely paparazzi outside the clubs,” Knight says. However, he argues celebrity culture and the relentless news cycle has demystified pop stars. “If you did something back then that was a little imperfect, it would get magnified,” Knight says. “But, now, it seems that imperfection is in. I could go on YouTube, fart at the camera, and it would be funny. If I did that 20 years ago, it would be all over the news. I think the internet and the access to celebrities has made them more human. That’s reality – and I’m glad it’s happened.”

New Kids split in 1995 and Knight enjoyed a solo career. Meanwhile, a new generation of boy bands, including Backstreet Boys (above, with NKOTB) and NSync, arrived. After several attempts to reunite New Kids, they reformed as NKOTB three years ago. Last year, NKOTB announced a tour with Backstreet Boys. That tour, NKOTBSB, will visit Australia in May. Knight said they made a pact to ensure a collaborative success.

“We had to be on the same wavelength,” he says. “We didn’t want it to be any kind of show that made us rivals and we didn’t want to try to upstage each other. This is a collaboration and celebration of music that we do.” Knight admits he was always a Backstreet Boys fan. He says, enthused: “Man, they can really sing. They all have different voices, but when they sing together, it creates a blend that is really unique and their own. There is no mistaking a Backstreet Boys song.”

So who’s better: NKOTB or BSB? “Honestly, collectively, I think they’re much better vocally,” Knight replies. “I think, pound for pound, they are a vocal group. New Kids are known more for being entertainers. I’m not saying we can’t sing. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying Backstreet Boys’ forte, to me, is harmonies, blending and singing. Ours is entertaining.”

Indeed, Knight is thrilled to still be performing in the Bieber era, almost 30 years after joining New Kids. “I recognise the reaction Justin Bieber is getting,” he says. “It’s the same as what happened with us. He’s talented, he’s got the girls wrapped around his finger, and it looks like he’ll keep going and going and going.”

Knight knows pop is cyclical. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he says. “We want to recreate memories for people – and create new ones. That’s our job.”

New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys, Rod Laver Arena, May 19.

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