It’s been more than 20 years since New Kids on the Block released their seminal eight-times-platinum 1988 album, “Hangin’ Tough,” and subsequently topped Forbes’ highest-paid entertainers list, ranking above Michael Jackson and Madonna. But since reuniting in 2008, the Boston-bred fivesome have seen their website garner 146 million page views, sold out a comeback show at Madison Square Garden in six minutes and earned the No. 2 spot in Time magazine’s “Top 10 Comebacks of 2011” list. They also have a paid fan club, Block Nation, with 50,000 members and headline an annual Carnival cruise, which has sold out for four consecutive years thanks to a largely female base of 30-somethings who spent their formative years devoted to Donnie, Danny, Joe, Jordan and Jon.
Music writer Nikki Van Noy witnessed this devotion firsthand while working on “New Kids on the Block: Five Brothers and a Million Sisters,” which chronicles NKOTB’s meteoric rise in the late ‘80s, disbanding following the inevitable backlash several years later and recent return to the pop-culture consciousness. As part of her research, Van Noy attended their concert cruise, a seaborne excursion from Miami to the Bahamas that began in 2009.
“I think my jaw was dropped for the first three days,” she told HuffPost Celebrity. “I had never seen anything like it. I had heard that the guys were really hands-on, but they’re just walking around this boat of 3,000 people, filled with fans. To see that was sort of overwhelming — there’s so much excitment.”
Van Noy traces NKOTB’s story not only through interviews with the band, but with their legions of fans. The book includes anecdotes from 100-or-so women, but she says she connected with many more.
“What it’s always been about is this intangible chemistry that they have with each other, but also with their fans,” she says. “I remember that feeling at their concerts and everything being so exciting and so electric, and somehow that’s still there today. There’s very much always that feeling of very palpable energy at their shows.”
Van Noy points out that perhaps one reason the band still resonates for a certain demographic is that NKOTB was the dominant boy band of its era — unlike a decade later, when a new crop that included the Backstreet Boys, NSync and 98 Degrees shared the spotlight. “For women of my age group, the New Kids were a common experience that most of us had during our adolescence,” she says.
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