Spin Cycle

I’ve done more than enough explaining my somewhat irrational fondness for New Kids on the Block on this site. Let’s just say I dig ’em and move forward.

NKOTB10I’m not exactly sure what 10 symbolize. It’s only their seventh studio album (I’m being charitable and counting the Christmas album.) If you add remix albums and greatest hits albums, they’re at 12 (two NKOTB GH albums, a remix album, the NKOTBSB album and the Super Hits comp.) So…10? Not sure what’s up with that.

The Block was an all-star affair that didn’t totally connect. There was Akon, New Edition, Lady GaGa, Nicole Sherzinger, Ne-Yo and a couple of people that I may have missed. It tried a little too hard to stay current, and there was entirely too much auto-tune. While the New Kids aren’t exactly five Stevie Wonder’s, it’s safe to say that their talent level exceeds that of T-Pain. Why try to make them sound like him?

Having left Jimmy Iovine’s plantation for the waters of independent distribution, the guys (Donnie, Danny, Joe, Jordan and Jon if you’ve been living under a rock for the past quarter-century) returned with an album that sounds a little bit more like a New Kids on the Block album should sound in 2013. The mix of uptempo tracks to ballads on 10 is just about even, there are no guest artists whatsoever, and the overall sound is contemporary without making the guys sound like they’re the creepy old dudes at the club.

Observation #1: Donnie Wahlberg does a lot more of the singing on 10 than he’s done on any previous New Kids album. Considering that Donnie vocals are usually the opportunities to take a bathroom break on a NKOTB album (“I Need You,” “Stay With Me Baby,” “Grown Man,”) I’m surprised that his voice fits in so well with the sound on 10. I also feel like the dude has had singing lessons (all props here, man.) His showcase piece, “(I Like The) Remix,” is an energetic, rock-spiked sing along that has more pop appeal than any New Kids song since “Step by Step.”

Observation #2: Danny and Jon actually show up on this album. Both previously AWOL New Kids (at least on record) deliver vocal contributions to 10, and while Jordan, Joe and Donnie still carry the lion’s share of the leads, it’s nice to hear the fellas sound a little more democratic.

Observation #3: The songs are significantly stronger on 10 than they were on The Block, even though there are too many midtempo ballads. Aside from “Remix” and a couple other uptempo jawns (including the excellent bonus track “Let’s Go Out with a Bang,” the Kids lean a little too hard on slow jams this time around. While they’re all solidly written, they also kind of blend into one another after a while. There are a couple of standouts, though. “Jealous (Blue)” is a particular gem, giving the most time to Jordan’s falsetto, a tone that still gets up there after all these years. “Back to Life” (co-written by Joe) is another winner as is the midtempo opener “We Own Tonight.”

If you had to fit 10 in the pantheon of New Kids albums, it wouldn’t be near the top (Face the Music will probably be there forever,) nor would it be at the bottom (Step by Step and the debut album will be fighting for that dubious honor until the end of the time.) It’s pleasant, well-written and well-performed. Professional, occasionally passionate, and never outright bad. I’m comfortable sticking it somewhere between a B and a B-. Yeah, I know that’s not a real rating. What can I say?

More importantly, what do you say? Feel free to leave a few words in the comment section.

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