Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Right Stuff

"First time was a great time / Second time was a blast / Third time I fell in love / Now I hope it lasts"

"They may be pushing 40, but the New Kids are returning to the block."

Doesn't anyone fade gloriously into obscurity anymore? At some point, can't they all just be content with what they had and settle down to become real estate developers like my favorite New Kid, Jonathan? Maybe I should ask you that, Jonathan. After all, it was you who vanished in the middle of what would be NKOTB's final world tour. I hope you're doing better at managing the panic attacks that made you want to leave in the first place, or more importantly, I hope you think this reunion is going to be worth the effort. But really, all of you: Why come back?

NKOTB released their breakthrough album, Hangin' Tough, in September 1988, so I'm guessing they timed this reunion as a 20th anniversary thing. But what has really changed since VH1's failed attempt to reunite them a couple of years ago? At that time, Donnie and Danny refused to even appear on-camera, and denied any possibility that there would be a reunion. I understand the need to reunite on their own terms instead of being forced to do so by a reality TV show, but I call "bullshit" about how their love for the music they're now recording in-studio is what drove them to reunite. It made me laugh when Donnie said that during their Today show reunion announcement, which I totally only watched out of curiosity. Totally.

When NKOTB first came out, my sister was their perfect target audience. Marishka was 10 years old and primed for her first innocent crush on non-threatening pop idols. I was 13 and trying really hard to be cooler than I was; I had already been to see Crowded House with my hip older cousins, and I was listening to my brother's New Order and Depeche Mode albums. I wasn't about to regress to my baby sister's fave boy band, no matter how cute they were. By the time I turned 14, I was going to "alternative" rock shows like the New Order, Sugarcubes, and Public Image Limited joint concert and just beginning to listen to the Cure. Honestly, I didn't get the Cure at the time. I had a fairly happy childhood with minimal angst, and my heart had never been stomped to pieces by anyone, so I didn't understand what all the dark eyeliner was about. Maybe that's what drove me straight into the arms of the New Kids.

I don't know when the switch was flipped, but I remember my sister and I rushing home from school to tape Oprah, when NKOTB performed "The Right Stuff" for the first time in front of Oprah's live studio audience. When the boys came out onstage, Mar and I both jumped to our feet and started clapping, chattering, and giggling. We didn't even hear a word those boys sang; we just focused on how cute they all looked and how well they danced. We made up our minds on the spot that the Knight brothers would be our future husbands. As soon as the performance and interview was done, we rewound the tape and watched the show again so we could actually listen to what was being said. Then we rewound the tape and watched the show again, this time to practice the dance moves. I think the show aired on a Wednesday; by the end of the week, we could perform the entire routine perfectly.

When I emailed her the article about the reunion, Mar and I tentatively agreed that if NKOTB's Baltimore show happens after I give birth, I would fly out with the baby so we could go to the show together. Mar and I only saw one NKOTB live show, though we sat in different areas because I was allowed to spend more of my babysitting money for tickets. My friend Becky and I sat in the fifth or seventh row, front and center. Mar and her friend Laura sat in the balcony with our dad chaperoning. [What a nice daddy!] We had an absolute blast! And during one of the freeze-frame poses after a song, Danny totally pointed his finger-guns at me and Becky. Totally.

Maybe it doesn't matter what NKOTB's reasons are for coming back. Even if this is just a lark, or a way to earn some extra cash, why the hell not come back for one last hurrah? Everyone else is doing it.

So let's see: Duran Duran, The Police, Spice Girls, Lemonheads, New Kids . . . "And when the Lamb opened the sixth seal . . ." who shall it be? Come on, Shaun Cassidy. If the Apocalypse is coming, I want to see you belt out "Da Doo Ron Ron" one last time.

"The Right Stuff" by NKOTB

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