New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight promises there’s “no rivalry” between his group and Backstreet Boys, who are touring together under the moniker NKOTBSB.
But he concedes that a few years ago that might not have been the case for the multi-platinum boy bands.
“I’m very pleasantly surprised, to say the least,” Knight notes. Pointing out that NKOTB pre-dated BSB by nearly a decade, he explains that, “I think when (BSB) first broke, they kind of wanted to distance themselves from New Kids because we were so huge and so massive that we were almost shoved down people’s throats. When (BSB) came out everyone was saying, ‘Oh, you’re just like the New Kids,’ and they were like, ‘No, we’re not,’ ... when in all reality they were basically the New Kids.
“I can see why they wanted to push that away. *NSYNC was the same way. But I think now that everyone is older and we’re over that big initial push, they’re like, ‘Yeah, man, the New Kids are great and we look up to them,’ and we have a very good relationship in that sense.”
It’s fair to say that the NKOTBSB teaming — which also includes an “NKOTBSB” album mixing both group’s hits and two new songs — is good all the way around. It pairs two bona fide iconic pop vocal outfits of the past 20 years, who between them have sold more than 210 million albums worldwide (BSB’s 130 million makes them the top-selling boy band of all time) and 23 Top 40 hits. Each is well past their commercial heyday, but together they become an event rather than merely nostalgia.
“We all the know the reason this tour is so big,” says Knight, 41, “and that’s because of the joint effort of two historic boy bands with big, massive hits combining and coming together. We want to give the people what they want. It’s a feel-good time.”
The idea for NKOTBSB stemmed from a joint performance during the summer of 2010 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, when BSB joined NKOTB on stage for the former’s “I Want It That Way.” It set off a string of rumors about a combined tour, which was confirmed in the fall and promoted with televised appearances at the 38th annual American Music Awards and Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”
“It wasn’t, like, that big a deal,” Knight recalls. “(NKOTB) did our reunion three years ago, and then we did another tour after that and then it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re teaming with the Backstreet Boys’ and back on another huge arena tour. It was all pretty smooth.”
Fitting Knight’s decree that “it’s a collaboration, not a rivalry,” the shows weave the two bands together, performing several songs with all nine singers on stage — which, Knight acknowledges, is a challenge. “Yeah, choreography went very slow, trying to get certain pieces together,” he says. “Because there’s nine people, to do eight bars of choreography took, like, two days. So, yeah, that wasn’t fun.”
Nevertheless, things have gone smoothly save for Knight’s older brother Jonathan suffering a knee injury — “He’s known to have two left feet,” Knight says with a laugh — that relegated him to a stool for a few of the shows. “All the people involved are really into making a really good show,” Knight adds, “so we make changes daily. We’ll get off the tour buses and rehearse to make the show better.”
Having some new songs to do together on the tour, meanwhile, came as a bonus. “Don’t Turn Out the Lights,” which has been released as a single, was co-written and produced by Emanuel Kiriakou, a guitarist from Pittsburgh who was part of NKOTB’s band for its latest reunion tour. Known as Eman, he’s produced singles for Selena Gomez, Hot Chelle Rae, Whitney Houston and “American Idol” runnerup David Archuleta, but he approached New Kids’ Joey McIntyre with “Don’t Turn Out the Lights.”
“He said, ‘I’ve got a song for you guys,’ ” Knight remembers. “He’s an excellent producer, and obviously he knew ... we were doing a tour with Backstreet Boys. We’re definitely not going to sing any songs we don’t like, but this felt like it would be a really good one to do together.”
Knight doesn’t expect the new tracks on “NKOTBSB” to lead to “a mega-boy band,” however. He recently released a new solo album, “Unfinished,” and is playing one-off solo shows during off nights from the tour and is planning a more extensive run after the NKOTBSB outing wraps in early August. But he does foresee, and even hopes, that NKOTBSB can be a going concern as a touring package, even if he and his mates are no longer new, kids or boys anymore.
“People do say that — actually, when we were like 19, people were asking, ‘What are you gonna do when you are, like, 22? What are you gonna call yourselves?’ ” Knight says. “And now I’m 41 and we’re still New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. But I look at it as you brand yourself, and that’s what you are known as. But you surpass your names. You transcend your names.
“It’s like the Beach Boys. When I think of the Beach Boys, I don’t think of them as teenagers. I see them as men — but they’re still the Beach Boys and that’s OK, just like it’s OK for us to be New Kids and Backstreet Boys, you know?”
FROM BOYS TO MEN
How New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys — now touring together as NKOTBSB — stack up alongside each other:
NKOTB: 1984 in Boston
BSB: 1993 in Orlando, Fla.
NKOTB: 80 million
BSB: 130 million
Top 40 Singles:
No. 1 Hits:
NKOTB: “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Hangin’ Tough,” “Step By Step”
Last Top 40 Hit:
NKOTB: “Summertime,” 2008
BSB: “Incomplete,” 2005
NKOTB: Maurice Starr
BSB: Lou Pearlman
NKOTB: Brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight
BSB: Cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson. The latter left the group in 2006.
NKOTBSB — New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys — and Jordin Sparks perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16 at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $32.50-$92.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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