New Kids On The Block vs. Backstreet Boys

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If you haven't already read my various posts on NKOTB and BSB, I was a huge Backstreet Boys fan in my teen years and I remain loyal to them. Earlier this year, independent of the NKOTBSB tour, I became a fan of the New Kids On The Block. I may or may not be in a somewhat unique position to comment on the "rivalry" between the two groups of fans.

The hostility was magnified, I feel, after the two groups' performance(s) on Dancing With The Stars this past Tuesday night. Frankly, I don't quite understand the hostility. I'm not even sure if there is much hostility directed towards the New Kids On The Block from the Backstreet Boys fans, since I've mostly been cruising NKOTB fan sites lately. I'd imagine there wouldn't be too many bad feelings towards the New Kids, as many Backstreet Boys fans are probably too young to remember the New Kids during their heyday. So I guess what I'm really asking is "Why the hostility towards the Backstreet Boys?" (I genuinely would like to know, so if you have insight, feel free to leave a comment.)

I understand that some time ago, former Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson said something unkind about the New Kids ... along the lines of "The New Kids didn't pave the way for us, we paved our own path." Or at least that's what I heard he said, so don't quote me on it. I'm not sure how long ago that statement was made, but Kevin's not even part of the Backstreet Boys anymore. Honestly, to me, he's always been as useless (though pretty) as Jonathan Knight of the New Kids. He probably made the very callous statement to distinguish the Backstreet Boys and "market" the group as something brand spankin' new.

My stance on the two groups is this: they are very different. The New Kids pioneered the white boy band, yes, and they did it with their own Boston, blue collar flavor. They were friends first, band second, thus projecting a more unbreakable bond. Beyond that, their music was of course very different from the smooth bubblegum pop of the late 90s ... the New Kids' music is a lot "funkier" and generally more upbeat than the stuff the Backstreet Boys are known for. They danced and dance a lot more. The band and band members as individuals have more personality than the members of the Backstreet Boys.

The Backstreet Boys are more polished. They were put together, more or less, by the creepy mogul Lou Pearlman, and while a few of them knew each other prior to the group, only Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson (cousins) came from a similar background. Their music always had a more Adult Contemporary feel to it, even in their earlier days. Sure, they've danced, but never hardcore like the New Kids did. Aside from AJ, I'd say none of the Backstreet Boys were meant to dance. They were meant to sing.

That said, from as objective a perspective as I can take, the Backstreet Boys on the whole are better singers. Each one of them, except for the now-defunct member (Kevin), can sing, and well. I'm not entirely sure the same can be said of the New Kids. Donnie has a pop voice, but sometimes it doesn't quite work. Danny sounded awful on "Let's Try It Again" and is more suited for the sexy ad libbing he sometimes does. Jon, well, apparently he can sing. And I have no problem saying that of the 9 remaining guys in both groups, Jordan has the most vocal talent.


Brian is widely considered the leading voice of the Backstreet Boys, but few people know that he contracted swine flu in 2009 and his voice just hasn't been the same since. I've seen some unsavory comments about his voice following NKOTBSB's performance on Dancing With The Stars the other night ... no, Brian did not sound great and this isn't an excuse, but he was once a great singer in his own right and I trust he is trying to whatever he can to reclaim his voice.

On the New Kids' side, Jordan has been seen as the group's lead singer, and as amazing a voice as he has, I don't think he sounded fantastic on "Step By Step" the other night either. Generally, I've found his voice on that song in particular to be much shakier than it was back in the day. That's what happens when people age!

The last thing I have some problems with: all those people saying the New Kids outperformed the Backstreet Boys by far. My feeling on this goes back to the two groups being extremely different. The New Kids performed the uptempo, dancey "Step By Step", on which only one New Kid really sang and the Backstreet Boys performed their overperformed ballad/midtempo "I Want It That Way", on which all the Backstreet Boys sang. I don't think you can really compare. Yes, the New Kids gave a more exciting performance. But let's look at the two groups' repertoire: the New Kids are a more exciting group on the whole with better dance moves and more upbeat songs.

I know some people who are fans of either group aren't happy with the collaboration, but it is what it is. While I have come to appreciate and love both groups for their unique strengths, I came upon both groups independent of the other and not because they are touring together, so I can't speak to learning to "deal" with the other group. But if the guys are "dealing" with it, can't the fans?

If you are going to the NKOTBSB tour this summer, you're already spending the money to see BOTH groups, so why not open your mind a little and find something you like about the other group? Sometimes it's easier to see the negative, but it's more fun when you can see the positive. It's just pop music after all -- it's supposed to lighten our moods!

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