Once upon a time back in 1984, producer/songwriter Maurice Starr (best known for discovering and producing New Edition) had a vision to bring five good looking kids on board and create the next “Jackson 5”. Maurice was convinced that his group would be sure to bring in a frenzy of girl fans which in turn would be more than profitable to him. Maurice started on his quest by recruiting local Boston boys by word of mouth.
The first kid recruited was Donnie Wahlberg . Donnie was recruited when a neighbor told them that a talent scout by the name of Mary Alford was searching for kids to try out for a musical group. Even though Donnie had no prior experience, both he and his brother Mark Wahlberg auditioned and got into the group. After Donnie made the cut, he asked his friend Danny Wood to audition. Danny, who also had no previous experience also made it into the band. After recruiting one friend, Donnie then recruited Jordan Knight and Jonathon Knight .
Jordan did have some choir experience and was immediately accepted into the band. Jon, on the other hand, was shy and set off but managed to get into the group as well. Mark Wahlberg was the youngest of the guys and decided that the group was not for him. After his departure, a very young Joe Mcintyre was brought on board. Now that the group was complete, it was time to make some music.
New Kids on the Block were nothing close to an overnight sensation. Originally named Nynuk , the kids went through years and years of practice and many failures before making a name for themselves. Their first album titled New Kids on the Block flopped miserably and almost made the group break up. It had been four hard years and everyone was tired of all the promises that never came true. However, they all stuck together and in 1988 released an album that would spread the groups name all across the world. The album is titled Hanging Tough .
Hangin’ Tough is the typical 1980-ish boy band album. In case anyone does not know what a boy band is, it is a group of young and usually good looking guys who sing mostly about love and normally do not play instruments (that’s why I never understood the term “band”).
New Kids on the Block have been rumored to start the boy band frenzy with this album, but there were in fact other boy bands before them (New Edition, The Jackson Five). Anyway, all the music was created, written, and produced by Maurice Starr (with a little help with the producing by the group). But really, the job of the guys was to simply look cute, sing well, and dance well. Now onto the album:
1) You Got It ( The Right Stuff) : This song was a huge hit for the New Kids on the Block. Jordan sings lead vocals along with Donnie, with the rest of the group harmonizing in the background. This is a bubble gum sounding pop song with a catchy synthesized beat in the background. The song is basically about the guys telling about their crush and how she has the “right stuff” ( You’ve got the Right Stuff..baby..You’re the reason why I sing this song .) I never liked this song. Although it was a catchy tune, I never cared for the rhythm, lyrics, or beat. I did like the video though because it was well choreographed and the guys really are decent dancers. (3/5 stars)
2) Please Don’t Go Girl : This is the song that made the New Kids on the Block successful. This is a love ballad sung by the youngest member of the group, Joe. Joe had an excellent voice back in those days (think young Michael Jackson) and this happens to be my favorite song on the entire album. Joe is basically singing about a girl that he doesn’t want to go away, but he does this with conviction over a slow melody with a nice bass thump. Danny used his monotone voice in the beginning to “speak” to the girl ( We’ve been together for a long time baby..do you “have” to leave ? ) which made the song even more charming. (5/5 stars)
3) I’ll Be Loving You Forever : I remember back in the day, every girl I knew went nuts over this song. Granted, it does a nice melodious piano piece and wonderful vocals ( Jordan took lead again), but I was never over enthused about this song. It is really just another bubble gum love ballad about how the guys will be loving a girl “forever”. Please Don’t Go Girl is a hard song to follow and especially with another love ballad. This one just didn’t do much for me despite the great harmony and excellent vocals. (4/5 stars)
4) Cover Girl : This time Donnie takes the lead and tries to get everyone moving with an upbeat song about a girl he thinks is so beautiful that she could be a cover girl. Once again, I don’t too much care for this song either. They bring some guitar riffs into this song but they come off sounding weak. Donnie is also not really that great of a singer. The only thing this song is good for is maybe some dance moves, and even that is pushing it. The guys however, do harmonize well during the chorus. (2/5 stars)
5) I Need You : Love ballads hit an all time low with this song. Donnie is back again and this time singing a slow song, something he should clearly stay away from. The background music is mediocre and Donnie’s voice comes off strained and little nasally. I don’t even think Jordan or Joe could have saved this song. (1/5 stars)
6) Hangin’ Tough : Awful, awful, and more awful. I cannot believe the album was named after this song. For whatever illogical reason, Donnie was allowed once again to sing lead. In the beginning of the song, the guys start out harmonizing together ( Ohh ohh ohh Ohh Ohh ). The harmony just doesn’t click together, and if that isn’t bad enough, Donnie comes in with some of the worst lyrics the guys have ever put out ( Listen up everybody if wanna take a chance..Just get on the floor and do the New Kids dance ). Whenever Donnie has to raise his voice an octave, it sounds like he is straining (and the octaves aren’t that much higher than his normal voice). This is by far the worst song on the album. (0/5 stars)
7) I Remember When : Joe returns to lead vocals on another love ballad and does an ok job. The lyrics aren’t too bad considering (The promise we made still stays in my head like the melody….
I remember… favorite songs we heard all night long in the candlelight …), but this doesn’t song doesn’t quite measure up to Joe’s performance on Please Don’t Go Girl . However, this is a tolerable ballad and Joe’s vocal range is excellent. The harmony is back and sounding great, and the message is sweet. (4/5 stars)
8) WhatCha Gonna Do? : Joe and Jordan team together on this upbeat song to talk about a girl that did them wrong. Behind an upbeat melody and a few guitar riffs, Jordan asks what his girl is gonna about treating him so bad ( Girl, What Ya Gonna Do? You know you done me wrong..I’m still in love with you ). Toward the end of the song, Joe chimes in to let his girl know he is still loving her forever as well ( Girl, you are a star…make me wanna play my guitar ).
At this point another cute guitar riff comes in, but of course not played by the kids themselves (thank the back up band for that). This one is an “ok” song. It is not their best yet not their worst. However, Jordan and Joe are the best singers out of the group and with them two together they pull this song off. Anyone else on vocals would have made this one flop. (3/5 stars)
9) My Favorite Girl : Besides Please Don’t Go Girl , I think this is the stand out song of the album. Although this is one of the last singles they released from this album, it was definitely not the least. Jordan takes lead again and does an incredible job on vocals. This song is upbeat but not as bubble gum sounding as the rest of the upbeat song.
The songs mixes a little pop, techno, electronica, and dance all in one. For some reason the guys voices seem a bit deeper and they sound almost like mature and grown men when they chant together ( She’s My Favorite Girl..The One I Always Dream Of ). Yes, the lyrics are definitely still pop bubble gum lyrics, but the rest of the song makes up for it. (5/5 stars)
10) Hold On : This is another one of the weaker tracks on the album and sung by Danny. It has a generic upbeat sound and we hear Danny asking his girl to hold on to his love. The harmony is not too bad, but there is not much to say about this song. I guess this is why this one was never released as a single. (1/5 stars)
This is a fun little album to listen to for a trip down memory lane. However, to get to the few stand out songs that are on the album, there will be a lot of clicking on the fast forward button. However, New Kids fans swear by this album and it will always hold a piece of their heart. For any album to do that to millions upon millions of girls (Ok, so maybe it wasn’t just the music), I would definitely recommend at least a listen.
A Few tidbits about the New Kids on the Block
* Even though Hangin’ Tough was released in 1998, it wasn’t until summer 1989 that the kids had their first hit on the billboards. Singer Tiffanny (who was also Jon’s girlfriend at the time) allowed the guys to tour with her in 88′, thus giving them the exposure they needed.
* Joe was constantly ridiculed and made fun of by the other guys and almost quit the band on several occasions during the early days.
* Maurice Starr composed the song Please Don’t Girl when he was thirteen.
More Album Information
Audio CD: (October 25, 1990)
Original Release Date: September 6, 1988