The Philippine Star: Hangin' tough after all these years

By Nathalie Tomada
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Jonathan Knight (second from left), the one interviewed by The STAR, with fellow Kids (from left) Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight and Danny Wood.

MANILA, Philippines - 
After two decades, the New Kids On The Block (NKOTB) will be returning to the country to perform with the Backstreet Boys (BSB). The concert combining the forces of the two boy bands, which ruled the pop music scene in the ’80s and the ’90s, is happening on June 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.  
“Last time we were here was probably 20 years ago, so I don’t remember too much. It’s gonna be a whole, brand-new experience being back in the Philippines all over again,” NKOTB member Jonathan Knight tells The STAR in a phone interview.
NKOTB scored breakthrough success in the late ’80s through its sophomore album Hangin’ Tough, which yielded such No. 1 hits as I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) and Hangin’ Tough. Other songs of the band that became chart-busters over the years were You Got It (The Right Stuff), Cover Girl, Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind), This One’s For The Children, Tonight and the No. 1 single Step By Step. In 1991, Forbes listed NKOTB as the highest-earning entertainers, beating Madonna and Michael Jackson. The quintet’s exploits smoothed the path for the ’90s boy band movement that propelled the careers of the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, 98 Degrees, etc.
Jonathan recalls that while those were very exciting times, they also spelled hard work. “I mean a lot of people think that it’s an easy business and I think it’s just with experience and time, you learn that it’s not... you know, we’re not backstage having parties. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to travel and tour and be away from our families for months of the time.”
NKOTB disbanded in 1994 but there were no regrets, Jonathan stresses. “I think everything happens for a reason, but in the ’90s, when we broke up, it was a time when the music industry was really changing and people’s taste in music was changing. It was a time when pop music really was not that popular anymore, when people were going on to grunge and rock ‘n roll. So you know, it was our time, I mean we could’ve just taken maybe two or three or four years off and just come back, but in those two to three years, we all kinda moved on to our own endeavors.”
For one, Jonathan left the industry entirely and went into real estate. The rest of the members, like his younger brother Jordan and Joey McIntyre, took on the solo route and individually released albums. Donnie Wahlberg pursued acting while Danny Wood did some low-profile performing.
More than 10 years and several failed attempts later, they finally reunited in 2007. “We had talked about it a lot over the years. It (was just) a matter of scheduling, you know. Through the years when we talked about it, may be one of us would film a movie, somebody would have a baby or you know, I couldn’t get out of a project I was working on, so it was just that when 2008 came, it was perfect timing that we were all free and all really willing to embark on getting back together.”
“It’s going amazing,” Jonathan further describes their comeback as a group. “I’m actually surprised because in 2008 when we got back together, I really figured we would do a world tour, bring our show around the world and that would be the end of it. Now, it’s 2012 and we’re still going strong, still touring around the world. We’re in the process of working on a new album and we’re looking ahead to doing another tour next year.”
That could also mean sharing the stage anew with the BSB. How did the NKOTBSB musical merger come about? “We were doing a tour last year and they were in town in New York City, so we asked them to come and do a surprise appearance at our show at the Radio City Music Hall. The response from the audience was just so amazing that you know the day after the show we all kinda just started throwing the idea around about that maybe we should go on tour together and we just planned it out and eventually it happened.”
“It’s been amazing partnership,” Jonathan adds. “It’s really good. I mean, there’s nine of us out here on the road so we’re all really close and we’ve all experienced pretty much the same things, being in musical groups and touring around. So, just to have the Backstreet Boys on the road with us and for us to be on the road with them had just been so much fun.”
With them back on the road and with the emergence of new boy bands from the UK, Asia and of course, the US, does he think the boy band phenom is also back?
“I really don’t think it ever left. There were boy bands before us, you know the Beach Boys, the Jackson 5, and there’ll be boy bands after us,” Jonathan ends.

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