There was a singer who shall remain nameless set the tone for the nineties slow jams. However as nineties R&B fans know there were tons of singers who provided quality albums and tracks when it came to making a playlist via audiocassette. Lincoln Browder, better known as Link, was one of the singers.
Second Listen Sunday : New Kids On The Block, Face The Music
The year was 1994, and New Kids on the Block were ready to return to the music world. Starting in April of 1990, the group spent the next twenty-two months on the Magic Summer Tour, which saw them playing 220 shows between Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia. Naturally, a much-needed break was in order.
However, as the group was making their return to the spotlight, they realized that it was time to shift the music. All of the members were now in their early twenties. Furthermore, grunge and gangster rap were starting to rule the airwaves. The group decided to change their name and abandon their signature bubblegum and teen pop sound in favor of R&B and New Jack Swing. Granted, the group were not strangers to the R&B sound, as any Blockhead will tell you; their self-titled debut is an R&B album. So how does the group’s first foray into maturity sound twenty-seven years later?
Arriving in stores on January 25, 1994, Face the Music was led by the single “If You Go Away,” which initially appeared on the group’s 1991 greatest hits album. John Bettis, Trey Lorenz, and Walter Afanasieff, with Afanasieff also serving as producer, wrote the song, which is a lush ballad. Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre’s voices blended perfectly while Danny Wood added a spoken word that comes across naturally. “Dirty Dawg” was the album’s second single that Jordan Knight leads with a rap by Donnie Wahlberg and a guest appearance from Nice & Smooth.
Now, while I do enjoy the song, I also understand why the song did not catch on. “Never Let You Go” was the last single from the album and is one of the group’s finest moments. Once again, featuring the talents of Jordan Knight singing lead vocals and Donnie Wahlberg rapping. With production by Teddy Riley and Leon Sylvers III, this song solidified the group as a credible R&B outfit. Riley also contributed the quality album tracks “You Got the Flavor” and “Girls.”
Jordan Knight primarily sings lead throughout the album; however, Joey McIntyre also gets a chance to shine. The youngest member of the group slays the ballad “I’ll Still Be Loving You” written by Narada Michael Walden, the funky “Mrs. Right,” and the album’s closer “I’ll Be Waitin,” where he shares co-lead with his groupmate Danny Wood. McIntyre also finds time for another great duet with Jordan in the form of “Since You Walked into My Life.”
Without a doubt, from the vocals, the production, and maturity, Face the Music is the best album from New Kids on the Block. Over the years, I have asked myself why the response from the public was lukewarm. Quite simply, I think it was just timing, and if the album dropped in say 1993, sales would have been more substantial.
Face the music would serve as the group’s last album until their 2008 reunion project, The Block. Moreover, while Face the Music did not get the sales it rightfully deserved, thankfully, the group still finds time to perform songs from the project during their live shows.
Top Songs: “If You Go Away,” “Never Let You Go,” “Mrs. Right,” “Since You Walked in My Life”
Final Grade: A
Face the Music is available on all streaming platforms
Be sure to tune into the American Music Awards tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC. As New Kids on the Block engages in a friendly battle of the band’s called Battle of Boston with fellow Beantown group, New Edition.
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