With their infectious tunes and clean-cut looks, the New Kids on the Block broke records, hearts, and established a definitive boy-band brand for generations to come. But at the peak of their success in the late ’80s, the landscape of popular music began to change. As the ’90s ushered in grunge as the new music of the mainstream, pre-teens who once bopped along to “Hangin’ Tough” turned their attention towards a new sound.
In an effort to keep up with the times, NKOTB attempted an edgier image with their third studio album, Face the Music, but called it quits soon after its release. Following the band’s break-up in 1994, frequent lead singer Jordan Knight took to playing piano and singing incognito at small nightclubs. Knight performed old Elton John songs before an audience of regulars, who, unaware of his identity and background in the industry, insisted he “should sing professionally.”
In 1999, Knight returned to the spotlight with his first solo album, Jordan Knight, featuring the single “Give It To You” which reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Now, on the advent of a Canadian tour for his sophomore album, The Fix, Knight reflects on his transition from boy bander to mature solo artist.
When you are making a debut as a solo artist, what is the biggest advantage (and disadvantage) to having already achieved success with a group?
Well, doors swing open for you easier, but once you’re in, everyone wants to talk about the New Kids. I don’t mind; as I’ve said I sing a lot of New Kids songs in my show, but sometimes people want to put you in a time warp with the past and neglect the present.
You starred in season three of The Surreal Life with Brigitte Nielsen, Flavor Flav, Ryan Starr, Dave Coulier, and Charo. How would you describe this experience? Would you do another reality show?
I would definitely do another show, but with people that I know. The Surreal Life I would never do again. I felt like I was trapped in a mental institution.
In between solo albums, you released Jordan Knight Performs New Kids on the Block – The Remix Album. Was this to satisfy fans of the old-school music, or for the enjoyment of putting a new spin on the old?
That album was just something I did because I was bored and I also wanted to sing the songs live — but with fresher tracks.
For Jordan Knight you worked with legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who have produced albums for such artists as Janet Jackson and Prince. What was it like working with them?
Working with them was a dream come true. When the deal was first signed, I began to get nervous with the anticipation of what it would be like to work with them. Like, are they going to be tough on me and not let me in on the writing? But it was the best experience. They listened to all my ideas and ran with them. That’s why they’re great, ’cause they have open minds.
What are you listening to right now?
I used to listen to music a lot, then my iPod broke, so all I listen to now is the radio. I like Kelly Clarkson, Kanye West, and Gavin DeGraw. Those are the ones I turn up.
On a recent episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Carrie Fisher showed the audience a shampoo bottle in the shape of Princess Lea, and as she unscrewed the top of the bottle (Princess Lea’s head), explained: “this is why I’m in therapy.” You are also no stranger to mass-merchandising. What is the craziest product you’ve ever seen bearing your likeness?
The question should be: what haven’t I seen merchandised by the New Kids? I just learned we had a Frisbee. The dolls didn’t bother me.but there were these other stuffed dolls that looked nothing like us. I didn’t like those. Hey, maybe they were bootlegged. We made some good money for those guys.
You seem very grounded. What do you attribute this to, and what prevented you from becoming affected like so many people in show business?
Well thanks for the compliment. I guess it’s a choice. I can be mad at my past and be bitter, or embrace it and be happy. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
As a regular reader of BOP and Tiger Beat magazine during the ’80s, I was disappointed to hear your revelation on E! True Hollywood Story that some of your answers to their interviews and “fact sheets” were not always 100% factual. Here’s your chance to set the record straight: Is your ideal date really a long walk on the beach?
My real ideal date would be to go out dancing and then after go on a short walk. Preferably with a blanket and a bottle of champagne on the beach, of course.
What is the wackiest tabloid rumor/urban legend you’ve ever heard about yourself? According to some reports, aren’t you supposedly dead?
I’m sure someone somewhere wrote I was dead, but I never heard that. The wackiest one was that I got a sex change operation. The other guys in the group were more mad than I was. I just thought it was pretty funny. Who the heck is going to believe that?
Is Boston still your home base?
Boston is still very much my home.
Could Canada ever be?
Well, I have family in Canada, so you never know.