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For kids who grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the buck stops at New Kids on the Block. If you were between the ages of 6 and 16 during those years, you either loved them or hated them, but you couldn’t ignore them. Comprising Boston friends Jordan Knight, his brother Jonathan Knight, Danny Wood, Joey McIntyre and Donnie Wahlberg (brother of Mark, who would eventually eclipse them with his solo career), the group rode their 1988 eight-time platinum sophomore album Hangin’ Tough into the teeny-bop stratosphere, reshaping the boy-band mold for generations to come. New Kids on the Block (a name that was destined to age fast) were more than a musical act; they were a cultural phenomenon and cottage industry, with their faces emblazoned on lunch boxes, T-shirts, trading cards, jackets, you name it. In 1991, their likeness was used for an animated television series—not unlike groundbreaking boy bands before them like The Beatles and The Jackson 5. Their smash success marked a change in pop music, rippling outward to groups like NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, and later to One Direction.
Here’s NKOTB performing their hit “Cover Girl” live in Providence, R.I., on Dec. 6, 1990.
After 12 years of radio silence, NKOTB made a comeback in 2008 with The Block. Shortly after, they hopped on a tour with fellow ex-teen heartthrobs Backstreet Boys, a joint effort that would gross tens of millions of dollars and earn them a place on Billboard’s “Top 25 Tours” in 2011. Though most of their fanbase has transitioned from putting their pictures in school lockers to raising children of their own, New Kids on the Block continue to perform to enthusiastic audiences and release new music with commercial success. Whether they’re riding a wave of talent or nostalgia, that’s for you to decide. Take a listen to New Kids on the Block singing “Step by Step” 27 years ago on this date.