NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK, “THANKFUL”, ALBUM REVIEW: Adult Coolness in Mature Evolution

TRIPMUZE rating: 86/100

New Kids On The Block released a new EP with five songs, Thankful, on May 12. This is already third materials after their reunion in 2008. Many people, including me, thought their reunion would be short-lived, but their new EP once again proved that NKOTB’s second chapter isn’t for making short-term income with old fame but their new history and moving forward. Thankful is simply a high-quality product with full of beautiful melodies and catchy harmonies. Especially, its first song, “Heartbeat”, is outstanding with thick and classy opening and breathtaking melodies like the slow and beautiful sunrise in Boston, NKOTB’s hometown (and my second favorite city in the U.S. after NYC), softly reflects old brownstones and brick streets. These melodies are definitely New England, neither New York City nor California. Their harmonized vocal performance with the wide range of voices is thrilling and comfortable.

Everything is improved with Thankful from NKOTB’s last two albums, and needless to say, their teenage materials. The vocal performance, each song’s quality, production…and most of all, NKOTB’s vision is more focused on this EP. Thankful sounds like NKOTB look at themselves once again who they are now and what they can do after turning 40. New Kids On The Block is still a male vocal group, and nothing will be changed about that.  Though the former boy band who crazed the girls worldwide aren’t kids anymore, they have no reason to sing old men’s love songs yet. They’re still young to try adult contemporary. NKOTB can’t sing cheesy bubble pop songs anymore, but hip-hop that they tried since their reunion doesn’t exactly fit their musicality (NKOTB still mixed a little hip-hop on the last song). NKOTB set direction at traditional vocal and melody-oriented without looking at trends as what they can do. Their effort succeeds to pull up more dynamic vocal performance with this song-oriented EP. Other than “Heartbeat”, their vocals are beautifully flying with falsetto over the lightly flowing pop melodies on the title track,  darkly romantic on “One More Night”, sensual on “Hard”, and funky on “Still Sounds Good”. Vocal expressions are beautifully synced with melodies. Yap, still sounds good. Thankful achieves adult coolness like its simple yet impressive album cover. Ageless adult coolness like NKOTB is what many 40s men want to be, including former boy bands in the same generation.

Thankful is the masterpiece of New Kids On The Block. A question is why this is EP, not album after 4 years blank since their last album. If this was a full album, Thankful could be more sensational and complete. This EP doesn’t have unnecessary songs but obviously, it isn’t enough. If NKOTB keeps following the same direction with Thankful, their next album will be an amazing one. Maybe they should write songs by themselves?


*Photo source: New Kids On The Block, Thankful album cover

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