New Releases in New Zealand, 23 July 1989
You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids On The Block
The first single off the album Hangin’ Tough was Please Don’t Go Girl and it has a super confusing video. It begins with a woman leaving one of the band members. As she gets into the cab to go the rest of the band shows up. The 14 year old boy in the band – who looks young for his age – then takes over the vocal and leading man role and begins pining for the woman. Two problems: (1) is she in a relationship with both members of the band? (2) the 14 year old is small and she is a grown-ass woman. I guess that leads to problem three which would be the age of consent. Anyway it’s weird.
I think the worst thing you could do if you were a bloke in Kāpiti in 1989 would have been to openly like New Kids On The Block. Aside from the fact that they were stupid there was this thing where they were trying to have a sort of tough image which was tragically misplaced and lame. Watching them doing their bobbing up and down dance, pointing their fingers and saying “we’re rough!” was about as convincing as Miami Vice‘s depiction of crime in Florida. The lyrics on the song Hangin’ Tough are… well, this kind of thing:
Everybody’s always talkin’ ’bout who’s on top
Don’t cross our path, cause you’re gonna get stomped
By who, Donnie? By who?
Donnie Wahlberg takes the lead on this song and at one point in the video does a pelvic thrust that makes you feel a bit like you felt when your teacher farted in class and everyone just froze in a terrible awkward silence.
Maybe the worst thing about New Kids On The Block (outside their music – I couldn’t quite get through all of Hangin’ Tough; I guess I wasn’t tuff enuff) was that they sort of appropriated black culture but did it so whitely that they invented a whole new awful thing. Vanilla Ice was about to take this new horrible thing to new heights later in 1989.
So I googled “Tiffany now” and the internet showed me her Playboy spread which is something I didn’t know had happened, and it felt a little like someone took my secret crush of 1989 turned it into a glass menagerie unicorn and then stood on it. The HuffPost had a helpful article about why she did this to herself. I think it boiled down to publicity.
Tiffany’s fame was weird and her quick descent coincided with NKOTB’s rise. New Kids were booked to open for her and then became the bigger act and she ended up opening for them. *Awkward* The internet tells me that she dated one of NKOTB but I can’t tell which one: all white guys look the same.
New Kids were on Full House (and – FunFact – Fuller House). My older daughter became obsessed by Full House and has watched every season twice. This means that I have vicariously watched every season too. I watched when it was first out for a time, and then didn’t because – well let’s just say, we grew apart. Watching it as a 40 year old was nostalgic. Comforting. Sitcoms are like that I suppose. They’re the equivalent of your favourite spot on the couch. The show was pretty consistent to the end but it did get lame with its guest appearances, and Tanner family holiday plot lines that were thinly veiled tourism promotions.
Something happens though. You’re watching New Kids and Tiffany videos, checking out old Full House clips and you suddenly find that you just want to smash yourself in the face, throw the computer across the room and run screaming into the street. It’s all so mediocre and thin and trite. Is it called bubblegum pop because after an initial dose of sweetness it’s just a wad of flavourless crap?
The Beatles were not hitting any great heights with I Saw Her Standing There, but Tiffany’s version strains even that song’s minimal soul out and leaves a plasticky husk of cellophane nothingness. The ballads on Hangin’ Tough (some were top five hits) are straight from the paint by numbers playbook of canned tears ballads. Also, thanks for wrecking leather jackets and ripped jeans for everyone, Donnie.
When people wax lyrical about the 80s they should keep this crap in mind too. Greatest Hits of the 80s compilations are usually untroubled by any Tiffany or New Kids tracks. The only nostalgia it is possible to muster is of the generic “I was young back then” kind which could also be applied to Piano By Candlelight CDs or Phantom of the Opera double LPs.
I tried really hard to fit in and like Phantom of the Opera. I never made it though. Which was liberating. It meant I didn’t have to like Evita, or Cats, or even ironically like Jesus Christ Superstar. That saved me a lot of time. Time I of course wasted on other things like listening to Jarre records, but at least I didn’t have to take Michael Crawford seriously. Fuck that.
New Releases in New Zealand, 23 July 1989
- New Kids On The Block – You Got It (The Right Stuff)
- Colette – Ring My Bell
- Sam Brown – Can I Get A Witness?
- The Black Sorrows – Chained To The Wheel
- The Doobie Brothers – The Doctor