The 1990s, the decade that we are on the verge of entering, will mean many musical delights. Grunge, Britpop, blockbuster movie soundtracks, Girl Power, the Vengaboys… But you could argue that, ahead of everything, it will be the decade of the Boy Band ™
You Got It (The Right Stuff), by New Kids on the Block (their 1st of two #1s)
3 weeks, from 19th November – 10th December 1989
From beginning to end – literally, as the first and last #1s of the decade will be by a boyband – groups of three to five handsome young men in baggy jeans and backward-facing caps will dominate. Boyz II Men, Take That, Boyzone, Hanson, 5ive to name but a few. And all kicked off by five boys from Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Let’s take a moment, before we start dissecting this record properly, to thank the stars that it’s not a ballad. Wherever boybands go, a drippy love song is never far behind. But no, ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’ is a classic serving of late-80s R&B fused with hints of new jack swing. The drums ratatat, the synths swoosh, the bassline is actually pretty cool… It all sounds wonderfully dated. And, in true boyband fashion, the lyrics amount to some pretty nothings and some half-hearted innuendo. First kiss was a sweet was a kiss, Second kiss had a twist… What the ‘twist’ is, or indeed the ‘right stuff’ of the title, is never specified. It’s all dates and kisses, with one mildly risqué mention of being ‘turned on’.
The bridge is the most modern part of the record, a soaring template to be followed by every boyband to come. All that I needed was you, Oh girl, You’re so right… You can just picture the clenched fists as the Kids meet that line. And then there’s the hook in the chorus, the oh-oh-ohohohs that’s as catchy as it is annoying. The video – again, as was traditional for ‘90s boybands – sees them dressed like idiots, dancing like idiots, having a great time in a deserted bar. They then chase some girls around a graveyard, for reasons best left mysterious…
To suggest that New Kids on the Block (NKOTB if you’re in the know) were the first boyband is wrong. At the same time, defining a ‘boyband’ is like catching mist in a jar. If you go by the literal definition – boys in a band – then we’re going to go back to the Crickets, at least. If you insist on the manufactured aspect of it, then we start at the Monkees. But what of the Jacksons and the Osmonds? What of New Edition? Bros? (And I was only mentioning acts we’ve met earlier in this blog.)
Let’s say NKOTB are the first ‘modern’ boyband, then. They were managed by Maurice Starr (also the mastermind behind New Edition) and composed of four school friends led by Donnie Wahlberg (brother of actor Mark) and a younger boy, Joey McIntyre. Unlike some boybands, the path to success hadn’t been smooth for NKOTB: they’d been together since 1984 and were on the verge of being dropped by their label before ‘Please Don’t Go Girl’ made #10 in the US. ‘You Got It’ was the second single from their second album, and their first chart hit in the UK. They’d go on to have nine more Top 10 singles between 1989 and 1992, including one further #1 coming up very soon.
And so we enter the era of the (modern) boyband. And for a taster, ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’ is neither a classic of the genre, nor terrible. There are much better boyband chart-toppers to come, and much worse.