One of the best things about being friends with Money Mike is that you can discuss music with him and he never gets sick of it. More importantly, he rarely has an ego about his music knowledge even though he’s forgotten more about music than I’ll ever know. I’m sure we’ve been in some petty arguments, but never because he simply had to showcase his knowledge about something. Thus, we decided to take that style of conversation and turn it into a column. Here’s your first edition of Sound Dialogue where we’ll look at albums, topics, or whatever else we want to chat about music wise and give it to you here. This time, we tackle the New Kids On The Block’s comeback album, The Block.

GG: Why now? After 14 years, why did the New Kids On The Block come back now? What’s different about 2008 than say, 1998?

MM: Your guess is as good as mine, because it doesn’t really make sense. If they were looking for a hit or the quick money, they would have done it ten years ago when Backstreet & *NSYNC were popular. Then again, at this point in time, they have the whole pie for themselves.

I also think that enough time has passed that there’s a certain nostalgia for them. People don’t see them as a joke anymore.

Photo By Alan Light

GG: Do you think they fit into today’s pop music landscape? Is there a place for the New Kids? The whole guy group thing has pretty much died down unless your last name is Jonas.

MM: With the difference being that the Jonas Brothers actually play instruments. You know, the landscape is so wide open right now. It’s more of a production style that works as opposed to any particular kind of artist. So I guess that if they have the right production, they have as much of a chance as anyone, and it looks like that’s what they went after with this album.

GG: Speaking of the production, what did you think of it? They utilized many “hot” producers and one can argue that the music is actually overproduced.

MM: How about “very” overproduced? The album almost sounds robotic. The instrumentation is almost completely electronic and the singing is covered in a ton of effects. It’s not like these guys can’t sing. There wasn’t pro-tools and auto-tune in the Eighties.

GG: I want to get into the auto-tune stuff in a bit. But first, let’s talk about some of the songs. In my opinion, I think the best songs on the album are the ones in which they just sing in harmony with catchy hooks featuring pop style production that is simple and blends with the harmonies. For instance, “Single” with Ne-Yo isn’t a barn burner, but it’s the perfect song to reintroduce the New Kids. You mentioned the electronic instrumentation. One of my major complaints about the album is an over abundance of that style, and less of a smart “radio” style song in the same vein as “Single”. Why do you think they didn’t go more of that route?

MM: I don’t necessarily know that that’s the route Top 40 radio is in right now. I agree that the more melodic songs like “Single”, “2 in the Morning” and “Stare at You” are by far the best songs on the album, but I’m sure someone at the label convinced them that the sort of amelodic club bangers were the way to go.

GG: Do you think they’ve gone the right route single wise? “Summertime” didn’t seem to catch on, and really, there’s only one chance to make that first impression from a 14 year lay off. I loved the song myself, but it might not have been the big single to get people to perk their ears up. I really like “Single” as well, and if you can’t rise up on the charts with Ne-Yo, who can help you with that? Don’t say Chris Brown.

What did you think about the choice of the first two singles, and secondly, what do you think will be the third single?

MM: I think “Summertime” was the right look, and while it wasn’t a huge hit, it did hit the Top 40 and has been downloaded almost half a million times. I honestly don’t know that they’re capable of expanding beyond what their target demo initially was. I mean, it’s not like cats on the street are suddenly gonna switch off from Lil Wayne to New Kids on the Block.

There’s no reason “Single” shouldn’t be a HUGE hit. The third single should either be “Click Click Click” or “Stare at You”, but they’re probably gonna end up going with another one of the guest-artist featured songs.

GG: Let’s talk about the song that we both were anticipating like two men should never, ever anticipate so much in their life. “Full Service” features BOTH New Edition and the New Kids. Initially when I heard the song, I was completely turned off. But now, I think it’s the one banger on the entire album that I really like. However, there are a few things that still bother me about it.

1. Auto-tune (don’t worry, we’ll get into this)
2. Other than Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, and Jordan Knight, I can’t tell who else is singing. Anyone else?
3. Where were the raps by Biv and Donnie? Shouldn’t they have battled? Isn’t that their main job anyway? I just felt that I didn’t get my full NE/NKOTB without the bad rapping.

What did you think about it?

MM: There are a couple other banger-type songs that I enjoyed off the album (the one with Timbaland is actually quite good), but yeah , “Full Service”, they need to make a video for that one.

You have to concentrate to really figure out who’s singing on the song, except for Ralph and JG. I think Rick Bell is in there somewhere, but I can’t tell for sure if that’s him singing. Honestly, it sounds more like an NE song featuring NKOTB as opposed to the other way around.

I’m glad whoever made the decision to not have Biv, Devoe, or Donnie rap on the song did so. It’s bad enough I have to hear Ron DeVoe talk through the damn chorus. And why didn’t Bobby show up for this one?

GG: When did the New Kids decide they wanted to go the Fergie Ferg/Black Eyed Peas route? On “Grown Man” and “Big Girl Now” they channel that style. And please tell me that Lady GaGa is just one of Fergie’s nicknames. Don’t tell me that being a Fergie copycat is a new thing in music.

MM: I have no clue who Lady GaGa is, except that she’s allegedly from Brooklyn, which automatically makes me sad to be from Brooklyn.

And, hey, Fergie sold 4 million records. I’m surprised there aren’t even more copycats. It completely freaks me out that Teddy Riley produced “Grown Man”, because he’s capable of doing so much better.

GG: Finally, just as I promised, let’s talk about auto-tune.

Now I don’t know as much about this as you do. And correct me where I’m wrong. But I thought auto-tune was supposed to be used for guys who can’t sing. Like if they wanted to use auto-tune to help out Donnie, I’m all for it. If they wanted to give Danny a few lines in between drinks of his protein shakes, auto-tune him up. If they wanted to get Jon to hop out of his rocking chair and belt out a few lines, give him some auto-tune. But why do they need to use it so excessively, even with Jordan and Joe? I guess my question is really, what is point of the over usage? Someone had to have said, “Hey, don’t you think we are over using this?” And someone would’ve had to overrule him.

MM: Yeah, I don’t know what the deal is with the auto-tune. Like, even for someone who CAN’T sing, it’s overused here. And it’s obvious that every line Donnie sang was run through some sort of processor. At least Jordan and Joe sound natural on a couple of songs.

Don’t hate on Danny. He made an entire solo album without the use of auto-tune! Actually, I checked iTunes a couple days ago and I actually think he has two solo albums. Who knew?

I almost feel for Danny and Jon. I don’t think either of them uttered one word on this album. At least Mike Biv and DeVoe get to rap a couple of lines here and there (on the New Edition albums). Danny and Jon got nothing.

GG: Before I let you go, I want to tackle a few couple things. First things first. Let’s talk more about the Danny and Jon deal. Can you take those guys out of the group? Would it still be the New Kids without those guys? Honestly, if either guy sang in the forest, and no one heard it, did they really even sing?

MM: Well, neither one of them was especially important to the group even back in their heyday, although I think if they were to let a member go, it would be Jon as opposed to Danny. They gave him (Danny) at least one lead vocal on every album, and I think he did some of the production as well. I feel like Jon was there just so the group could have five members, and they brought him back because they didn’t want to have a reunion without all of the members involved. I don’t think he appeared on the album before this (“Face the Music”) either, to be honest.

GG: Do you think either Jordan or Joe has another solo run (as short as their first solo runs were) in them based off what you’ve heard? I’m impressed with Joey Mac’s vocals and I think he’s a much better singer now than he ever was.

MM: You’re absolutely right there. Joe has basically turned himself into the group’s lead singer. I’m not sure his vocals always work within an R&B framework. Like, he should probably be singing standards like Michael Buble, but yeah, he is definitely this album’s MVP. I honestly think that Jordan blew his chance with that shitty NKOTB covers album and then the “Love Songs” compilation. His first solo album is so good. He needs to give Robin Thicke and Jam & Lewis a call again and see if they can work some magic. He still has the voice. And he can hit those high notes.

GG: Alright, let’s wrap this up, rapid fire style.

What’s your overall rating for the new album?

MM: Overall rating, on a scale of 1-10? Probably a 6. “Hangin’ Tough” actually holds up better and “Face the Music” is a really, really good album.

GG: Is 2008 going to be remembered as the year of the New Kids reunion?

I don’t know if 2008 will be remembered as the year of the NKOTB reunion anymore than 1989 or 1990 will remembered as the years of NKOTB mania. I do find it extremely interesting that they’ve sold out an arena tour. All the fans have certainly come out of the woodwork.

GG: Last question. Are they still together in two years?

I don’t know if they stay together after this, especially if the Jonathan Knight “coming out” rumors are true. I think if that actually happens, eventually Jon leaves the group gracefully and they continue as a quartet? Who knows? Besides, Donnie and Joe actually have somewhat successful careers outside of the group. They don’t need NKOTB to survive.

GG: Coming out you say? Hmmm. I think we’ll leave it at that.