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New Kids on the Block land at the top of the pops

While hairstyles and fashions may come and go, and while musical styles may evolve over time, one thing that repeats itself in music history with great regularity is the ascendancy of boy bands as a pop-cultural force. In the late 1980s, this cyclical process yielded New Kids on the Block—another in a long line of telegenic male pop groups engineered to bedazzle America’s preteen girls. Although they would last no longer than those who came before or after, New Kids on the Block enjoyed a tremendous run of success that peaked when “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” reached #1 on the Billboard pop chart on June 17, 1989.

“I’ll Be Loving You Forever” was the third of four hit singles from NKOTB’s 8-times-Platinum album, Hangin’ Tough, following after “Please Don’t Go Girl” (#10, October 1988) and “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” (#3, March 1989) and preceding the title track, “Hangin’ Tough” (#1, September 1989). That album would eventually sell upwards of 16 million copies worldwide, making New Kids Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight into international sex symbols among a certain subset of teenage girl fans.

But the real genius behind the New Kids on the Block was no kid at all. He was a veteran music-business entrepreneur named Maurice Starr, whose first major success came with the early 1980s boy band New Edition—the Jackson 5 knock-off that later launched the careers of Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe. Keenly aware of how successful the Osmonds had been in the 1970s after lifting the Jackson 5’s act, Starr decided preemptively to create his own knock-off of New Edition when they faded from the pop charts. The result was New Kids on the Block—a group that was an absolute music-and-merchandise juggernaut in their late 1980s heyday, selling upwards of 70 million records and tens of millions of dollars worth of dolls, lunch boxes, bed sheets and sundry other licensed merchandise.

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