Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Kids on the Block

Sure, laugh: I think this is one of my favourite pieces. This was for Monday Magazine.

Regret, divorce, compromise
It’s not all good times with the New Kids on the Block

Donnie Wahlberg, he’s got my back against the wall. I’m about halfway through a shockingly candid and interesting interview with the New Kid on the Block/actor and I ask him if he wants to write more serious lyrics than those found on the band’s comeback disc, the Block. I bring up a particularly taste-offending couplet in “2 in the Morning,” where Wahlberg sings “I gotta know if you’re mad at me/before Grey’s Anatomy.”
“What do you mean?” Wahlberg asks after a silence; I don’t really know what to say. I mutter, “It just seems so… kind of…” I fear this could be the end of the interview, but Wahlberg sets the record straight.
“It was written about my wife and my break-up,” he says. “We basically spent a summer not communicating. Pretty much every night we wouldn’t talk until two in the morning. I was sleeping on the couch and she was up in the bedroom. I’d send her a text saying, ‘Are we gonna talk or do you wanna sleep?’ And most nights she said, ‘I’m going to sleep.’” Wahlberg sounds distant and intense; I realize I’ve brought up the wrong lyric. “I just couldn’t compete with Grey’s Anatomy that summer,” he says.
He admits that although the lyric I mentioned is not a good example, there are plenty of “goofball lyrics” on the disc. It’s something he feels the band didn’t really think about: people might not want to hear a 39-year-old man singing about being “your boyfriend.”
“Music comes on certain stations and it’s young people listening to it; some of them are gonna like it and not care, and some of them are going to say, ‘I don’t wanna hear those guys singing it, I want to hear the Jonas Brothers sing that shit.’ But if we do another [album], I think your point is well taken and we may take a different approach, but certainly not because we have regret.”
Regret: something Wahlberg does feel about some of the decisions the band made when they were younger. Not that, say, pillow cases negate musical credibility, but . . . they didn’t help.
“We tried to stay as on top of things as possible,” he says. “It’s just . . . it was so big, you know? When something gets that big it’s really out of control; you have to do all you can just to keep your sanity and not forget who you are. Our mentality started to be, look, it may not last forever but we’d like to have some dignity when it’s done. So enough with the bullshit. Enough with the pink slippers and the cereal and the cartoons. It’s enough . . . it’s enough. We made enough compromises and did enough things that we look back on with some regret . . .” Wahlberg pauses, sounds intense again; I find it hard to believe this is the once-teen heartthrob of a time past; he sounds like a man whose eyes are locked in the thousand-mile stare as we speak; a man who may be talking about his divorce or may be talking about his band’s past when he finishes his sentence: “at some point we said enough is enough.” And he says it with such intensity that I just leave it at that.
-Greg Pratt

1 comment:

  1. That is some gold right there.
    NKOTB were supposed to be an uplifting experience. Another fantasy blown apart.