When I was younger, 20 years ago or so I suppose, the New Kids On The Block (NKOTB) were synonymous with cheesy pop music that was taking over our airwaves. They weren’t just a pop boy band, they were The pop boy band. I remember the thing was that if you were a guy and you were a NKOTB fan, it instantly meant you were gay. Which, for an adolescent boy just before his teens, that meant there was absolutely no way that this band’s music would ever willingly land on his ears. Rumors circulated regularly about the NKOTB being caught, red-handed no less, in one disgusting sexual tryst or another. One in particular that I remember was that one of the members had to have his stomach pumped because he was sick, and they found that it was full of sperm. That was the stigma attached to this band.
So, I grew, and I found that I much rather enjoyed classic rock and grunge more than anything else. As I’ve grown I’ve learned to appreciate many different types of music, everything from classical to the Beastie Boys. My iPod will shuffle from the Grateful Dead to an old Prodigy mix. However, I’ve never been a fan of pop music. Boy bands went away for a while, and for the most part I forgot all about them.
I was kind of surprised when my wife told me this blast from the past was coming to Des Moines. When she later told me that she wasn’t going because couldn’t find anyone to go with her, I felt bad for her, and told her that I’d take her. What I found at the concert surprised me.
The NKOTB are five guys from Boston who work really hard to put on a good show. They are talented singers and dancers, and they know how to keep the crowd entertained. They really are a great band, and when I look back at what they had to go through, I think that they were probably unfairly ridiculed. We were lucky enough to get seats on the (nearly empty) stadium, and were able to get within six feet of the band as they performed a few of their songs in the center on a rising platform. Getting that close to a person, being able to look in their eyes and have them look back at you, it’s hard to be critical. Much harder than listening to something on the radio or seeing something on MTV. I had an important revelation as I watched my wife go nuts over these guys.
I can’t do what they do.
I can neither sing, nor dance. I’m fairly certain that if I ripped off my shirt in front of a crowd I’d be politely asked to put it back on again. How can I be so extremely prejudiced against a group of guys that can do things that I cannot. I really can’t. The only thing that I can say is that I’m not a fan of their pop-sugary style of music. I can’t say that any of them are any less of a man than I am, and to be honest, in some ways much more for having the guts to do what they do in the first place. The public eye can be vicious.
So, what did I do that night? I looked a legend of the past in the eye, and gave them my respect. I don’t know if they are going to have a lot of success with this comeback, but I hope that things work out for them.
I also take it as a sign that I have grown to overcome the adolescent prejudices of my past. I can appreciate the work and talent that goes into making the music and the shows, even if I don’t care for the style of music itself. I’m not about to replace my collection of bootlegged Dead music for pop, but I’m glad that I’ve grown to the point where I feel that I’ve come into my own. My own preferences for my own reasons.
Hey, life’s too short for hate. And, just as proof, here I am with the beautiful woman who brought me, who loved the show so much she started screaming like she was twelve years old again:
Happy Birthday, babe.