Family & Companions
The youngest heartthrob of his band, Joey McIntyre achieved global superstardom as one of the most lucrative and popular teen idol acts ever, New Kids on the Block. The boy band raked in hundreds of millions of dollars by selling out arenas, moving oceans of merchandise, and scoring a string of smashes that included the chart toppers "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," "Hangin' Tough" and "Step by Step" as well as additional hits like "Please Don't Go Girl" and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)." Thoroughly dominating their pop cultural era, NKOTB mania defined the childhoods of countless young girls, but by the mid-1990s, their moment was over, due in part to an ever-growing backlash. McIntyre, known as the band's Sinatra-obsessed prodigy, went on to score a solo 1999 Top Ten hit, "Stay the Same," and to settle into a lengthy indie music career. He also landed multiple high-profile acting gigs in musical theater as well as screen roles in "The Fantasticks" (1995), "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" (2004) and "New Year's Eve" (2011). McIntyre also reunited with his bandmates for multiple projects, including a stint with Backstreet Boys known as NKOTBSB and a 2013 tour with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men known as The Package. Carving out an impressive second act after the New Kids on the Block juggernaut, Joey McIntyre continued to delight fans across a variety of media while following his own unique muse.
Born Dec. 31, 1972 in Needham, MA, Joseph Mulrey McIntyre was the youngest of nine children, but grew up something of an old soul, idolizing the singing kings of previous generations, like Frank Sinatra. A gifted singer, McIntyre was the last member added to a new singing group, Nyuk. The burgeoning group came with an impressive pedigree; it was created by Maurice Starr, who had formed the immensely successful boy band New Edition. After losing New Edition in a contract dispute, Starr set out to form a white version, recruiting rapper-singer Donnie Wahlberg, who in turn brought on his younger brother, Mark Wahlberg, Jamie Kelly, Danny Wood and Jordan Knight, who in turn brought in his older brother, Jonathan. After Mark Wahlberg and Jamie Kelly dropped out due to the punishing rehearsal schedule instigated by Starr, they were replaced by 12-year-old McIntyre, whose entrance into the band proved rocky at first, since he was considerably younger than the others and they resented him for replacing their friends.
Displaying an impressive potential, Nyuk landed a recording contract under one condition: their name was changed to New Kids on the Block, after a rap Wahlberg wrote. Although their 1986 debut album, New Kids on the Block sold poorly, it gave the members the opportunity to begin cutting their professional teeth on the local touring circuit. From the beginning, Starr had an iron grip on the band's direction, writing and producing the majority of their songs and controlling their image, but in the wake of their fizzled debut, members Wahlberg, Wood and Jordan Knight pushed for more creative control. Steering away from straightforward bubblegum pop, 1988's Hangin' Tough featured a harder, R&B-flavored sound and proved to be their breakthrough to global teen pop superstardom. Buoyed by the Top Ten ballad "Please Don't Go Girl," Hangin' Tough went multiplatinum and spun off the No. 3 hit "You Got It (The Right Stuff)," the No. 2 hit "Cover Girl," and a pair of No. 1 hits, "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" and "Hangin' Tough."
All the stars aligned perfectly for the group, who ignited a white-hot furor among young girls that was reminiscent of Beatlemania and was so intense that it turned their debut album into a multiplatinum success, the band into a cottage industry, and the New Kids themselves into something akin to gods for a certain fanbase, even earning their own Saturday morning cartoon series. Although each member appealed to a different "type," McIntyre was seen as something of a child prodigy and little brother who drew inspiration from classic-era singers rather than his flashier, more contemporary peers. The worldwide pop cultural dominance found NKOTB gracing a staggering amount of tie-in merchandise that helped rake in hundreds of millions and to further spread the screamingly devout army of "Kidiacs" or "Blockheads." As with any act who achieved such massive success, especially those appealing to younger audiences, New Kids on the Block endured a particularly scathing backlash by critics and others who disparaged their packaged nature, their youthful naiveté and their perceived artistic and personal inadequacies.
Another point of contention for many was the perceived cultural appropriation of the white New Kids performing "black" music for a mostly white audience, and despite their obvious performing ability, the group members were frequently dismissed as talentless hacks or simply serving as puppets for Starr, who had himself been an aspiring singer in his youth. Helping to dismiss these charges was the behind-the-scenes artistic growth of several of the members, especially Jordan Knight and Danny Wood, who possessed the ability to play keyboards. Although Starr was reluctant to allow the New Kids to write their own songs without his input, he missed a major opportunity when Jordan Knight and Wood joined forces with aspiring singer Tommy Page to pen the song "I'll Be Your Everything," which Page took to No. 1 in 1990. Nevertheless, the New Kids machine chugged along, turning out the 1989 holiday album Merry, Merry Christmas, which featured the hit charity single "This One's for the Children."
The band's next studio album, 1990's Step by Step, proved a turning point for the New Kids, who showcased more of their songwriting and producing chops, but scored the biggest hit of their careers as well as one of the most popular of the decade with the title track, which hit No. 1 around the world. Although the album only yielded one more Top Ten hit, the No. 7 "Tonight," the album marked the moment where the already supermassive star of the New Kids flashed supernova, with merchandising revenues topping hundreds of millions or more in the early 1990s. In 1991, Wood and Wahlberg displayed impressive creative and business acumen when they helped former New Kid Mark Wahlberg launch his own act, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, who managed to score their own No. 1, "Good Vibrations." As the band hit the peak of its tidal wave, however, they faced the inevitable decline, sparked by a lawsuit alleging the band lip-synched their vocals, which was eventually dropped, although they admitted to using a backing track during some live performances.
Perhaps most damning for the band's success, however, was the fickleness of younger audiences who found "outgrowing" their childhood idols was a necessary part of adolescence, and the impossibility of sustaining a globe-sweeping mania. Tastes and times changed, and the world in which the band released 1994's mostly self-written and self-produced Face the Music was a very different place than that of their debut. Dropping Maurice Starr and their band name in an attempt to start anew, New Kids shortened their name to NKOTB, but neither their new name or sound caught on, and the band broke up shortly thereafter to go their separate ways. McIntyre seemed off to a strong solo start when he was cast in his first film role in the musical "The Fantasticks" (1995), but the project never quite caught on with audiences and disappeared quietly. Surprisingly, no record label wanted to sign McIntyre as a solo act, and he therefore had to fund and release his own solo debut, Stay the Same, which convinced executives to give him a chance. The rereleased 1999 version of the album sold well and sent the title track, an earnest ballad, to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After the failure of his follow up, 2001's Meet Joe Mac, McIntyre was dropped from the labels and he went on to release a string of indie albums, including 2004's 8:09, 2006's Talk to Me and 2009's Here We Go Again, that increasingly dipped into his fascination with Sinatra and pop standards. He had more of an impact in musical theater, starring in productions of "Tick, Tick. BOOM!" and "Wicked," as well as starring onscreen in the musical comedy "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" (2004) and recurring on "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04) as a charismatic English teacher. Although several failed attempts to reunited the New Kids had occurred, the bandmates finally joined forces once again for 2008's The Block, which earned them a hit, "Summertime," and kicked off the second chapter of their career, in which the warmth of nostalgic fans replaced the bitterness of their haters. Settling into a comfortable, lower-wattage stardom, the New Kids continued to perform around the world and made headlines when they joined forces to tour with their spiritual descendants, the Backstreet Boys, as the supergroup NKOTBSB. Each member also continued to work on solo projects, and McIntyre supplemented his indie music side career with screen roles in the ensemble smash "New Year's Eve" (2011) as well as guest spots on "CSI: NY" (CBS, 2004-13) and "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14). McIntyre and the New Kids made global headlines in January 2013, however, when they announced a tour billed as The Package, which promised to feature the ultimate boy band concert: New Kids on the Block, 90 Degrees and Boyz II Men.
By Jonathan Riggs