Back in the day, Jordan Knight and New Kids on the Block achieved
massive teen-pop success by copying singing styles and dance moves from
New Edition. Ten years after NKOTB's chart fall, Knight is back with a
similar formula, blending pop sheen with the popular urban style of the
day. As a result, Jordan Knight comes off as a Dirty South record
made for those who'd rather not take off their proper white gloves.
Essentially, Jordan Knight answers the age-old question "What if
Timbaland and Babyface went back in time and produced records for Bread
or England Dan & John Ford Coley?" Now, depending on your answer to that
question, you'll either find Jordan Knight to be a funky, soft-
pop ear-worm farm or a half-inspired attempt to cash in on the success
of such limp NKOTB's offspring as Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees.
Let's first recognize that neither Timbaland nor Babyface had a hand in
producing Jordan Knight, though Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Robin
Thicke, the producers at the helm for most of the tracks, certainly make
it sound that way.
Case in point: "Give It to You," the album's first (and best) single.
There's no doubt "Give It to You" (RealAudio
excerpt) is a fun pop song, but only because it stitches together
elements from three other, much better songs: Timbaland and Ginuwine's
"Keep It Real," Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?" and the drum & bass
remix of Usher's "Nice & Slow" -- which was released on Babyface's LaFace
If the album were all upbeat pop like "Give It to You," it would be a
great guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, it's packed to the gills with
syrupy, Babyface-esqe ballads that end up drowning the album in goo. A
particular blasphemy is Knight's take on Prince's "I Could Never Take
the Place of Your Man" (RealAudio
excerpt). A savage reverse engineering project, it recasts
the bluesy rock of the original into an 'N Sync love theme from a
Jennifer Love Hewitt flick.
Ballad overload aside, there are a few -- a limited few, mind you --
highlights. "A Different Party" loops the funky guitar riff to "Green
Eyed Lady" and accents it with funk horns to great effect. The 95 South
remix of "Give It to You," which closes the album, is just as good as
the original, if only because it employs air raid sirens. You gotta love
air raid sirens. And after the gangsta-rap community hears how Knight
samples Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" on "Close My Eyes" (RealAudio
excerpt), they'll wish they'd gotten there first.
On the other hand, we've reached the point where sampling Kansas seems
like a great idea.
For this wake-up call, we must thank Jordan Knight. As for the rest of
his album, we'd be better off sticking with the originals.