Old Kid, New Tricks, Same Story

With Timbaland and Babyface, former New Kid on the Block picks up where he left off with New Edition.

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

label.

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.