Ahhhh, NKOTB. Debuting in the 1980s (at a day and age when the term «boyband» hadn’t even been invented yet), the group was basically the brainchild of producer Malcolm Starr. Starr wrote the «music» and lyrics for the band, then recruited five boys – including Mark Wahlberg’s brother Donny – to bring his visions to life. The result was innovative (at the time) and NKOTB would become the main culprits for the existence of such bands as the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync.
«No More Games» is, as the sub-title indicates, a remix album. Some of NKOTB ‘s most prominent songs get brand-new mixes in an attempt to make them sound fresher. On some of them the result is fully achieved, on others not quite. And while it may seem strange to review a remix album without ever having heard the originals, I’ll still do it anyway.
The album kicks off with Games. This is a very funky track, mixing scratches with «oo-ee-oo» vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Johnny Clegg and Savuka album. The whole «positivity» message is completely clichéd, of course, but the song is actually not bad at all. Donny’s rap is also excellent, although the namedropping bit at the end ( with the obligatory reference to Marky Wahlberg ) is a bit too much. Still, not a bad start to the album. (4/5)
Call It What It Want is next. WoooOOoo! Industrial-style! I don’t know if they were trying to sound «edgy» or aggressive, but they don’t, since the drum machine is sugar-coated to please teenage audiences. The lyrics/message are equally sugary (dudes, true love is dead), and Freedom Williams’ rap is perfectly appaling. All in all, a hit-and-miss track that missed…big time. (1/5)
The third track is Please Don’t Go Girl. As cheesy as its title (check out the lyrics), this track does however have one thing going for it. Halfway through the song, a sax pops up doing a to-die-for solo. Now I don’t know if this sax is real or computer-generated, but the fact is it adds a touch of welcome originality to an otherwise formulaic song. Another interesting point is that, with a few mildly heavy guitars thrown in, this would have made for a great glam/AOR ballad. And that’s what ultimately redeems it. (4/5)
Cover Girl, the fifth track, starts with a puzzling «fake live» intro before developing into another typical boyband song. The instrumental is just plain awful – imagine an electro version of Ricky Martin with the keyboards from Andrew WK’s «Girls Own Love» and you’ll be close. To make matters worse, the chorus adds some videogame-style keyboards to the mix. The lyrics are equally cheesy, despite the genius line «you’re looking good, everything’s in place». But I can see how an 80’s teenybopper would have loved this. In fact, everything ends up working, in a twisted, «there’s-no-way-I’ll-ever-like-this» way. Guess that’s the magic of boyband producers – take the cheesiest possible components and make a great track out of them. (4,5/5).
Baby I Believe In You is another somberly funky track that in a way reminds us of Prince. The sax once again adds a touch of genuine musicianship, and everything fits perfectly into place, creating another perversely entertaining track. (4/5)
The next track is my guilty pleasure. Hangin’ Tough features an insanely catchy, tribal-chant chorus and such a perfectly manufactured reggae beat, you’d swear that was a real band jamming (there’s even a slide guitar solo!) All in all, this is simply a superb track. It gets (5/5) and it fully deserves it!
Step By Step,the Kids’ greatest hit, gets remixed for the dancefloor, and for the first few seconds it’s just what you’d except – a mindless beat and all of one line (no, make that one word) by way of vocals. A while later, the vocals proper start and the track gets a lot better, but it’s still no more than average. After the excellence of Hangin’ Tough the mediocrity of this song is somewhat disappointing. (2/5)
My Favorite Girl boasts yet another faked «live» intro before developing into a funky backing track that is slightly marred by cheesy keyboards (why does there always have to be a keyboard)? There isn’t much to say about this song as it’s standard boyband fare. (3/5)
The next track is Valentine Girl, a nauseatingly sugary ballad that predated the Backstreet Boys by a good ten years. The teen.infatuation message contained in the lyrics will make any young adult chuckle, but once again I can see how this would appeal to 14-year-olds everywhere. Another perfectly manufactured and perversely pleasing pop track. (3,5/5)
The Right Stuff is also marred by expendable keyboards, but the funky backing track and Donny’s Jacko-influenced vocals redeem them and make this another very enjoyable pop song. (3,5/5)
What’cha Gonna Do (About It) has probably the worst backing track in the entire album. The worst of Europop gets recycled for an American audience, bringing the final result dangerously close to a Yankee version of Milli Vanilli. The irony? The lyrics are great. The theme changes slightly (here, the girl has just dumped him and he’s rebounding rather then wooing her) and there are some intelligent lines (by boyband standards, at any rate). Which adds up to: the best lyrics in the album coupled against the worst music in the album. Go figure. (0,5/5) for the music + (4,5/5) for the lyrics = (2,5/5)
The album closes with Never Gonna Fall In Love Again, which once again boasts good sax and bass lines laid over a very funky drum machine. As for the lyrics, I won’t discuss them. I will instead provide a few samples of them : «Whether it’s wrong or whether it’s right/Doesn’t take me through the night» (from the chorus), and from the rap section, «Never gonna fall/Cos I fell/Loving you for me/Was like hell», as well as «You still love dope/But a dope I’m not/I can’t get with you/’Cos you’re too hot». Are we clear on this? Good. (1,5/5) and a weak note on which to finish a very listenable album.
All in all, this is not a musically excellent album. It certainly won’t please the majority of this site’s viewers. But it is a very well-conceived album, perfect for the audience it targeted, and conceptually perfect. Therefore, I award it 3,5/5.