We all have those bands we grew up with and still find pleasure listening to. They may not be your favorite anymore, but there’s still something satisfying when listening to their songs. But sometimes you sit back and think were those songs any good? That’s what writer Rebecca Wallwork sets out to learn in her new book “Hangin’ Tough” as part of the 33 1/3 series. Though the book takes a brief look at the history of the band and the making of their second album, it mostly focuses on New Kids on the Block fandom and why fans still feel such a connection with the group today.
The heart of the book is a mix of scientific research about how music, especially what we listened to as teenagers, affects our brains. She reaches out to experts in the field like Susan Rogers and Valorie Salimpoor for these sections. It’s a brief, dirty version of the science behind music. Wallwork gives just enough space for the research making sure it doesn’t get dull. Along with this are facts about the album, thoughts from other fans and even some snippets from each of the members regarding songs like “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” All of this ties together for a well thought out and engaging book looking at the NKOTB fandom. Wallwork tries to tackle it from all sides, doing her best to reign in her bias for the band. She doesn’t just shower praise on them or only look at positive reviews of their albums. She admits when songs are cheesy or not up to par. She even includes briefs from reviewers who didn’t have anything nice to say about the band.
Wallwork and the the band themselves try to convince readers the thing that made them so unique was their sincerity, honesty, and love for the fans. Though it’s clear both the fans and the band believe this, it may not convince all readers that these qualities are solely for NKOTB. Many later boy bands and lots of other artists express the same sentiments, so it may not be exclusive to the New Kids, but it’s understanding why Wallwork and other fans would think so.
With this book, Wallwork isn’t trying to convince readers to like New Kids on the Block. Rather she just wants to understand her own fandom. She wants to make sure she’s not looking at it through the lens of nostalgia, something everyone has questioned at least once with something they remember fondly. “Hangin’ Tough” will remind fans why they love NKOTB and will make others think differently about the group.
“Hangin’ Tough” comes out April 21 via Bloomsbury.