“Guess what guys? I just got tickets to see New Kids on the Block!”
Blank stares from my millennial college students. I feel every inch my 40-year-old self. These twenty-somethings don’t recognize the band’s name. They go back to staring at their phones.
That’s not the reaction I’d get if I told a fellow Xennial (those of us born between 1977 and 1983) about seeing a New Kids on the Block concert. There’s a trend aimed at people my age. Finally, the advertising and media industries are paying attention to Xennials because we’re retro.
“Retro” has got to be the least flattering adjective to describe this newly-turned 40-year-old. It has the connotation that The Beach Boys' and The Monkees' concerts used to have – old.
Or as one teacher-blogger put it, these concerts featured songs from “the oldies.”
Today, as I proudly wear my New Kids concert shirt (now known as NKOTB to their 2008 reunited and reinvented empire), I know that this girl has come full circle. New Kids on the Block, along with Tiffany, was my first concert experience. Forget about taking selfies back then – we actually took photographs and had to wait days to get them developed. Here’s a gut-wrenching experience: look through photo albums (yes, the hardbound kind, not Shutterfly-created), and decide what to keep and what to throw away for an international move. I perused my childhood in the timespan of an hour as I read handwritten, cursive papers and looked through those pictures.
Now that we’re “grownups,” pop culture’s finally figured it out that the Xennials are trending. There’s a lot that happened in the late 1980s to the mid-90s – so much that CNN premiered a new show, “The Nineties,” in early July. Cover bands once known for singing Motown, Beatles, and Jimmy Buffett now cover music from our “Wonder Years” decade of growing up along with Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper. Only now our cover bands have names like Stifler’s Mom and The Fresh Kids of Bel Air, both of which sold out their July New York City concert dates. Reunion tours similar to New Kids on the Block, such as I Love the 90s, are proving to be very successful. The July 8th Mohegan Sun (Connecticut) concert only had 66 seats remaining in the Arena – a venue that seats 10,000, according to Mohegan Sun ticket representatives.
I still remember the older kids who came into our classroom to teach us about “the turtle” and “the mouse” on this “computer” thing. Our version of texting came in the form of checking a box for “yes” or “no” if you liked someone. Pinterest came in the form of a “Teen Beat” poster featuring Joey McIntyre in my sixth-grade locker. We blasted “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” and “Please Don’t Go Girl” on our boom box or Walkman – after fast forwarding the cassette to the best song, of course. All New Kids on the Block pre-teens knew that one way to anger a peer was to state that Jordan or Jon or Donny was the best.
Of course, that was way before the days when “coming out” was accepted. We were too caught up in Jon’s incredible falsetto voice to even be aware that we might not have a shot at him.
At least one New Kids on the Block crush always appeared on our paper MASH games at lunch or recess. (Yes, we were probably the last generation blessed with having the privilege of recess, art teachers, and gifted education.) In case you were grounded frequently and lacked knowledge of what was cool in the early 1990s, “MASH” (an acronym for “Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House,” with an optional “O” for Outhouse) was this bizarre fortune-telling game, played with paper and a pencil. Girls would list crushes they’d eventually get married to, number of kids they’d have, their job, where they would live, and of course the type of dwelling. No one wanted to live in the outhouse. “MASH” was more grown up than playing “Girl Talk” at sleepovers, especially after you lived through your first boy/girl party, or your first concert.
What was strange and yet adorable was that for many of my Xennial peers, this concert became their daughter’s first concert too.
Yet this 40-year-old quickly adopted her daughter’s age (and hormones) the closer Joey, Donny, or Jordan came to our section of the stage, especially when the group put on their jean jackets and started singing their greatest hits. Every woman my age at the concert turned into a tween again. We bonded as we jumped, screamed, and bumped into each other trying to touch a New Kid, resulting in laryngitis for most of us.
Is this what Beatlemania felt like to our parents?
From now on, I’ve got to remember that being excited about seeing a New Kids on the Block concert may seem foreign to my millennial students who weren’t even born yet. Because the moment you shriek about this concert becomes the moment when your students text “#Lame” to all their social media “friends.”