Jordan Knight

Jordan Knight

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It's nearly impossible for teen idols to make a credible comeback after they've matured, which is what makes Jordan Knight's solo debut all the more fascinating. Donnie Wahlberg may have been the bad boy in New Kids on the Block, but Knight was the star with the voice -- a falsetto that propelled ballads like "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" to the top of the charts. Since he was, for most intents and purposes, the lead singer of NKOTB, he had to work harder than most of his colleagues (again, with the exception of Wahlberg) to separate himself from the group, and he works hard on Jordan Knight. Teaming with a bevy of producers -- including full-time collaborator Robin Thicke, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis -- Knight doesn't abandon the smooth urban soul stylings that made his reputation, but he updates it, borrowing from a number of contemporary sources to create a stylized, fresh sound. Even with the extra effort, the urban soul ballads sometimes blend together, but he shines on the uptempo numbers, such as the inspired weirdness of "Give It to You," which blends accordions, waltz breaks, and slammin' grooves in an irresistible fashion. Similarly, "A Different Party" makes Sugarloaf's "Green-Eyed Lady" sound funky, and "Close My Eyes" recasts the opening guitar line of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" as part of an affecting ballad. In between the two extremes are Philly soul-inspired midtempo jams like "Finally Finding Out," which reveal Knight as a master of his voice who can write a strong song, as well. Jordan Knight is not a perfect album -- there's a little bit of filler that weighs down the second half of the record -- but the best moments are surprisingly strong, innovative, and assured: the kind of mainstream music that would be impressive regardless of the source, but it's all the more remarkable considering Knight's teen pop heritage.

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