New Kids on the Block's 'Step by Step' Turns 25

New Kids on the Block's third album was released on June 5, 1990 – 25 years ago this week


Twenty-five years ago this week, New Kids on the Block had never been more popular, and the band’s third album kicked off the biggest year ever for the fivesome.

Before Step by Step hit shelves on June 5, 1990, New Kids on the Block seemed to be at the peak of their game. The group’s 1988 album Hangin’ Tough had made them one of the most beloved pop acts in the world, and even those who shied away from boy-band pop couldn’t help but hum the album’s two No. 1 hits, “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” …

… and the album’s title track:

That album generated five Top 10 hits. Suddenly, the boys from Boston who had previously opened for Tiffany on her national tour found themselves headlining instead – and Tiffany was their opening act. That breakthrough album seemed like a tough act to follow at the time.

Jonathan, Jordan, Joey, Donnie and Danny, however, only got bigger with Step by Step.

The title track hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, displacing a certain iconic Roxette anthem, and it remained there for three weeks. “Step by Step” remains the band’s biggest-selling single.

The album also saw the release of “Tonight,” another Top 10 hit.

“Let’s Try It Again” hit No. 8 on the U.K. singles chart, though it failed to chart on the Billboard Top 40 in the U.S.

And “Baby, I Believe in You” soared to the No. 1 spot in Japan.

In the end, Step by Step went triple platinum, selling nearly 20 million albums worldwide, according to Billboard. In terms of raw numbers, that did not beat Hangin’ Tough, which went platinum eight times over in the U.S., but it’s important to remember that in the pop culture landscape of 1990, New Kids on the Block were not just album sales.

The group also had the Coca-Cola-sponsored Magic Summer Tour, the first U.S. concert of which kicked off on June 23. (Remember Coke’s MagiCan tie-in?)

The tour ultimately grossed $74 million ($133 million, adjusted for inflation), making New Kids the top-grossing touring act in the country in 1990. According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, New Kids sold 3,291,987 tickets in 1990, narrowly beating even The Rolling Stones, whose 1990 tour sold 3,253,563 tickets.

The same year also saw the release of the group’s pay-per-view special, No More Games – Live! (It’s currently posted on YouTube in full, so if your parents said no back in 1990, here’s your chance to watch it for free.)

And there was 1 (900) 909-5KIDS, the hotline that had one too many digits but nonetheless allowed fans to hear recorded messages by the band. “It will blow your mind, so call us right now,” the commercial promises without actually explaining what the hotline will deliver. Of course, fans called anyway.

New Kids mania also provided fans dolls – and the opportunity to prove one’s status as the band’s no. 1 fan buy buying all five figurines, Pokémon-style.

And finally, New Kids on the Block even got a Saturday morning cartoon, which debuted in September 1990.

The series finale (its fourteenth episode and a Christmas special) even debuted on prime time.

According to this 1990 PEOPLE profile on New Kids on the Block, which compared their post-Step by Step fame with the height of Beatlemania, the band’s product line – “spewing everything from posters to sleeping bags” – grossed an estimated $400 million in 1990 alone. “Add revenues from their best-selling authorized bio, 3 million-selling long-form videos, plus concert-ticket and record sales, and figure these Kids won’t be wanting for lunch money,” the article concludes.

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