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New Kids On The Block at Footprint Center

May 25, 2022 @ 7:30 pm - 11:30 pm

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK have sold more than 80 million albums worldwide — including back-to-back international #1 songs, 1988’s Hangin’ Tough and 1990’s Step By Step — and a series of crossover smash R&B, pop hits like “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” “Cover Girl,” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” “Hangin’ Tough” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) ,” “Step by Step” and “Tonight.” The group shattered concert box office records playing an estimated 200 concerts a year, in sold out stadiums throughout the world. Following 2013’s hugely-successful Package Tour, the group performed alongside Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men on the aptly-titled TOTAL PACKAGE TOUR, which made its debut on the very same day as their latest release, Thankful. Thankful features five tracks of all-new music and the first from the group since 2013’s 10. As part of the 40+ date trek, the Boston natives made their return to Fenway Park for the first time in 5 years, since they visited the Green Monster on their acclaimed NKOTBSB Tour with the Backstreet Boys. The trek also included the group’s debut performance at the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles as well as additional stops in Brooklyn, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and more.

By the late ’80s, hip-hop was on its way to becoming a male-dominated art form, which is what made the emergence of Salt-n-Pepa so significant. As the first all-female rap crew (even their DJs were women) of importance, the group broke down a number of doors for women in hip-hop. They were also one of the first rap artists to cross over into the pop mainstream, laying the groundwork for the music’s widespread acceptance in the early ’90s. Salt-n-Pepa were more pop-oriented than many of their contemporaries, since their songs were primarily party and love anthems, driven by big beats and interlaced with vaguely pro-feminist lyrics that seemed more powerful when delivered by the charismatic and sexy trio. While songs like “Push It” and “Shake Your Thang” made the group appear to be a one-hit pop group during the late ’80s, Salt-n-Pepa defied expectations and became one of the few hip-hop artists to develop a long-term career. Along with LL Cool J, the trio had major hits in both the ’80s and ’90s, and, if anything, they hit the height of their popularity in 1994, when “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” drove their third album, Very Necessary, into the Top Ten.

Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandy “Pepa” Denton were working at a Sears store in Queens, New York, when their co-worker, and Salt‘s boyfriend, Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor asked the duo to rap on a song he was producing for his audio production class at New York City’s Center for Media Arts. The trio wrote an answer to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick‘s “The Show,” entitling it “The Show Stopper.” The song was released as a single under the name Super Nature in the summer of 1985, and it became an underground hit, peaking at number 46 on the national R&B charts. Based on its success, the duo, who were now named Salt-n-Pepa after a line in “The Show Stopper,” signed with the national indie label Next Plateau. Azor, who had become their manager, produced their 1986 debut Hot, Cool & Vicious, which also featured DJ Pamela Green. He also took songwriting credit for the album, despite the duo’s claims that they wrote many of its lyrics.

Three singles from Hot, Cool & Vicious — “My Mike Sounds Nice,” “Tramp,” “Chick on the Side” — became moderate hits in 1987 before Cameron Paul, a DJ at a San Francisco radio station, remixed “Push It,” the B-side of “Tramp,” and it became a local hit. “Push It” was soon released nationally and it became a massive hit, climbing to number 19 on the pop charts; the single became one of the first rap records to be nominated for a Grammy. Salt-n-Pepa jettisoned Greene and added rapper and DJ Spinderella (born Deidre “Dee Dee” Roper) before recording their second album, A Salt With a Deadly Pepa. Though the album featured the Top Ten R&B hit “Shake Your Thang,” which was recorded with the go-go band E.U., it received mixed reviews and was only a minor hit.

The remix album A Blitz of Salt-n-Pepa Hits was released in 1989 as the group prepared their third album, Blacks’ Magic. Upon its spring release, Blacks’ Magic was greeted with strong reviews and sales. The album was embraced strongly by the hip-hop community, whose more strident members accused the band of trying too hard to crossover to the pop market. “Expression” spent eight weeks at the top of the rap charts and went gold before it was even cracked the pop charts, where it would later peak at 26. Another single from the album, “Let’s Talk About Sex,” became their biggest pop hit to date, climbing to number 13. They later re-recorded the song as a safe-sex rap, “Let’s Talk About AIDS.”

Before they recorded their fourth album, Salt-n-Pepa separated from Azor, who had already stopped seeing Salt several years ago. Signing with London/Polygram, the group released Very Necessary in 1993. The album was catchy and sexy without being a sellout, and the group’s new, sophisticated sound quickly became a monster hit. “Shoop” reached number four on the pop charts, which led the album to the same position as well. “Whatta Man,” a duet with the vocal group En Vogue, reached number three on both the pop and R&B charts in 1994. A final single from the album, “None of Your Business,” was a lesser hit, but it won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1995. Since the release of Very Necessary, Salt-n-Pepa have been quiet, spending some time on beginning acting careers. Both had already appeared in the 1993 comedy Who’s the Man? ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

When En Vogue debuted to dazzling, chart-topping effect in 1990, the vocal R&B group attracted comparisons to the Supremes, even though Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, and Dawn Robinson shared lead vocals and intentionally designated no particular singer the group’s Diana Ross. The quartet had more in common with fellow Oakland natives the Pointer Sisters, as they drew from all eras of R&B with convincing stylistic diversions and a knack for recalling the past and sounding current at once. After three consecutive platinum albums and six Top Ten pop hits during the ’90s alone, En Vogue had set a standard by which all subsequent female vocal groups were judged. Lineup changes, lawsuits, and infrequent recordings during the ensuing decades did not diminish the impact of their impeccable harmonies.

En Vogue were conceived and put together by producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, former members of Club Nouveau. Foster and McElroy wanted a vocal group who could exude sultriness and intelligence in addition to technical proficiency, and as producers, they wanted material that would fuse R&B and girl group traditions with contemporary new jack swing rhythms. The two held auditions and settled on a membership of Herron (a former Miss Black California), Jones, and Robinson. Ellis auditioned later and made the group a quartet. Originally called 4-U, they first appeared on Foster and McElroy’s 1989 album FM2 as Vogue, and then switched to En Vogue after learning of another group with the same name.

Born to Sing, En Vogue’s debut album, appeared in 1990 and was the source of four major hit singles. “Hold On,” “Lies,” and “You Don’t Have to Worry” all topped the Billboard R&B chart, while “Don’t Go” reached number three. “Hold On” also crossed over and narrowly missed the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The parent release was eventually certified platinum. In between albums, Herron appeared in the film Juice. When En Vogue returned in 1992 with Funky Divas, critical and commercial response was overwhelming. The album’s wide array of styles, from pop and R&B to rap, rock, and reggae, was lauded in print. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (written by Curtis Mayfield and originally performed by Aretha Franklin), and “Free Your Mind” (the chorus of which quoted George Clinton) all went Top Ten pop, sending the album to multi-platinum status. En Vogue were in the Top Ten again in 1993, backing Salt-N-Pepa on their hit “Whatta Man.”

The group’s third album took a few more years to materialize. In the meantime, they took part in the recording of “Freedom” for the Panther soundtrack and appeared in Batman Forever. Ellis released the solo album Southern Gal. “Don’t Let Go (Love),” a song they contributed to the Set It Off soundtrack, became a number two single in early 1997. That June, the group released EV3, titled in reference to its place in their discography and the absence of Robinson, who left during the album sessions and went on to join Lucy Pearl. Like Funky Divas, EV3 peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200. “Whatever” and “Too Long, Too Gone” gave them their tenth and 11th Top 40 pop hits. The Best of En Vogue closed out the decade in 1999.

Album four, Masterpiece Theater, was released in 2000. Only one single, “Riddle,” was out before the plug was pulled on its promotion. En Vogue were informed after an interview that they had been dropped by their label. Jones departed to take care of her family and was replaced in 2001 by Amanda Cole. Another anthology, The Very Best of En Vogue, was out by the end of the year. In 2002, En Vogue returned with a contribution to the Deliver Us from Eva soundtrack and their first Christmas album, The Gift of Christmas, released quietly on an independent label. Cole left the group in the middle of 2003 for a solo career. That September, the group reappeared for a small European tour with Jones temporarily in place of Herron (who had just given birth) and Rhona Bennett as a new member. Bennett, Ellis, and Herron released Soul Flower in 2004. The next several years were marked by numerous lineup changes, false starts, occasional performances, and legal battles over contractual obligations and the group’s name. The lineup that made Soul Flower returned in 2018 with Electric Café. Foster and McElroy, Raphael Saadiq, and Ne-Yo were among the collaborators. ~ Andy Kellman & Steve Huey, Rovi

It’s one of contemporary music’s most unlikely tales. At the age of 21, Rick Astley emerged from the shadows of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production house as their former tea boy became one of the biggest stars on the planet. His era-defining classic ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ topped charts the world over and catapulted the young Lancastrian on a journey that would encompass 8 consecutive UK Top 10 hits and 40 million sales.

In 2016, Rick celebrated his half-century by releasing ‘50’ – an album title that put a cheeky, middle-aged twist on Adele’s ‘19’, ‘21’ and ‘25’. Having written and produced the album as well as playing all of the instruments himself, suddenly it was like he’d never been away. It raced to the top of the charts and began a seven-week run in the Top 10. In the months that followed, he sold 400,000 albums and 100,000 tickets to his headline shows.

He cemented that comeback with 2018’s ‘Beautiful Life’. It was an emotionally-charged collection with songs that celebrated his love for his wife, his daughter and music as a whole. His commitment was rewarded with a #6 chart position – his fifth Top 10 album.

Now Rick celebrates his extraordinary story with the release of the new career-spanning compilation ‘The Best of Me’. It charts that initial run of hits alongside recent fan favourites such as ‘Keep Singing’, ‘Angels On My Side’ and ‘Beautiful Life’. It also digs into some deep cuts too, such as ‘Lights Out’ from 2010.