Opening Knight: A New Kid’s ‘Unfinished’ business

[Originally published in the Boston Herald in May 2011]

Strolling down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge last week, New Kids on the Block superstar Jordan Knight seems less like a heartthrob in one of the world’s biggest boy bands and more like, well, a regular person.

His fourth solo album, “Unfinished,” drops Tuesday and a joint tour with NKOTB and fellow pop idols the Backstreet Boys kicks off this week. But you’d never know it by talking to the unassuming crooner. When asked how he stays humble amid the hoopla, Knight revealed for the first time his struggles with alcoholism.

“I stopped drinking about six years ago,” Knight said outside of the Dance Complex in Central Square, his rehearsal spot for his recent solo performance at the Kiss-108 Concert. “I was physically addicted to it. And I was like, ‘I gotta cut this out, this is ridiculous.’ I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was walking around like death, so I had to stop. It progressed and got worse and worse, and that happens without you even thinking about it or knowing it. It just happens to you. That’s what alcohol does — so I quit, thank God.”

Knight, 41, said he originally turned to alcohol because he had trouble embracing the responsibilities of adulthood. What started as a weekend habit before the birth of his first son, 11-year-old Dante Jordan, progressed to full-fledged physical dependency. Knight said he kicked drinking cold turkey after waking up with a particularly bad hangover, and hasn’t touched it since.

“That’s why I think this album is a whole lot better than anything else I’ve done besides my first album (1999’s ‘Jordan Knight’), by far,” he said. “Obviously if you’re not drinking all the time, your game is gonna be better, from your voice and your thought to your creative process.”

In addition to a newfound focus, Knight says “Unfinished” brings an age-appropriate pop/r&b mix. Lead single “Let’s Go Higher” seems to have nailed the club-ready formula while separating Knight from pop newbies.

“My whole thing was, it’s gotta be natural and it’s gotta be grown and sexy,” Knight said. “And it can’t be like I’m trying too hard. It can’t be like I’m trying to be young, and it can’t be some adult-contemporary-sounding, older stuff either. So it’s gotta be right down the middle, perfect for me, in that sweet spot.”

The title, Knight said, refers to the ability to bounce back and keep going, whether in the limelight or behind closed doors.

“ ‘Unfinished’ is kind of how I’ve been feeling over the past several years,” Knight said. “I believe that no matter how old you are, no matter how many people count you out, no matter how many hits you take along the way, your life is always unfinished in the sense that it can keep getting better, it can keep unfolding. New things can come into your life as long as you stay positive and stay open.”

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