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NKOTBSB: Where the boys are

Multimillion dollar corporations aren’t the only ones merging these days. Boy band sensations New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys have teamed up for a new album, a national tour and a revised name – NKOTBSB.

The nine-member group today will share with audiences classics from the respective bands and some new tunes at the Tacoma Dome.

The pop world got a first listen of the union in June 2010, when BSB made a guest appearance at an NKOTB concert at Radio City Music Hall. Since then, they have performed medleys of New Kids hits from the late ’80s and early ’90s and Backstreet singles from the group’s 17-year-plus career on the American Music Awards, ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and NBC’s “Today” show.

In May, NKOTBSB released a self-titled album featuring its first single, “Don’t Turn Out the Lights,” a catchy song about a couple trying to work through relationship differences. It also includes tracks from each band’s discography that fans picked through online voting. Of course, most people who have listened to pop music in the past 20 years know each group has had its share of success. But is this new boy band all-star venture a good idea?

Major stakeholders in boy band history: NKOTB’s Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood were some of the most profitable and teen-adored musicians of their time. (Wonder how many fans still have their New Kids dolls or lunch boxes?)

BSB’s Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell and A.J. McLean (sans band member Kevin Richardson since 2006) continued the boy band craze into the 21st century with sold-out tours, top-selling albums and addictive dance moves (think the monster-themed music video for “Everybody”).

Both groups know what it takes to endure criticism, adapt to a changing music industry and climb to the top of the music charts one soulful ballad and punchy pop ditty at a time.

The name – clever or clumsy?: Sure, NKOTBSB is just a combination of each band’s abbreviation, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The boys have a solution: sprinkle it throughout as many songs as possible. Tracks on the new record are marked with group members slipping a mention of the name into the background. The chorus of “Larger Than Life” from BSB’s “Millennium” album even was tweaked from “How your love’s affecting our reality “ to just chanting “N-K-O-T-B-S-B.” Before fans know it, the name will be bored into their subconsciousness.

No shortage of songs: NKOTBSB might have only a couple of new songs, but each band brings dozens of its own to the partnership. They’ve also been creative with remixing and layering songs to create mashups that weave BSB and New Kids songs together.

More people, more possibilities: It might be tougher for fans to keep track of their favorite band member with nine performers on stage, but more people spells more choreographic options. Just imagine the range of possible staging formations – multiple rows, diagonals, pyramids, semi-circles, etc.

Thousands of dedicated fans: If nothing else, the tour and album give fans a chance to rekindle their affections for the groups. Meanwhile, the bands are able to share their music with new audiences.

Also, Backstreet and New Kids followers will probably jibe well. But if even a fraction of the fandemonium that once prompted teens to snuggle up in NKOTB sleeping bags or eat Burger King kids’ meals day after day to score BSB action figures lives on, it might not matter whether the New Kids-Backstreet collaboration is a good idea. The fans likely will still follow.

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