NKOTB's Jordan Knight on 'I'll Be Loving You (Forever)' Turning 30 & Singing the #1 at His Wedding (Exclusive)
By Leena Tailor
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images
In 30 years, Jordan Knight has performed the ballad "I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)" to thousands of fans in hundreds of cities around the globe. But it was the sweet and spontaneous time that he serenaded the woman he’ll actually be loving forever, at their wedding, which brought the New Kids on the Block singer to tears.
"It was kind of impromptu," he recalls of singing the hit at his 2004 nuptials to Evelyn Melendez. "There was a piano on wheels and a friend of mine pushed it in and was like, 'And, now Jordan’s going to sing, 'I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)!' He put me on the spot, so I sang it."
"She loved it," he adds. "When I was singing, I was really feeling it and meaning it, so I think she knew that. We both cried and it was definitely a beautiful moment."
While many artists tire of singing their biggest hits, to the contrary, Knight says three decades later he still feels blessed every time he gets to perform the song.
"To be able to sing a song like that and know that everybody knows it and it went to number one is special," he tells ET. "Since I was young, I sang in the church choir and singing was just always a love of mine, so to have a song like that and be able to carry that into my teenage and adult life … it’s like everything else is icing on the cake. I look back and I’m like, 'That’s all I need -- just to be able sing that one song.'"
"I honestly feel the same way performing it now as I did then," he continues. "It doesn’t get old to me because the melody is so pretty that it’s nice to sing every night. I never have to go on autopilot. I can always feel it when I sing it. I think of my wife, of the people in the crowd, my mom and my kids -- it just never gets old."
The hit was written by music producer Maurice Starr, who formed New Kids on the Block in the '80s, on the back of his success with fellow Boston group New Edition. While the quintet’s first self-titled record didn’t garner attention, the group got to work on Hangin’ Tough in 1988, with Starr presenting the ballad to Knight during a session at the producer’s ramshackle Roxbury studio.
"Every now and then Maurice would pop up out of the blue with a song," recalls bandmate and selfie king Donnie Wahlberg. "He would say, 'We’re going to meet Friday night and record song A,' then he would show up randomly and go, 'No, we’re doing song B. I got a new song.' 'I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)' was one of those songs -- he just came out of nowhere with it, saying, 'I got a hit record, we’ve got to move onto it right away.' Whenever those strokes of genius happened, we went along with it. It sounded like one of those epic ballads that becomes number one on the charts."
Starr had penned the track with Motown legend Smokey Robinson in mind, but with New Kids on the Block his priority at the time, he decided Knight, 48, would be the perfect vocalist for the song.
"Maurice gave me the demo and I played it on a little cassette tape in front of my family," Knight remembers. "That was before I recorded it and they were all like, 'Oh my god, you have to sing that song. It’s so awesome!' They were all into it. Then when I actually sang it, my mother loved it, my family loved it, my girlfriend at the time loved it."
"It was a song you could get lost in," he adds. "I spent a couple of days recording it and I just remember being so excited about piecing it all together, hearing the outcome and being part of the creative process -- saying, 'Oh, let’s try this because it could sound better.' Being part of something that was so awesome and beautiful was really cool."
The band filmed a music video for the track in spring in New York City, where they were followed walking across the Williamsburg Bridge, then meeting some girls, playing pool and eating pizza. Showing their growing fan base what a date with the guys might look like, the video made young women around the world swoon over them even more.
"I shot it on the ground, then I jumped onto a helicopter and shot them from up there," the video’s director, Doug Nichol, says. "It was really fun. We didn’t have a lot of money, so it was just me with a 16mm camera and a small crew and we just did it. We filmed them singing to a bunch of girls in a gym, then playing pool over in Brooklyn."
"That was always the vibe of their videos -- the guys are hanging around, then they meet up with some girls and have a sweet, innocent time," he adds. "If you watch all of the videos, that’s what happens!"
Of course, fun with girls was only reflective of what the group, who were between 16 and 20 in age, were experiencing in real life at the time. In fact, Nichol recalls one of the young pinups losing their virginity the day of the shoot.
"We shot them walking over the Williamsburg Bridge and as we got to the end, everybody was waiting and we were surrounded by a bunch of girls," Nichol recalls. "I remember the next day one of the guys telling me, 'Hey Doug, thanks so much,' because I guess he slept with a girl for the first time!"
Just as one of the group members scored a home run in their love life, the song went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1989. It also hit the top 10 in countries including Australia, Ireland and the U.K.
In the decades since, it has also become a wedding playlist must for "Blockheads," who have tearfully enjoyed the track for their first dance.
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In the meantime, the father of two is enjoying some downtime chilling at home in Massachusetts, helping run his Italian restaurant, Novara, and doing "old man stuff" like golfing and bowling before kicking off the Mixtape Tour with his brother, Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Joey McInytre on May 2 in Cincinnati.
The lineup also features Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Naughty by Nature and Salt-N-Pepa, who all feature on "80s Baby," one of three new tracks (along with "The Way" and boy band anthem "Boys in the Band") on the group’s recently released Hangin’ Tough (30th Anniversary Edition). Knight says the guys are currently working out how the acts will come together on stage.
"We’re going to make sure that we collaborate with the other artists and just do fun things," he says. "The crowd is paying good money, so we want to dazzle them!"