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DNA

Pop - Released January 25, 2019 | RCA Records Label

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By the late 2010s in their decades-long career, the Backstreet Boys have been an adult contemporary pop group longer than they were the teen pop titans of their late-'90s pop culture peak. Taking steps away from bombastic anthems and focusing on heartfelt comfort, they ended a short hiatus with a pair of early-2000s efforts packed with earnest, rock-leaning ballads, later striking a balance between their two sides by dipping back into dance-friendly productions in the early 2010s. On DNA, their eighth full-length, they continue that trend, recruiting contemporary producers who incorporate shimmering touches of electronic, tropical, and synth pop into the mix while retaining the classic harmonies and songcraft for which they are known. Considering four of the five members were in their forties at the time of release, DNA is elegant and unexpectedly fresh, especially on sparkling electronic tracks such as the Lauv-produced "Nobody Else" and the Chainsmokers-esque "Is It Just Me." Elsewhere, back-to-basics moments such as the lush a cappella of "Breathe" and the throwback doo wop of "The Way It Was" are nestled alongside heavily produced romps like the surprisingly horny "New Love" and the sexy disco-funk of "Passionate." The Ryan Tedder/Shawn Mendes-penned single "Chances" and their first Billboard Hot 100 entry in a decade, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," are some of Backstreet's finest, familiar in their delivery yet with a finger on the mainstream pulse of 2019. Though the tail-end of the album loses some steam, DNA remains pleasant and engaging, closing with the charming hand-claps of "OK." With DNA, a revitalized Backstreet Boys exude an assured confidence, taking enough steps forward to continue their pop maturation without ignoring the hooks and harmonies that carried them all this way. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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Pop - Released October 23, 2001 | Jive

The Backstreet Boys were the first and best of the boy bands of the great teen pop bands of the late '90s/early 2000s, even if 'N Sync eventually usurped their title of "the biggest boy band." Their reign seemed long, but it really wasn't -- only three albums before the bottom started to fall out with 2000's Black & Blue. If everything had gone right, Black & Blue would have ruled the charts for about two years, but about a year after its release, the group and their label unleashed The Hits: Chapter One, a sure sign not only that Black & Blue didn't perform to expectations, but they were worried about the shifting tastes of their audience. Instead of reviving interest in the group, the collection instead felt like it was closing the door on their period of dominance (and it initially sold that way, too, barely making a dent on the charts). Even if it is a bit of an inadvertent last will and testament, it's a hell of a summation of the group's glory days, offering definitive proof that the group wasn't just the best of their breed (boy bands, that is; thrushes like Britney, Christina, Mandy, and Jessica are not taken into account here), but that their best moments transcend their era -- and there's really no other way to describe such lovely pop tunes as "I Want It That Way," "As Long As You Love Me," and "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," three songs that would have sounded perfect in any era (and their vocals would have worked in any era, too). Those are just the ballads -- the dance-pop numbers may be more tied to their era, but "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Larger Than Life" are infectious pop nonetheless. If the rest of the singles that fill out this 13-track collection aren't quite as good as those five songs (although "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" is), they nevertheless are well-crafted, and those aforementioned singles are among the best mainstream pop of its time -- which is not only reason enough for this collection to exist, it's reason enough for pop lovers of any age or generation to have this as part of their library. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released May 18, 1999 | Jive

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Pop - Released May 17, 2018 | RCA Records Label

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Pop/Rock - Released June 14, 2005 | Jive

It's been nearly five years since the Backstreet Boys have released a new album, but as the all-too-literal title of 2005's Never Gone makes clear, they don't want you to call their fourth LP a comeback -- in their mind, they've been here for years. That's not strictly true, since all five members have disappeared from the charts, if not the tabloid headlines, since their 2000 flop, Black & Blue. While fellow teen pop icons like Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera had successful transitions into adulthood, while Jessica Simpson turned reality TV star and Mandy Moore turned genuine actress (for pity's sake, we will ignore Britney Spears' horrifying descent into white trash abyss), Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, and Brian Littrell all faded away as A.J. McLean suffered a very public addiction to various substances. Nick Carter also suffered at the hands of the tabloids, in large part due to a very stormy relationship with Paris Hilton, but he also had the distinction of being the only Backstreet Boy to deliver a solo album -- Now or Never in 2002 -- which meant that he was the only BSB with an ignoble flop to his credit, as well. Now or Never had the distinction of being an old-school teen pop album being delivered too far after the craze. Carter's peers were changing their stripes, but he stuck to the tried and true BSB formula and was punished by the fickle public accordingly. Given that public humiliation, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Carter and the other Boys are wise enough to try something new on Never Gone: they've abandoned the teen pop of the late '90s for anthemic adult contemporary that sounds a bit like Bryan Adams circa 1990. It's not a reinvention as much as a lateral move, shifting from one kind of pop that's not selling to another that's not selling, but to their credit, Backstreet Boys acquit themselves reasonably well here. First of all, there's a bit of pleasure in hearing a group throw itself into the big, resolutely square sound of '90s adult contemporary, since nobody else is doing this sound in 2005, but also it fits the group well, particularly Carter, with his newly raspy lead vocals. Second, this is by and large a well-made record, with a handful of standout tracks, notably the first single "Incomplete," the John Ondrasik-written "Weird World," which is a lot more fun than any Five for Fighting tune, the Max Martin-helmed "Just Want You to Know," and "Lose It All," which bizarrely and appealingly sounds like an MOR version of an Oasis ballad. Although the rest of the record is essentially well-made filler, it does sound good; this is one time that a pop record benefits by having a different production team for nearly every one of the album's tracks, since the sound of each tune is just different enough to keep things interesting yet unified enough to make it pleasant background music. This is all enough to make Never Gone a solid adult contemporary album, which will please both BSB diehards and the dwindling ranks who wish that the glory days of Jon Secada never ended, but its relative strength does highlight one problem with the album: this kind of music doesn't sound quite as convincing when delivered by a group of guys as it does by one singer. If Never Gone had been released as Nick Carter's second solo album or A.J. McLean's first, it would have felt more genuine, since these (marginally) more mature songs of love and relationships would have more resonance sung by a solo singer instead of a pack of guys. But that's nitpicking, because even if it never sells as well as Millennium did at the turn of the century, Never Gone is at the very least a successful musical makeover from the onetime teen pop kings. [Never Gone was released in several editions, including a copy-protected CD that will not play on your computer without installing a separate media player, and a DualDisc, containing a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The DualDisc has a 5.1 mix version of the album on the DVD side, along with the video for "Incomplete" as well as a brief documentary about the making of the video for "Incomplete." The CD side of the DualDisc may not register on some computers.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released October 24, 2007 | Jive

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Pop - Released July 13, 2018 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released October 6, 2009 | Jive

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Pop - Released August 12, 1997 | Jive

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Pop - Released November 21, 2000 | Jive

When 'N Sync usurped the Backstreet Boys' record of number of albums sold in a single week early in 2000, it had to hurt the Backstreets, since it was played in the press as if they had lost the teen pop throne. By the time the group released their third album, Black & Blue, Thanksgiving week 2000, 'N Sync was still popular, but the arc of No Strings Attached illustrated that they were weak where the Backstreets were strong -- namely, they couldn't really deliver the seductive mid-tempo pop tunes and ballads that were the backbone of the Boys' crossover success. Songs like "Shape of My Heart," which flows as gracefully as "I Want It That Way," prove that the Backstreet Boys do teen pop ballads better than anyone, but what's interesting about Black & Blue is how aggressively they protect their territory. Of course, it's relative protection, since they, like 'N Sync and Britney Spears, work with Max Martin, the man behind the biggest hits by all three artists. Consequently, it's not a coincidence that "Get Another Boyfriend" is a dead ringer for "It's Gonna Be Me" crossed with "Baby One More Time," but what gives Black & Blue character is that it's clear that the Backstreets want to remain kings of their world. So, the ballads are smoother than ever, and their dance numbers hit harder, all in an attempt to keep their throne. It works, even if it takes a couple spins before the singles stand out, since the Backstreets' material and voices are stronger than that of their peers, adding up to state of the art teen-pop. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released December 21, 2018 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released July 30, 2013 | K-BAHN - BMG Rights Mgmt (US)

Usually, teen idols sprint away from the notion they're racking up the years, but the Backstreet Boys cannily decided to treat their 20th Anniversary as a very big deal, bringing Kevin Richardson back into the fold -- he left after 2005's Never -- for a tour, a documentary, and In a World Like This, the band's seventh album. Over the course of the back half of the 2000s, Backstreet Boys slowly accepted their advancing age, making a slow shift from dance-pop toward adult contemporary, and although it has a sharper gleam in its sheen, In a World Like This doesn't find BSB reversing this trend. Working primarily with longtime colleague Max Martin, Morgan Taylor Reid, and Martin Terefe, who has produced Jason Mraz, Ron Sexsmith, James Morrison, and KT Tunstall among other singer/songwriters, Backstreet Boys take sideways glances toward their past but focus on the present, happy to keep things smooth even when the rhythms get a little heated. Most of the heavier dance beats come courtesy of Reid -- the single "Permanent Stain," "One Phone Call," the shoutalong closer "Soldier" -- but even then it rarely feels as if the Backstreet Boys are desperate for a club hit; as much as anything, these harder beats are there for some variety in texture. Max Martin does an admirable job in deglossing his hooks on the title track, but where BSB really shine are on the Terefe tracks, which sometimes hint at the breezy acoustic melodicism of Mraz, but better still evoke the classic stripped-down soul of prime Babyface, especially on "Try" and "Trust Me." Perhaps there are moments where texture trumps composition, but overall In a World Like This is a surprisingly mature and fine record from a former boy band that seems unafraid to act its age. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released April 15, 2014 | K-BAHN - BMG Rights Mgmt (US)

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Pop - Released January 14, 2019 | RCA Records Label