Backstreet Boys are back in town
November 16, 2007
After their last album, “Never Gone,” proved to be more of the same, I was worried the Backstreet Boys would grow desperate and try something “new.” But they surprised me along with the rest of their aging demographic by their commitment to tradition. Their latest release, “Unbreakable,” isn’t what I would call adventurous, but that’s just fine.
p. I myself am not a fan of the Boys, but an incriminating VHS of me belting out “As Long As You Love Me” at a karaoke parlor has kept me looking over my shoulder, anticipating such an accusation since high school. I popped in “Unbreakable” with equally horrifying visions dancing before my eyes. Strangely enough, the atrocity I prophesied never came true. Despite the urging of the gods, desperate to steer me from such folly, I have to admit — I enjoyed this album.
p. Before you discard this paper and show it the meaning of being lonely, allow me a chance to explain. “Unbreakable” isn’t great, but it’s not bad, either. It’s shallow, easy-going, decently written and unimaginative pop music.
p. “Unbreakable” would be better named “Unambitious.” If I didn’t know better, I’d say these tracks were the rejects from earlier projects. But, as an esteemed reviewer, I refuse to jump to such wild conclusions. Plus, recycling isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as earlier Backstreet albums adeptly brainwashed a nation of pre-teen girls into wanting it “that way.”
p. If you’re looking for an album showcasing exceptional musical ability and penned with meaningful lyrics, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest with this one, but if you want more mindless pop from the Boys, you might be in luck.
p. In an age in which so many artists are busy trying to branch out, expand their fan-base and grow artistically, it’s a welcome relief to see the Backstreet Boys riding the gravy train that brought them success in their youth, even though most of these guys are in their late 30s now.
p. My initial plan for reviewing this album involved taking long and necessary therapeutic breaks between every track. “Any Other Way” single-handedly undermined my plan, and robbed me of my self-respect.
p. The song, as absurdly catchy as it is produced, encouraged sing-alongs in the way only a Top 40 hit can. I absolutely loved it. As my roommate watched in horror, I clicked the repeat button in iTunes and let the dreamy vocals wash over me for a solid 15 minutes.
p. Thankfully, “Helpless When She Smiles” brought me to my senses. My ears did not bleed, but the lyrics, saturated with powerfully stale metaphors, had me teetering on the verge. Who couldn’t be moved by these words? “I’m a house of cards in a hurricane / A reckless ride in the pouring rain / She cuts me and the pain is all I want to feel.” Listening to their melodramatic cries, I actually felt their pain. It literally hurt to listen to this song. If that isn’t art of the highest caliber, I don’t know what is.
p. “Love Will Keep You Up All Night” is a quintessentially mediocre pop anthem. The vocals are a shoddy emulation of Bryan Adams and the musical arrangement is truly the result of an unholy union between Daniel Powter and a coked-up Lindsay Lohan. It’s that bad.
p. For those long nights when you yearn to lose yourself in a generic pop ballad, they’ve included “Panic” and “Inconsolable.” Neither song is anything special, but they each have a delicate balance of synthesized drums, lovesick self-loathing and unidentifiable pop sound effects. They’re worth listening to only if you’re a longtime fan.
p. A little ring structure links “Another Sunday Afternoon” with the album’s intro track, but don’t feel bad if you fail to notice: I’m pretty sure the Boys themselves didn’t catch on until the MySpace comments started rolling in. I analyzed their cryptic words, but failed to see what sort of message they were trying to communicate. The mystery hasn’t kept me up all night — yet.
The song is surprisingly well-written and flirts with actual depth. The words are interesting, and the rhythm is deliciously infectious. It made me wonder why they didn’t just release an EP containing only this and “Any Other Way” and hope no one would notice it was 40 minutes shorter than a normal outing.