Sunday, November 10, 2013

Backstreet’s back, ALRIGHT!

album review

Band: Backstreet Boys
Album: In a World Like This

At some point during the last decade, while many of us were busy forgetting they exist, the Backstreet Boys became the biggest selling boy band of all time. This clearly indicates that even though their mainstream popularity may have waned over the years, the group has maintained a steady fan base to whom they still remain relevant for some reason. Now it looks like the band is trying to remind the more indifferent of us that yes they are still together, because it turns out that a thoroughly amusing cameo in the recent comedy film This is the End wasn’t their only contribution to the world of entertainment this year; the quintet also has a new album out.

Their eighth studio release (the first on their own independent label, following their departure from Jive), In a World Like This sees the group go back to its original lineup with Kevin Richardson’s return, making this their first album as a five piece since 2005’s Never Gone.

The former titans of teen pop, who celebrated their 20th anniversary together this year, now seem less inclined towards dance pop and more eager to delve into mid-tempo adult contemporary. The group members have some writing credits on the album, but a host of producers, primarily Martin Terefe, Max Martin, Dan Muckala, and Morgan Taylor Reid, are also on hand to write and produce the 12 songs that make up the album. Max Martin, as always, provides smooth pop grandeur in the form of the title track ‘In a World Like This’; slap a One Direction logo on this title track and you will have an instant hit. Reid contributes some of the more up tempo ditties, including the promotional single ‘Permanent Stain’, as well as the OneRepublic-ish ‘Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of)’. But it is Terefe who adds the most texture to the album; his influence clearly reflects in tracks like the Jason Mraz reminiscent ‘Trust Me’ and the Babyface tinged ‘Try’.

In A World Like This is polished, competent pop that might be more mature than their earlier efforts but is still more or less tailored for the same segment that BSB have generally targeted. Its ideas, lyrics and presentation might be cheesy, but they are unabashedly so. The group has worked with personnel that nicely complement the vocal harmony style that they are well known for, and you can hear what the producers (Terefe in particular) add to the material. But they haven’t exactly gone out of their way to try something different, and their appeal still remains limited. Detractors will continue to find them predictably beige and unsurprisingly inoffensive. Will any of these songs have the same hit of nostalgia that ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ still has fifteen years from now? Probably not, and if you bailed on the Backstreet Boys a decade ago, then the album doesn’t give you any reasons to rethink that decision. But if you’ve stuck it out with them this long, then In a World Like This doesn’t give you any reasons to abandon ship now.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 10th November, 2013 *

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