Backstreet Boys have become a pastiche of themselves – until they turn their back on...
Gemma Padley 2007
If there is one word to describe the Backstreet Boys (BSB) it is defiant. After a three years absence, in 2005 the multi-million selling boy band decided it was time to mount a new assault. The band’s distinctly ‘rockier’ approach marked by the introduction of live instruments was met with a barrage of vitriolic press. But two years later, Backstreet Boys really are back (albeit one member lighter – Kevin Richardson left the band on amicable terms in 2006). Unperturbed by previous criticism, they have just released their sixth album, Unbreakable.
The rocky ballads are still here but this time there is a depth of feeling that makes some of the songs a little more credible. The first single "Inconsolable" features the trademark emotional wrangling but thankfully resists boy band cliches like the diabolical key change. "Helpless When She Smiles" produced by John Shanks (Bon Jovi) is a more visionary offering with an intriguing piano melody that provides at least some edge.
"Everything But Mine" strays from typical BSB territory with its electro inspired offbeat riff – an interesting counter to the sharp falsetto vocals. "Panic" is another slightly more adventurous outing; beginning with a (tame) dubby drum & bass rhythm, it has moments of more daring musicality.
But despite a degree of experimentation there is little here to make a lasting impression. Laboured and repetitive ballads prevail. "Love Will Keep You Up All Night’ is a montage of almost every love-song ever written and with a chorus reminiscent of Aerosmith’s "Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’, sounds dated and overly earnest.
Some may doubt BSB’s relevance in the notoriously fickle contemporary pop climate – and they have good reason to, for while this is a valiant effort at reinvention and an at times gutsier record, Backstreet Boys have become a pastiche of themselves – until they turn their back on ballads, this is unlikely to change.