As much as they would like us to forget the
five-year hiatus, the Backstreet Boys have been
gone and musical landscape has changed. No longer are
there a billion screaming girls lining up outside MTV’s Time Square
studios waiting to see the next dancing fivesome. To their credit, the
Backstreet Boys have grown up and have moved past
the hoopla that surrounded them in the late '90s
and made them zillionaires.
After 2000’s relatively successful album Black and
Blue, the Boys took some time off, not because
they wanted to -- but maybe because they had to.
Group bad boy AJ McLean went through a much-publicized battle with drug and
alcohol abuse and is now sober. Other group members took the time to start
families and focus on other business ventures. With all that behind them,
the Boys have returned with a new album and musical direction.
Never Gone is deliberately a pop/rock album.
The group has partly steered away from the pop formula they cultivated in
the 90s and gone the direction of artists like Rob Thomas, Matchbox 20 and
Five for Fighting. Lead single, “Incomplete” still highlights the group’s
vocal ability, but gone are the playful lyrics, replaced by serious
vernacular of love. Its haunting piano backdrop, performed by group member
Kevin Richardson, adds to its mysterious feel.
“Weird World,” written and produced by Five for
Fighting’s John Ondrasik adds some credibility to the opus. It’s playful,
yet though provoking. The Boys still team up with longtime producer Max
Martin on “Just Want You To Know” and “Lose it All.” “Siberia” is a very
cool sounding track, disguising a long lost love as a far away land. Its is
clear to the average listener that Nick Carter and McLean are the most
comfortable in this new found skin. Their voices scream above others as
they man majority of the lead vocals. Tracks highlighted by Brian Littrell
tend to venture into familiar Backstreet territory meaning sincere,
Their efforts to grow and adapt to the ever-changing
musical climates should be applauded, and their offering sounds sincere.
Their voices are still as strong and distinct as before, if not more. The
ambiguity lies within their fan base and whether or not they will remember
that the Backstreet Boys are not boys anymore but men. Only time will tell.