Last week, the incredibly exciting news hit my feed that the Backstreet Boys had regrouped, released a biopic doco, AND have decided to tour Australia. As the first boyband of my childhood (sorry NKOTB, you were a few years before my time), and the longest-running to boot, this news made me squeal a little in my chair at work.
As I got older and the band did, I didn’t keep up as heavily with their releases, only really picking up on the catchy-as-fuck singles and reminiscing when their 90s hits came on shuffle. So, to celebrate the fact that BSB are returning to Australian shores, I decided to go back and listen to the discography, one album at a time, in chronological order. The excitement also led to an hilarious bonding experience with one of the girls at work, and culminated in an in-office discussion whereby my line manager was dubbed a Secret Kevin Lover. (It turns out that this is absolutely not even close to a bad thing, because Kevin not only wrote the score for an animated film, but modelled for Versace and played Billy Flynn on Broadway. Byyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee.)
I have not been disappointed with my dive into the BSB back catalogue. I have spent days in my 90s/00s timewarp, and at the time of writing, still have two albums to go before I have covered the lot. Usually my music reviews tackle an album track-by-track, but in all honesty, I would be giving the same review for 65% of the songs. I love them dearly, but these guys have produced a lot of music, and a lot of that music sounds quite similar. So, I thought I’d explore BSB album by album as offered on Spotify (since I only actually own one of them), and look at the 20-year progression of the Backstreet Boys.
Journey with me over the next three days through nine – fucking NINE – LPs from the best-selling boyband in history. It’s gon’ be fuuuuunnnnnnnn 😀
Album One: Backstreet Boys – 1996
The first Backstreet Boys song I ever heard was Quit Playing Games With My Heart and honestly – combined with the girl power movement of the Spice Girls in the same year – it was the beginning of my eternal love for pop music. Sure, I listened to it before then, but I had only liked it in the peripheral sense and never been hugely invested before. My parents’ individual tastes in music meant I was raised with punk rock and the blues, but 90s pop music was the first thing I identified on my own that I enjoyed. The sensory overload of cute guys and badass girls singin’ and dancin’ before my eyes buried itself into my cells. I was in love.
This first album from BSB, which was released twice thanks to America ignoring the band’s existence until the rest of the world wet it’s pants over them, is the kind of hugely over-produced pop I listen back on and giggle. There are a fuckload of now-horrifically-awkward spoken word intros/bridges à la Barry White, and some rather awful “rapping” on their debut record. Power ballads galore, plus some songs that sound like they were written at a basketball court mixer (shutup those things totally exist in my brain and are therefore real), the standouts include eternally-adored Quit Playing Games With My Heart and the poorly-titled I Wanna Be With You and Let’s Have A Party. Sadly, this album also includes the disaster track Boys Will Be Boys, which is essentially just the sweetheart of the group, Brian, breaking my heart in the pre-choruses:
When I try to get closer and you always push me away, tell me it’s much too soon…
But I just can’t help it, I always gotta make a play.
Boys will be boyyyyyyyys.
I hear you saying that you think that we should wait, and I can’t hold on any more.
My body’s calling for you, so please don’t hesitate.
Boys will be boyyyyyyyys, you oughtta know by now.
Guys, I know you were just babies when you recorded this (which actually is also terrifying) but that is so so wrong and gross and not at all great. Oh god. Who wrote this song? Who let tiny babies of children record this? WHO LET THEM PUT THIS ON AN ALBUM AND RELEASE IT? I want them to be held accountable god damn it.
Thankfully the disaster song is smackbang in the middle of the album and can easily be skipped over to a less awful but not totally fabulous track – a track that no doubt inspired the 2001 remake of Josie and the Pussycats resident boyband DuJour.
Album Two: Backstreet’s Back – 1997
Backstreet’s Back is the soundtrack to my tweens. Back then, tweens wasn’t even a word, and I spent most of my time dreaming about marrying Joshua Jackson (both the boy in my class and Pacey Witter from Dawson’s Creek) or Will Smith. Then the clip for the lead single of Backstreet’s Back dropped and also my whole life did.
I might be biased since this is the only album from BSB that I own, and I flogged it almost daily for about three straight years, but this album is fucking great. Any album that starts with Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) and follows with As Long As You Love Me and All I Have To Give is bound to be killer, right?
There’s this perfect balance between slower jams/ballads and uptempo danceable tracks, and basically I don’t even care how lame some of these songs actually are (I’m looking at you Like A Child and That’s What She Said) because this album is Agoddamn+ and if you like feeling happy – and who the shit doesn’t love feeling happy?! – put this record on right now. You’ll be dancing in your chair/bed/car/wherever. It’s so worth it. FEEL THOSE HAPPY FEELS GUYS. EMBRACE POP JOY.
Continue this journey with Part II here!