Own It or Disown It: #285: Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys


The smash sorta-debut from the Backstreet Boys turned twenty years old this year.

Did you know that TRL is back? Well, TRL is back! Yes, it seems everything that was old is new again: IT is scaring kids, the Super Nintendo is the big holiday gift of the season, Archie and friends make up the cast of one of the most popular…things in pop culture, and Eminem is making political music that’ll age as well as cheese left out in the open in Texas. Granted, all of those elements still kind of make sense because they are art and art is always cool while TRL is a celebration of capitalism in democracy, something that could only be a force to be reckoned with if the industry it is resting its shoulders on is in a sound place, meaning I’d not be hedging my bets on TRL still being on the air this time next, um, month. Still, I’ve got an excuse to talk about one of the biggest benefactors of the original incarnation of TRL, so let’s have at it.

Backstreet Boys is one of two albums named Backstreet Boys by the Backstreet Boys. From what I understand, they formed in Florida but opted to make their name in Europe, releasing the first Backstreet Boys album in 1996 and 1997’s Backstreet’s Back to damn good sales. This Backstreet Boys album was actually released the day after Back and was exclusive to the United States, owing to that, while it was marketed as a debut release, it was a compilation of tracks from the band’s first two albums. In other words, the Backstreet Boys spent so much time honing their craft overseas that Backstreet had, in fact, enough time to come back before any of their singles charted on TRL, eventually making their way stateside either because of a thirst for money or because they were intimidated by the industry clout of 5ive. There’s no way you could pull this sort of stunt nowadays, and I think that’s a net positive for the consumer, so don’t let nobody tell you the post-apocalyptic world of 2017 doesn’t have good things going for it.

This being such a naked cash-in means I don’t have to care about, like, pacing or art. Backstreet Boys was made to sell, not inspire, so treating it like art feels like I’m meeting it more than halfway. Still, this is the task I’ve chosen, and I’ll tackle it with all the respect it deserves: with little write-ups for every track rather than talking about the album as a whole. Hey, it was that or put down three hundred words that basically all mean “this suuucks”.

1.) “We’ve Got It Going On”: I kind of like the warped weird synths in the background; there’s something lovingly sinister about them. That said, the shitty snare hits in exactly the wrong way typical of most 90s R&B, feeling like someone just dipped their fingers in cold water and flicked their hand in my face. This is danceable, but this isn’t a go-to for getting people on the floor.

2.) “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”: Shitty wet finger snares are back. That’s an automatic fail on any song. “Games” is basically one long “guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurl” in song format, and I can sell how that could sell itself well. I’d say I hoped the Boys were paid well for this, but I’m well aware their terrible shitty manager ensured they weren’t, so there’s no winners here.

3.) “As Long as You Love Me”: 3 for 3 with shitty wet finger snares. I haven’t brought up the vocals yet. They’re fine, I guess. The Boys are apparently okay with putting up with a lot of bullshit as long as “you” love me. That reads well at a glance, then your brain turns on and registers the horrifying implications of that. Have I mentioned this shit is boring?

4.) “All I Have to Give”: I don’t remember this ever being released as a single. Apparently it was, “only” making it as high as #5 on Billboard, likely because it was released fifteen months after the album proper and only five months before the next album landed. I wouldn’t call this a particularly great song by any measure, but it is easily the best song so far, if only because the drum choice doesn’t consist of something I’ve learned to despise.

5.) “Anywhere For You”: Gurl, I’d go to North Korea for you. Gurl, gurl, I’d go to North Korea for you. Gurl. Gurrrrrrrrrrl.

6.) “Hey Mr. DJ (Keep Playin’ This Song)”: I can’t decide if I like the bleepy bloops on this one. It has a better rhythm than the rest, at least, and is substantially less boring than most of the rest of this stuff. That said, this wasn’t released as a single, and I can’t say the populace at large was short-changed by that decision.

7.) “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”: Hahahahahaha, ahhh hahahahaha, go fuck yourselves.

8.) “Darlin’”: This sounds like all the rest of this crap. I am bored and annoyed. 90s R&B couldn’t run away from this sound fast enough.

9.) “Get Down (You’re the One for Me)”: This song features Toni Cottura. Toni Cottura is a shitty rapper. He’s kind of adorable. He at least represents a unique element in the sound, and that makes this the third-best song here.

10.) “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”: This is a P.M. Dawn cover, and I sought out the original version of the song to see what was changed to make a hip-hop/R&B number fit with a boy band’s image. The original version is kind of fantastic, an uptempo number with breezy vocals that conjures a trippy effect; it feels like the midpoint between De La Soul and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The Backstreet version slows things down and simplifies the beat and in doing so completely removes the magic of the song. It’s fitting here, really.

11.) “If You Want To Be a Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy)”: Oh oh, oh oooh oh, oh oh, oh oooh, the real gurl.

In summation, love gurl, love love gurl, gurl I want to gurl you forevlove, gurllove, love love, love.


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