Backstreet Boys: DNA review – canny pop that fizzes with nostalgia


These days, 90s boybands are finding a way to transition smoothly to fortysomething manbands by avoiding the high notes and ensuring that someone is always wearing a waistcoat. Combined with the fizz of nostalgia, this formula means that Backstreet Boys have pulled off an 80-date Las Vegas residency that has made an estimated $34m and they are gearing up for their biggest world tour in two decades.

It would be easy for a group with such saccharine hits as I Want It That Way to come off like Peter Pans trapped in pop’s unforgiving amber, but their new album positions them as family men who will give you a good spanking. And so there is No Place, in which they become a five-man Charlie Puth and star in a sentimental video with their wives and children. And then there are also the pseudo-Fifty Shades soundtrack jams such as New Love, which seem insensitive considering the rape allegation made last year against Nick Carter concerning an incident in 2003. He denied the allegation, and the case was dropped. But you do wonder why the same didn’t happen to a song with such lyrics as: “Who are you, the sex police? / My sex ain’t got no rules.”

Elsewhere, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart smacks of the Weeknd’s self-loathing R&B, while Is It Just Me is merely Purpose-era Justin Bieber, written by the same guy, Josh Gudwin (weirder still when you consider that in the 90s Nick Carter was the proto-Bieber). This, the band suggests, is what is in Backstreet’s new DNA: well-manicured music that cannily plunders contemporary chart sounds and plonks a pitch-perfect harmony on them. Are they original? Not any more, but world domination awaits anyway.


Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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