Black & Blue

Backstreet Boys

Jive Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Uh-oh, I can hear people thinking right now. He's taking on the Backstreet Boys, they're thinking. He's going to rip them up like a piece of rice paper in a knife factory, they're thinking.

Believe it or not, I happen to like the Backstreet Boys. I realize that's about the equivalent of admitting that one likes to knock off squirrels with a revolver - and, no, that's not the reason the squirrel population in Gurnee seemed to nosedive in the last few weeks. No, I happen to admire the vocal work of this quintet, even if the music sounds pre-fabricated at times. Say what you will about the dearth of boy-bands right now, the Backstreet Boys have a knack for choosing quality pop songs and singing the absolute daylights out of them.

Their latest release, Black & Blue, doesn't veer too far off the formula that has made the band staples of top 40 radio and of young girls' walls, but even with a more mature approach to the songs and their sounds, one wonders how much longer the streak can continue. (Side note: I am reviewing this album via MP3s, so I don't have the liner notes to work off of. You work with what you can in this business, sometimes.)

The first area of concern comes on the track "Time," which was produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Now, I'm not knocking the song, for it's quite beautiful. What concerns me is that a group like this - who have absolutely decimated the charts with their sales - would need to rely on a name such as Babyface's to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Maybe this is nitpicking, I admit - but when you don't need to prove anything, why go out of your way to prove something?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Area of concern number two is the general direction the songwriting is taking on Black & Blue. If you're looking for tracks in the vein of "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" or "As Long As You Love Me," you're probably going to be disappointed. If you're looking for songs that are similar to "Larger Than Life" from Millennium, well, you'd be closer to the mark. The difficulty is that tracks like "Get Another Boyfriend," "Shining Star" and "The Call" don't have the musical richness that a song like "Larger Than Life" has - and I'm at a loss in that I can't quite put my finger on what is missing.

So far, sounds like a real loser, eh? I don't mean to come off sounding like Black & Blue is a downer album. In fact, this disc is as enjoyable as the Backstreet Boys's previous two releases, and there's plenty to celebrate on this one. There's the gentle balladry of "Shape Of My Heart" that almost guarantees this track will have a short trip to the top of the charts. Same goes for "The Answer To Our Life," another track I found myself gravitating back to on more than one occasion.

And if you're a fan of the pure love songs that the Boys are known for, Black & Blue does not disappoint. Songs like "Yes I Will," "I Promise You (With Everything I Am)" and "It's True" all celebrate the joy of love and the pleasure these guys take in bringing this music to their fans.

You can pooh-pooh boy bands all you want, but you have to give credit when it's due... and the Backstreet Boys have yet to hit a landmine in their recording career. Yet I can't help but question how much longer this level of success can continue for the group. It's not that I want to see the group suffer a drop in popularity, and it's not for lack of trying to bring in some new styles, like a song about cheating on your girlfriend ("The Call"). But I know how fickle tastes can be... and the Backstreet Boys are coming up on five years in the limelight. That's about the same amount of time it took New Kids On The Block to go from heroes to zeroes. Just worth noting.

Black & Blue is another success feather in the cap of the Backstreet Boys, and they may as well enjoy the success that is bound to come with the release of this album. Do they deserve it? Yes. Is it a promise of more to come? Only time will tell.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jive Records, and is used for informational purposes only.