Picks and Pans Review: Black & Blue
Even the sweetest bubble gum loses its flavor after repeated chews. And the way the young Backstreet men have been jawing their brand of bubbly pop—to the tune of 50 million CDs sold 'round the world—it is understandable that they crave a change. Since their 1999 opus Millennium ruled the record charts, two of the Boys (Kevin Richardson and his cousin Brian Littrell) have gotten married, and the group severed ties with Florida teen-pop svengali Lou Pearlman. All of which may explain why on their fourth album the BBs put forth a more mature side.
The opening track, "The Call," displays a worldliness that would have made the dewy, innocent Boys of yore blush. In fact, there is nothing in the Backstreet catalog, which brims with songs about the lads' undying ardor for their moms, their fans and the virginal girls-next-door, that is remotely akin to this tune about a cheating boyfriend. There is even the hint of a put-down—something the good old Boys would never do—in the shape-up-or-ship-out song "Get Another Boyfriend."
Equally adult impulses are evident in the Boys' heightened artistic ambitions: Two of these tunes are written by the five bandmates; four others are cowritten by A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough or Nick Carter. It remains to be seen whether this is a death knell—producer-assembled vocal groups from the Monkees to New Kids on the Block filled their final albums with material they insisted on writing themselves—or a harbinger of great things to come. The Boys, who recorded most of these 13 tracks in Stockholm, are hedging their bets, leaving the bulk of the creative work to Swedish pop wizard Max Martin's crack production team.
Bottom Line: Less mewling than past efforts