After three successful pop albums in the 90’s and one ineffective attempt at a comeback in 2005, Backstreet’s back, all right. But don’t be quick to judge. Unbreakable (Jive Records), the Backstreet Boys’ fifth studio album, is anything but the irritating bubblegum pop that defined our middle school years.
This time around, the boys have transitioned into men, and opt for a fresh and undeniably crisp rock-flavored sound. While it’s the first album without original member Kevin Richardson, the guys still package themselves neatly into 14 instrumentally stimulating tracks. The album cleverly mixes guitar-heavy alternative rock songs with dance tracks and good ol’ pop rock, resulting in a contemporary and mature twist on classic BSB.
Interspersed among a few snooze-worthy ballads like the first single “Inconsolable” are beat-heavy dance tracks such as “Treat Me Right,” produced and co-written by fellow boy-bander, Nsync’s J.C. Chasez. The addictive “Panic,” arguably the album’s standout, sounds more Timbaland than boy band, and “Trouble Is” puts a rock & roll spin on an otherwise sappy love song.
Like the Backstreet Boys’ previous albums, Unbreakable has its’ fair share of signature ballads, complete with melodic harmonizing and acapella. Tunes like “Love Will Keep You Up All Night” and “Unmistakable” showcase both decent vocal and emotional range, yet are much too reminiscent of old-school BSB, lacking the modern edge displayed throughout much of the album.
Nonetheless, Unbreakable ends on a high note with “Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon,” a mid-tempo piano ballad that’s a nice blend between Maroon 5 and the Beatles. Even with one man down, it’s a sure bet that the Backstreet Boys are going to be back for a while.