Where does the aging millennial boy band go in the day and age where One Direction rule the roost? Well the Backstreet Boys sorta embrace their maturity without sounding anachronistic and also balancing some modern pop trends. Ultimately the Backstreet Boys’ latest effort In A World Like This will not be hailed the second coming or innovative, but it is a definitely a better album than I would’ve envisioned. No, I’m not changing my opinion of boy bands or nothing like that, but In A World Like This is, um…decent.
“In A World Like This” straddles adult contemporary with some subtle dance cues. One of the reasons this cut works is because it isn’t overproduced and doesn’t force a ‘dance frenzy’ like some modern pop does. The melody is simple but effective while the chorus is catchy yet well penned (“In a world like this where some back down / I, I know we’re gonna make it…”) Balance seems key. “Permanent Stain” keeps the momentum going. Possessing a driving dance-feel, this cut still eschews being overproduced. “Permanent Stain”, like “In A World Like This”, truly percolates towards the end, which is a pro. “No one else can teach me how to love again / cause you left a permanent stain on my heart and I’ve been feeling it…” Yeah, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s a boy band… cheesy is expected.
“Breathe” suffers a a bit from being ‘middle of the road’ and less exciting than the opening duo. That said, guesting The Love Sponge Strings sound beautiful, not to mention the moments when BSB branch out into those harmonies. “Madeleine” similarly lacks the ‘oomph’ of the title track or “Permanent Stain”, but does show some willingness to take on the singer/songwriter genre. It’s close, but perhaps overreaches. “Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of)” arrives timely to reinvigorate In A World Like This. “When walls start to close in / your heart is frozen over / just show ‘em what you’re made of / the world will be waiting for you / just show ‘em what your made of”, the boys sing on the anthemic hook. Ultimately, “Show ‘Em” proves to be a welcome contrast to the more understated “Madeleine”.
“Make Believe” incorporates more modern pop with moderate results. Perhaps the biggest rub is the length, which approaches five minutes. “Try” and “Trust Me” are among the album’s most triumphant showings, atoning for previous miscues. The soulful “Try” suits Backstreet Boys’ urban sensibilities and gives the band a ‘different look’. “Trust Me” is also quite soulful, notable for its overall pleasantness as well as an exceptional vocal arrangement on the chorus. The horns on the bridge – magnificent.
As Blood, Sweat & Tears sang on “Spinning Wheel” “What goes up must come down…” That’s exactly what happens after the lofty success of “Try and “Trust Me”. “Love Somebody” overall works well, incorporating some trendy dubstep, though sounds a bit cheap. I also have the question the lyric “And the way you look in those purple jeans / it’s the sexiest thing I ever seen”… Purple (like Barney)? Huh? “One Phone Call” is a bit predictable, but like a number of cuts, is presentable and relatively enjoyable. Both cuts are better than the penultimate “Feels Like Home” (my least favorite) or the somewhat average “Soldier”. “Feels Like Home” feels like a bad trip, with the boys naming every trendy location they can on the album’s corniest number. Geez!
To reiterate, In A World Like This is a better album than expected. Nope it’s not my favorite of 2013 nor will I likely remember it in the future, no offense. It does, however, keep Backstreet Boys recording and somewhat relevant. Their best days are behind them and they can forget trying to compete with One Direction commercially, but albums like In A World Like This still can put some money in their pockets and appease fans who’ve grown up with ‘em.
Favorites: “In A World Like This”; “Permanent Stain”; “Try”; “Trust Me”
Backstreet Boys⎪In A World Like This⎪ BMG/BSB ⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 30, 2013