Backstreet Boys are back — but is that alright? The 1990s boyband have, incredibly, sprung to the top of the Billboard charts in the US with their ninth studio album.
It’s their first number one in 19 years — an extraordinary rebirth that follows a Las Vegas residency that has become the fastest-selling and among the most lucrative in the history of Sin City.
But rather than an attempted re-invention, the LP, like the Vegas shows, is a deep dig into nostalgia. With Justin Bieber songwriter Josh Gudwin and U2 collaborator Ryan Tedder among the army of behind the scenes hit-makers, DNA sets sail for the glory days of Nineties hair-gel pop and never diverts its gaze.
It’s a unashamed homage to the gooey sound the quintet of AJ McLean, Howie Borough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell were themselves instrumental in minting. ‘Nobody Else’ is a big-lunged ballad that has beamed straight from when Boyzone and Take That were dominant cultural influences.
And ‘Breathe’ is a falsetto-powered ballad surfing on finger-clicks and choir-boy coos.
There are, it is true, occasional contemporary flourishes. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ has nothing to do with Elton John but sounds like a dead ringer for The Weeknd. And the rumbling funk bass on ‘New Love’ suggests someone in the camp has been following the latter-day manoeuvres of D’Angelo.
Pop is a notoriously cruel industry and few artists can hope to remain relevant even in the medium term. So it’s extraordinary Backstreet Boys — who nowadays look like middle-aged garage mechanics beginning to regret their tattoos — have not only held onto their fanbase but released one of their most rounded collections yet.
As Westlife plot their return this year, it gives them a lifeline to cling to whilst also raising the stakes in the looming battle of the grooving man-bands.