The Backstreet Boys have had a lot of career highs (1999) and lows (Paris Hilton). The post-Kevin years were all kind of fuzzy to me. I think by the time Unbreakable had been released I was still in shock and denial. It didn’t stop me from sleeping outside of the Virgin Megastore – for the *second* time – to get an album signed by the fellas. It was there, as I walked by each Boy (in order: AJ, Howie, Nick, Brian – why do I remember these things but not important stuff like the quadratic formula?), it hit me: Kevin was fucking gone. There was a small part of me that still felt the pang of his departure every time I saw the Boys perform live after that, but the truth is that there was a lot of really good music in between. Okay…. Maybe ‘a lot’ is being kind *cough*PDA*cough*, but Unbreakable housed a lot of great tracks in between some label driven crap.
It’s probably easiest to start by getting the bad out of the way. Helpless When She Smiles was a song that never seemed to stick to any of the artists it had been presented to previously and before you know it our Boys end up on a mountain top in the middle of a storm. I don’t totally hate the song but it’s got about as many clichés as a Katy Perry track. Love Will Keep You Up All Night was competing for longest song title and Unmistakable and One in a Million were kind of forgettable… but other than that? Damn, this was a good CD.
It starts off with an allusive acappella intro. The Boys have been singing acappella for over 20 years but still have yet to record a truly acappella track. They did a few semi-acappella versions of their own songs (Shape of My Heart, All I Have to Give, I Want it That Way) during the Black and Blue years, but this is as close as we’ve come to a real acappella recording. It’s marvelous. Could bring grown men to tears beautiful. Like I’m crying right now onto my keyboard. Maybe it’s an overreaction. Maybe it’s the fact that AJ’s voice sounds like what red velvet cake taste like. Whatever, I have no shame.
Everything But Mine is a fun track that you can dance to without feeling insane (I see you, Masquerade). Inconsolable runs their vocals up and down the scale so many times it makes me dizzy. These types of vocal acrobats have been somewhat absent in recent years, so it was a great listen. And of course, the Jason Nevins remix of that song is FIREEEEE. Then there’s my personal favorite track from the album, Something that I Already Know, which didn’t get a lot of love on the tour – not even soundchecks!
Any Other Way was SUCH a good song it probably should have been the first single. Very radio friendly, great hook, lyrics that make sense – how often do we get this stars align combo from them?! Ditto for Panic, which has a funky sound to go with some very funky choreography. If you never seen Nick Carter dance to Panic you need to be going straight to YouTube. Now.
You Can Let Go and Trouble Is are two very solid songs and SO MUCH HOWIE!! Howie was so terribly under-appreciated and underutilized for so many years; he really had some shining moments on this cd. The one that people don’t talk about that much. The one the Boys forgot about. Oh… poor Howard.
Treat Me Right didn’t do it for me but I appreciate the fact that the sound is a bit outside of their box. Next time you let JC produce a track, though, you gotta find a way to get that guys vocals on there!!
Finally, Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon. Perhaps one of the best songs in their entire catalog. And… have we EVER SEEN THIS LIVE?! Boys, pardon my French but what the actual fuck? I like Undone just as much as the next fan, but let’s stop pretending that song with Kevin is better than Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon would be with a little more bass. The structure of the song is very non-BSB traditional, the Boys wrote it, and it gives me Beatles vibes. Bring back Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon!
Viva La Unbreakable!