I originally wasn’t going to tackle this topic. I thought about scrapping it, to be honest. Why? Because I was pretty sure I was the worst blogger to talk about this album. I admit it, I have a few issues with it. I’ve had rage issues when it comes to Never Gone if I’m honest with myself about it. Which I will be in here. I kind of have to be, I think. I do think it should be talked about. Because almost thirteen years later this album is STILL debated among fans. I figured I may as well.
I was going through some videos for my throwback posts, uploaded a few, organized a bit. I ended up rewatching the extras from the BSB Documentary. Mentions of the management influenced direction came up in one of the videos. That’s when I remembered this post I’d started and basically forgot about. You may not believe this, but for years I stood by the belief that the album was going in one direction and Jive forced it to go the other way. I felt it was easy to see, like when you look at the producers they worked with. Or the fact that the Boys wrote a lot of the songs that never made the album – all of which were in a more r&b flavored direction. It was hard to know for sure though when Unbreakable seemed to be a bit of everything, and This Is Us was very much a product of it’s time.
Still, I wasn’t surprised when In A World Like This was in the musical genre it happened to be in.
So I took a moment and put on Never Gone the album. Listened through it straight through without skipping or anything for the first time in YEARS. Yeah, it’s been that long. Crazy, right? But I needed to do it, and try to be as fair to an album I probably haven’t been very kind to. I’m a hard core fan, obviously. It’s why this blog exists. When we get bits of album information, I track it, I pay attention. Not so much to the soundbytes. Those will change from era to era. It’s just promotional math. But to the music they were making after Never Gone. The songs the Boys wrote, as opposed to what others wrote. The song Kevin wrote for the Never Gone album? Poppiest ballad on the entire album. I’m not saying it’s a bad album. I Still… came from that album and it’s one of my top ten faves. And over the years I’ve even come to appreciate the album as it is.
But it’s a polarizing album. It’s a frustrating one.
Why, is up for debate. It depends on your musical tastes. Howie spoke about how they cut back on the harmonies in an interview leading up to the album. For me, and others that was a warning sign. For others they shrugged it off. The album stands out as the most different in a line of BSB albums. In a game of “one of these things is not like the other”, Never Gone wins every time – and that’s including the albums that followed. A LOT of songs leaked in the opposite genre from the recording sessions for that album – all of them heavily rnb influenced. But when you make an album that’s nothing like you did before and nothing like you’ve done since, you have to expect some divide in the fandom about it.
I’m not going to lie, in retrospect I think the leaks are why I didn’t enjoy the album as much as I could’ve. Twenty Four songs leaked (counting different versions of the same song and covers) from this recording process. And the fact is? They’re the opposite of the direction the album took a direction in. Basically we were given a solid what if and it’s hard to let that go. Even so many years later. I listen to Lose It All and I wonder why Song For The Unloved didn’t make it instead of that song. I hear Crawling Back To You and think Tell Me should’ve been on the album instead. It’s like a kid who wanted ice cream and had to settle for a lollipop. You still got a treat but it doesn’t taste as good because you’re too busy thinking about what you didn’t get.
This is a long post but honestly I have a lot of thoughts about this album. When Incomplete leaked, I freaking LOVED it. I thought it was the best song they’d done at that time – but it was also the first BSB song I’d heard since the hiatus. (Besides Beautiful Woman but in my case I didn’t hear that song till after Incomplete. I wasn’t so…involved in the fandom yet. Leaks were a new concept.) Back when the album first came out I used to say the only songs I liked were I Still, Siberia, and Poster Girl. But that’s not true now. I’m not sure it even was then. The Never Gone tour was my first BSB concert ever so it’s got a special place in my fangirl heart. For an album I claimed I didn’t like, I still knew EVERY single word by heart at the shows. I still know the words to every track on the album now, which surprises me cause I do tend to skip over a lot of these songs.
Sure, if I wasn’t writing this post there’s a couple songs I’d skip over. But it wouldn’t be over half the album, or even half the album. It’d probably be three songs out of twelve. That’s not bad, not even close. Sure it’s not my favorite album but it seems the adult version of me (I was only eighteen when this album came out) is willing to admit she likes this album, even if it’s my “least favorite” – I still enjoy it over many albums from other groups or singers I claim to like. I like 98 Degrees, but I can’t sing every song off any of their albums by heart. But I can for Never Gone.
I smile and swoon to Nick’s voice when I hear Weird World. I burst out into song when I Still hits the chorus. I laugh during the spelling part of Beautiful Woman. I get chills hearing AJ sing during Incomplete. I remember the jokes they would make about Paris Hilton on tour when Poster Girl starts up. I adore when they do Safest Place To Hide a Capella. I wish to myself that they’d bring Siberia back to the set-lists. I get emotional when I listen to Kevin’s beautifully written song Never Gone. I belt out along to Just Want You To Know. Hate this album? I don’t hate it at all. It’s like secretly loving vegetables as a kid but refusing to admit it to mom cause you’ve carried too much of a fuss at this point. I love it, in my own sort of way.
In the end, I think Jive changed how the album could’ve developed. I think the album could’ve been something bigger, or even more epic. But honestly? It’s a wishing game now. The album Never Gone could’ve been? It never was. And that’s okay too. It helped the group grow and had this album not happened, things may not be the way they are. It’s part of BSB’s musical history whether you love this album or hate it.
And I mean…without this album, we never would’ve gotten the Just Want You To Know video.
And really, who doesn’t like Sphynkter?