Describing music is impossible; pick a Backstreet Boys song, any song, because I’ve tried to get my thoughts across about all of them on the TDS forum over the years. The most I’ve gotten in return is in an argument with a fellow member and equally valid counter-points on said songs. In spite of this here at my computer I sit, embarking on my maiden voyage as a blogger on The Dark Side of Backstreet to discuss that very thing, what I hear in the new BSB song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. This time though I’m not trying to debate anybody over the merits of the song (but please, comment below if you have an opinion on the following) so hopefully this will go over better. It’s also fortunate for me that with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, the guys have moored onto a song that I can actually feel.
Those feelings and thoughts came with a quickness the minute the song started. At first I thought “OK cool, an ‘Incomplete’-esque piano beginning – I’ve done this” but before I was even comfortable Nick’s poetic, frenetic (seriously, I had NO idea what he was singing initially. All I could tell was he was singing about the ocean because OF COURSE HE WAS) vocal came in and I had to change my game plan. The Boys knew what I was expecting to hear and make no mistake; they gave me that, but also gave me something new with every measure. Nick’s verse ends as 8-bit beats that punch you in the face (and break your hair tie) build and we are hit with a chorus that sounds like it could be released in either 1998 or today. I was shooketh.
In the second verse I’m yet again treated to the perfect mix of old and new. AJ’s unmistakable voice slides in and I am transported back to my childhood bedroom, jamming to Black & Blue for hours on end. But then what…what is that? A Calypso beat? This song is suggesting I go to a 90s Backstreet Boys themed rave and then fly to a deserted island and lie on the beach, all the while listening to it on a cassette with my Walkman. I am SO down to do that.
As the bridge comes in (I… the Thanos part of the music video…I think it’s called a bridge, whatever; we’ve established that describing music is impossible) it’s clear the song knows that it’s veered a little far from home (deserted islands and all that) so it pulls you in for a hug because that bridge, that bridge is straight unabashed BACKSTREET with a shot of more Backstreet. This is where things get tricky and incoherent as I just vomit feels all over the place. It only lasted 20 seconds but WHO THE HELL gave The Boys permission to do that to me?
Actual footage of me experiencing the bridge for the first time…
I’ve never had to pay so much attention to a Backstreet Boys song before, but this song demands that I do. It keeps me on my toes but still warms them by the fire. The melody, the harmonies, the beat, the hook, the lyrics, the dancing (I know that counts as a comment on the video and Rose covered that but OH EM GEE THE DANCING) – every single box is checked. NOTHING about this song is an accident or done by chance, not even what I’m about to get into next.
The most refreshing aspect of the song and what injects the biggest shot of adrenaline running through its veins is by faaaaaaaaaaar its overall pitch. Subverting our expectations once again, the song heavily features…Brian’s voice.
Now if this really was 1998 and you were reading this blog on your 15-inch CRT-screened iMac G3, not only would its typeface probably be Comic Sans, but you’d be really confused by the previous paragraph.
But this is 2018 and Brian’s voice has gone through changes. How you choose to qualify those changes is up to you, I doubt Brian cares. In the face of adversity any comments from the peanut gallery only result in allergy. What really matters is how the group chooses to move forward with this new reality, and they’ve unapologetically embraced it and made it their new sound on this song, and now I’ve embraced it too.
Throughout the song Brian (and Howie…Howaaaard, I see you!) fight for falsetto supremacy as Kevin, ever the big brother, tries to stop the quarrel. What results once AJ and Nick join in and the five guys settle in to their pocket is the most unique combination of their voices I’ve ever heard, with Brian leading the charge. If that’s the lemonade BSB wants to make with the lemons he’s accumulated over the last little while, then I’ll take mine spiked with Canadian Club – please and thank you; it sounds BEAUTIFUL.
So what now? I’ve done my best to illustrate what I think this song sets out to accomplish but if anything’s clear it’s that The Boys have filled the tank with gas and it’s up to us to drive the car. As we take this first exit on our journey you can choose to be the person who takes the wheel and drives until you’re too tired, or you can ride shotgun waiting to be a relief driver as the other sleeps. Trust me though, if you’re by any chance hitchhiking and not in the car by the time the next Backstreet Boys album drops, it WILL run you over.