Julia Shapiro lives in Seattle and performs in the bands Chastity Belt, Childbirth and Who Is She. Chastity Belt put out their third record in June 2017 called I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone on the label Hardly Art. Some of her other interests include watching reality TV, taking long walks, petting dogs, and gossiping.
It’s 2019, and over 20 years have passed since the Backstreet Boys released their debut album. They are no longer boys, but men in their 40s with wives, children and, presumably, therapists. This, along with the fact that I was always more of an *NSYNC fan as a child, led me to believe I was definitely not going to enjoy the Backstreet Boys’ new album DNA. It turns out I was wrong; this album rocks. Sure, there are some duds on it, but they only make the hits seem them that much more impressive.
While I would say bands like Maroon 5 have declined with age, the Backstreet Boys have at least plateaued. With DNA they’ve managed to adopt a more contemporary sound, while not straying too far from their boy band roots. What amazes me most is that they’re still performing choreographed dance routines. The Backstreet Boys have tried their hardest to resist any kind of change, and maybe that’s why I feel so attached to them now. Just the fact that they’ve managed to maintain their original lineup is inspiring in itself. Even though they have evolved a bit over the years, there will always be something really nostalgic about them, and that nostalgia factor is driving their career.
The Backstreet Boys are pioneers; they served as a paradigm of what it meant to be in a boy band in the ‘90s. Maybe I’m biased because I grew up with them, but I don’t know if any other group today can compare. One Direction is great and all, but they can’t dance, and looking back on *NSYNC’s earlier work, I think the Backstreet Boys’ albums have actually held up better. They have the voices of angels, and their harmonies bring tears to my eyes.
My favorite song on DNA is the first single, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart.” It sounds like a song we’ve all heard before, but not in a bad way. I recommend checking out the music video, which (aside from new technology and special effects) looks as if it could have been made in the late ‘90s. It features the whole band singing in front of stage lights and performing choreographed dance moves, some of which go along with the lyrics in a very literal sense. The song is catchy as hell, and I can’t stop listening to it.
The second single, “Chances,” is also very strong. The tenderness of the melody is reminiscent of some earlier Backstreet Boys tracks. The lyrics on this song, along with the rest of the album, are vague and generic, but this is what we all expect from the band, and I can’t see any other formula working, to be honest. AJ McLean comes in hot on the second verse. His voice is deeper and more operatic than the other members, so it really stands out when he starts to sing. It’s the kind of voice that would fit in well on a trashy pop country album.
“Breathe,” stands out as the only a capella ballad on the album. I usually hate this kind of thing, but coming from the Backstreet Boys I find it acceptable. It isn’t a big departure from what the band was doing at the very start of their career, and they do it so well. Their voices just harmonize so perfectly together. It’s a pretty bold move to release an a capella song in 2019, so congrats boys, job well done.
The next song on the album is “New Love,” which begins with a really dirty bass line and the lyrics, “Who are you the sex police? My sex ain’t got no rules.” Right off the bat, this is not a song I am proud of liking, but that bass line just feels really really good. Maybe I just allow the Backstreet Boys to get away with things that other groups can’t quite pull off, but I’m pretty sure this is a good song? I will say though, if Nick Carter happens to be the one singing that opening line, this song has darker undertones that I am not at all comfortable with. Last year, Nick faced rape allegations, but wasn’t charged since the statute of limitations had expired. The other Backstreet Boys are off the hook for now, but Nick, your sex needs to have some rules.
There are definitely moments on DNA that I am not fond of. “Passionate” and “No Place” are low points for me. “Passionate” has that funk-style guitar strumming pattern that I will just never be able to handle, along with some horn arrangements that enrage me. “No Place” has a very wholesome message, but it is just too Christian rock for my liking.
Putting their music aside, there’s just something really endearing about each of the Backstreet Boys (aside from Nick Carter of course, who is a villain and, again, an alleged rapist). If any of you have seen the 2015 rockumentary Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, you’ll know that each member has at least one tender moment in the film where they share a childhood memory and then burst into tears. There’s something about a grown man crying that simply moves me, I can’t help it.
A video press release for the band’s upcoming world tour states that the band “analyzed their individual DNA profiles to see what crucial element each member represents in the group’s DNA.” It then goes on to describe each of their individual characteristics. In case you’re unfamiliar with them, I have decided to do the same, while also ranking them:
After watching the documentary, it was clear to me that Kevin Richardson is the peacekeeper and shining star of the band. He comes across as very kind, genuine and earnest. He won my heart, so he comes in first place.
Howie Dorough is a close second. He is also very sweet and upbeat, and he probably has the smallest ego of them all, because he is often forgotten. In the documentary he tells a heart wrenching story about how his dad made him kill and eat his pet rabbit when he was a kid.
AJ is a self-proclaimed “bad boy,” who has gone to rehab and wants to come across as hard, despite being in a boy band. I don’t mind him.
It’s hard to say why, but Brian Littrell just bothers me. He is super Christian and is clearly struggling to find happiness, so I wish him luck with that.
In last place is Nick, who is a demon from hell. Judging by what I saw in the rock doc, he has an anger problem, which is probably why he was recently arrested after getting in a bar fight in Key West. Also, as I mentioned before, it’s very possible that he is a sex offender. Let’s just pretend Nick doesn’t exist.
The Backstreet Boys are hitting the road this summer, playing arenas around the world, and I’ll be darned if I don’t get my hands on one of those tickets. After listening to DNA, I have come to terms with the fact that I am now a full-fledged Backstreet Boys fan (fuck *NSYNC). I am shocked by the number of times I have listened to “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” since first hearing it, so if anyone wants to buy me tickets to their Seattle show this July, I will gladly accept. I really would love to see those choreographed dance moves live.