The Backstreet Boys released their ninth studio album “DNA” in the first month of 2019 and it feels like a blast from the past.
While the boy group has departed from the image of frosted tips and baggy clothes, their voices still sound the same. The music on the album isn’t stuck in the 90’s, but the lyrics are reminiscent of the love songs that made the Backstreet Boys famous.
The title track “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” showcases primarily A.J. and Nick’s voices in the verses leading up to the chorus, but the high harmonies is a departure from the rest of the album and their older songs. The song starts off with a heavy piano undertone before breaking off into a more synthetic sound as it hits the first chorus. This is revisited throughout the song, keeping the listener interested in the progression of the song.
The group then plays with the sound of their traditional love songs in “Nobody Else”. The lyrics describe the emotional journey of a relationship and, with their harmonized voices, perfectly depict the story of how the relationship develops. The story is paired with modern electronic overtones and the subtle synthesized string instrument in the background to cover the higher register make for one of the better songs on the album.
They continue experimenting with their song “Breathe." The song is stripped of the electric touches from all of the other songs of the album, replaced by breathy and soft acapella. The melodies are soothing and the group’s vocal talent is obvious, but a stripped down song like this requires strong lyrics, which this song lacks. The lyrics are cliche and while the group does put forth enough emotion to account for the lack of lyrical integrity, the lack of fully matured verses may cause more lyrically inclined listeners to be disappointed.
Lyrical maturity and development is the main weak point on the album as a whole. “Passionate," “Chances” and “Chateau” all demonstrate this. While “Chances” and “Chateau” are more of a vocal retelling of stories revolving around finding love or reconnecting with an ex, they don’t add anything to the genre of love songs about those topics. In fact, they seem to contain the cliches of a romantic comedy with similar plotlines.
For a group that has been around for 25 years, it is expected that the group should experience growth both vocally and lyrically. The Backstreet Boys’ vocal performance over the course of the album is impressive, and the harmonies between members is seamless, but with this vocal maturity the audience should also expect lyrical maturity as well. For a 90’s boy band, lyrical maturity may not be on brand, but seeing a glimpse at what they can do with more developed lyrics and story in “Nobody Else” makes the rest of the songs on the album disappointing.
The overall album feels like the music and vocal are completely in 2019, yet the lyrics are stuck in the lovesick '90s. For casual listeners or older fans, this album hits all of the marks, but it doesn’t hold up to deeper analysis.