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Album: Backstreet Boys: Never Gone
Street Date: June 14, 2005
Length: 47:41
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by: Nicole

It’s been nearly five years since the Backstreet Boys released a studio album of new material, but now, Backstreet’s back with the aptly-titled Never Gone. However, the tides of popular music have changed since their heyday. Bubblegum pop no longer rules the airwaves as it once did, so an evolution of sorts was necessary for the boys to remain relevant in today’s vast musical landscape. Gone are the synthesized instruments and cheesy dance moves, but on Never Gone, Brian, Nick, Kevin, AJ, and Howie don’t stray too far from the sound that endeared them to over 70 million record buyers across the globe.

1. Incomplete (3:59) – The comeback hit single leads off the album, sounding much more rock ballad than we remember from the days of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” The rougher voices of AJ McClean and Nick Carter trade off on lead vocals while a haunting piano melody sets the tone, for both the song and the entire album. They may be a bit more mature, but they can still lay down a great, catchy hook that resounds in your head long after you have turned off the album.

2. Just Want You To Know (3:53) – This song once again pairs the boys with proven hit maker Max Martin, and bears a rather strong resemblance to Kelly Clarkson’s smash, “Since U Been Gone.” With its lower verses and high energy choruses, it’s a tried and true formula that works well here. This track reeks of single potential, and is definitely the standout upbeat track on the album.

3. Crawling Back To You (3:44) – This song immediately reminds me of how much I love Brian Littrell’s voice on lead vocals that have not been displayed in the previous two tracks. (On a side note, I cannot wait for his solo album.) This song seems to be quickly striking a chord with fans, and will be the second single released to radio. This is absolutely a stellar Backstreet Boys ballad.

4. Weird World (4:12) – This is a weird track, and honestly, I don’t really “get it”. It sounds like it should’ve been on Nick Carter’s solo album rather than put out by the group as a whole, and “oddly interesting” is the best description I can come up with. However, extra points go to the boys for working with Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik.

5. I Still (3:49) – This is a super-catchy mid-tempo tune that definitely sounds like it could’ve been on any Backstreet Boys album that has ever or will ever exist for all of eternity. Great harmonies and a catchy chorus are hard at work here making this another typical, yet enjoyable Backstreet song.

6. Poster Girl (3:56) – This song is about a fictional poster girl named Jodie (or should we call her Paris?), who one of the boys – or maybe all? - is in love with. The beats are great and the song is definitely catchy, but the lyrics are terribly cliché and cheesy. It’s unfortunate that the lyrics are so bad here because the up-tempo music is great and could’ve been a standout on an album riddled with ballads.

7. Lose It All (4:04) – There’s nothing overtly special about this track, but it’s definitely a good, solid ballad. The lyrics are a bit cliché, but it’s a bitterly sweet track.

8. Climbing the Walls (3:43) - This is another strong midtempo track from the Boys. Brian Littrell sings lead on this tale of an inability to let go and it’s an extremely enjoyable piece of pop perfection. Lyrics such as “I’m climbing the walls/ Cause I miss your kiss” are prevalent, but if someone sang this song to me, I guarantee I’d give them a second chance. Somewhere down the line, this song should be released to the radio.

9. My Beautiful Woman (3:38) – This song relies heavily on AJ’s growl and is very remnant of “The Call” in terms of funky melody and hard-driving beats. It’s super catchy, and was at one point rumored to be the first single. The bridge is certainly a highlight in its catchy play-on-words, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they release this track as well.

10. Safest Place to Hide (4:40) – By this point on the album, I’m beginning to realize that a lot of the songs are vaguely similar to other songs we’ve heard from the group before, and for some reason this reminds me of “How Did I Fall In Love With You?” from the Black & Blue Album. Maybe it’s the lead vocals provided by Howie, but this is a very slow, harmonic track about finding that type of perfect love we all dream about. The high point is Kevin’s rarely-heard voice during the bridge.

11. Siberia (4:17) – For some reason, I find myself singing “My heart did time in Siberia,” and then I realize how ridiculous that sounds. However, somehow the Backstreet Boys make a lyric like that work. Lyrically, this track is odd, but melodically, it’s absolutely fantastic. Despite the odd concept behind this track, it offers a mature air of mystery lacking on some of the other cookie-cutter type ballads. Once again, the bridge here is the highlight.

12. Never Gone (3:46) – Considering that this is the title track of the album, I’d expect it to be stronger, but unfortunately, it’s one of the weakest on the album. We get the message: you’re still here.

Considering how long it has been since the Backstreet Boys released an album, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Never Gone. Overall, it’s a solid album, although a bit too ballad-heavy and same-sounding on the later tracks. Some of the lyrics fall into the stereotypical boyband clichés, but the songs that are good are really, really good. This album will definitely satiate the diehard fans, while nonbelievers may find themselves critical of the earnest balladeers. Plain and simple, this is a very obvious Backstreet Boys album, complete with gorgeous harmonies and catchy pop hooks. If you’re a casual fan only planning to download a few tracks (legally, of course!), head towards “Incomplete,” “Just Want You To Know,” “Crawling Back To You,” and “Climbing the Walls.” If you’re a diehard fan, this album won’t disappoint.

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