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This Is Us

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Album Review

Since their mid-2000s reunion, the Backstreet Boys have been acting like adults so it's not entirely a surprise that they've decided to shake things up on This Is Us, their third album of the comeback and second since becoming a quartet. Teaming up once again with Max Martin and working with a host of modern hitmakers as RedOne, the group takes a left turn back toward the rhythm-heavy, harmony-laden dance-pop that made their reputation a decade before. Never mind the name of the album — the group is tellingly quite willing to fade into background, letting the producers do their work, just content to sing the hooks. It's a sharp move in two ways: BSB never had as much on-record charisma as *NSync, their best trait was how they could sell a hook without affect, and that returns here. Of course, it helps that they have a bunch of hooks here, too — hooks that aren't quite as galvanizing as "I Want It That Way," but easily eclipsing those on the pedestrian Unbreakable, helping the band seem modern without seeming pandering. It's a move that the New Kids on the Block couldn't pull off on their tawdry, sex-obsessed comeback, and it's one that the Backstreets seemed incapable of doing just a few years ago, but on This Is Us, the group sounds great for their age, and they sound like they're at their peak — which is no guarantee of a hit, but it sure makes for a better album than they've produced in quite a while.

Biography

Formed: 1992 in Orlando, FL

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Backstreet Boys were, in many ways, a contradictory band. Comprised entirely of white middle-class Americans, the group sang a hybrid of new jack balladry, hip-hop, R&B, and dance club pop that originally found its greatest success in Canada and Europe, with their 1996 debut album charting in the Top Ten in nearly every country on the Continent. Ironically, success in their native land did not follow until nearly two years later, when teen pop enjoyed a commercial explosion in America. Along...
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This Is Us, Backstreet Boys
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