‘DNA’ proves Backstreet’s back, all right

Group’s ninth studio album updates their distinct boyband sound to fit 2019


The Backstreet Boys perform in Stockholm, Sweden in 2014. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Backstreet Boys are back at it again with their first Grammy nomination since 2002 and a jam-packed studio album showcasing their diverse musical range. According to a press release, the 2019 album, entitled “DNA”, incorporates “[the Backstreet Boys’] individual DNA profiles to see what crucial element each member represents in the group's DNA.” The group manages to pull off a risky concept as they combine an eclectic set of genres to elevate their 2000s sound to match the taste of millennials and generation Z-ers alike. 

The frontrunner of “DNA” and a comeback song for the group, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” screams of 1990s nostalgia coupled with a more sophisticated vibe which warrants a name change to the Backstreet Men. Nick Carter opens with a water metaphor — “Did I finally find me a river that could lead me out to the ocean?” — which grounds the lyrics as something familiar to the group and to the end of the millennium. 

The influence of EDM in the opening track is a stark reminder of the Backstreet Boys’ continuing effort to grow with time instead of living in the past. Songs like “Nobody Else” and “Is It Just Me” also fit in with current hits like 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Youngblood” and The Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” 

“DNA” shows the group renovating themselves in other ways as well. Recruiting new co-writers like Shawn Mendes and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic for “Chances” helps reestablish the group, more independent from the connotations of their past. 

The new album is also characterized by traces of country and funk, as well as a slight return to the Backstreet Boys’ more R&B roots. Some artistic liberties do seem slightly excessive but still intriguing in their own regard. “New Love,” for example, sounds like a mix of Timbaland in Justin Timberlake’s 2006 hit “SexyBack,” some centaurs playing the pan flute and a sick bass line. Although a bit jumbled, even this track proves captivating in its own way.

These new and sometimes conflicting sounds, however, make way for a strong demonstration of the raw talent the members possess. The harmonies which first drew fans in are maintained in “DNA,” especially in the a cappella song “Breathe.” While this track does make it feel like “Glee” is back on and Darren Criss is strutting his stuff with the Warblers at Regionals, it nevertheless showcases the Backstreet Boys’ vocal range exquisitely. The mellow yet soulful tones of the group are also highlighted in “The Way It Was” and “Chateau” — both songs are a testament to the way the Backstreet Boys’ style has aged much like fine wine.

The most underrated track of this album will prove to be “Passionate,” a funky twist on an otherwise lyrically-classic Backstreet Boys song. With cameos from the brass section of an orchestra, this song sounds perfect for a phone commercial. Every moment of the track provides some change of pace but in a refreshing rather than rushed manner.

“DNA” is a multifaceted evolution of the Backstreet Boys, incorporating their beloved sound from the ‘90s with audacious strides into various genres. The group has elevated itself to be on par with contemporary music, delighting fans old and new. The artistry of the album leaves fans of the American boyband hungry for more.

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