Tom: …huh. Way better than I thought it was going to be.
Tim: Hmm, see I’d have put it at ‘roughly what I was expecting’, though I guess either works.
Tom: I think that’s mostly because the main artist and featured credits are the wrong way round here: this is a Backstreet Boys song (and a good one) with a well-remixed chorus and some probably-unnecessary goose-honk synths.
Tim: Maybe, though it’s very much the remix bit that takes the focus – I’d posit that if it were a less well known act providing vocals, this could get away with being an uncredited session singer.
Tom: Yep, they’re trying to do a Take That. I don’t mean just ‘a comeback’ here — this is, like, their third comeback, and they’ve been in and out of the media ever since. Doing a Take That means actually putting out new, good, music that the fans want to hear as much as the old stuff. Take That only released Rule the World in 2006. Shine was 2009. The Flood was 2010. All of those deservedly belong on a greatest-hits album, and they were all part of the comeback.
So: the Backstreet Boys’ new track sounds…
Tom: …okay, I guess?
Tim: Yes, but more than that it sounds surprisingly modern. Take That was slightly contemporary, but largely what they’d done before. Here, it’s a like a brand new band. Just, kind of a shame I want to sing “I am not a stranger to the dark…” over that piano line.
“It seems more like they wanted to do a Christmas song.”
Tim: It’s December, I’m waking up to sub-zero temperatures, and Christmas tracks are all out in force, so LET’S JOIN IN, but we’ll begin with a Yuletide tale of days gone by.
Tom: And I’ll provide a bit of context for our new reader: over December, Tim sends me Christmas tracks. I’m a lot more cynical about Christmas music than he is. Actually, I’m a lot more cynical about many things than he is, but here it’s just a bit more obvious.
Tim: And every year, I change to change his mind. So, waaaaaaaaay way back when, in their 1996 heyday, Backstreet Boys did a Christmas song, Christmas Time. It was typical Backstreet Boys ballad and, much like *NSync’s one, was ill-advised and generally a bit shit.
Tom: That’s 99% of Christmas music right there.
Tim: Sixteen years later, though, when they got back together they decided to have another go, with a pleasing self-referential title.
Tim: And that’s one that’s really not shit. It seems more like they wanted to do a Christmas song, rather than were just told “you need to do a Christmas song so we can release a Christmas version of this album”.
Tom: It’s not like they just took an old track and added some sleigh bells over the top. It’s actually not all that bad, is it?
Tim: I don’t know if it’s partly just because I’m judging it from a 2016 perspective – 20 years ago the first may have seemed perfectly acceptable – but this is just so much more fun. More life, more instruments, more general bangingness…
Tom: Excuse me?
Tim: You heard. Quite surprised I’ve never used that word before, to be honest. Still, though, they’re keeping in all the standard bells, chimes and twinkliness of a typical track.
Tom: And some incredibly unflattering artwork. But yes, I’ll grant you, this is at least above average as Christmas tracks go.
Tim: Ah, we’re off to a good start then. Incidentally, what first drew my attention to this was the fact that the typically reliable Ida LaFontaine covered it last year; it’s not on YouTube, tediously, but is very much worth seeking out on Spotify or Apple Music or indeed any other musical provider, whatever floats your festive boat.
Nicely executed ballad, whatever way you look at it.
Tim: Another day, another pop act going…
Tom: Rock? Really?
Tim: No – actually in completely the other direction and bringing us a nice ballad instead to calm us down.
Tom: Whew. So, One Phone Call. Is this about heading to jail, by any chance?
Tim: And that’s quite nice, isn’t it?
Tom: Well, yes. Yes it is.
Tim: Nice message, until you consider the deeper implications – you’re the one person I’d call if I ever got in trouble, fine, but also you’re the one person I know who’s dedicated enough to put in the work to sort me out. Less of a statement of my love than that I recognise that you care for me, though I suppose that’s quite nice as well. Oh, I don’t know. Nicely executed ballad, whatever way you look at it, and a nice demonstration that they’re not just back here to jump on the back of One Direction’s sound.
Tom: Backstreet Boys are now, to an extent, Something for the Mums (and some Dads). And this’ll probably go down rather well for them.
Tim: Quite why they’ve put this out now is beyond me, because they’ve only just released In A World Like This to radio stations in America, but never mind – in the end Icona Pop’s strategy paid off, so what do I know.
Tim: Tom – help me. There’s a fairly well-known phrase, but I can’t quite think what it is, and you might know it. Two words, “Backstreet’s… something.” Here? Returned? Around?
Tom: “Almost certainly not as good as everyone remembers?”
Tim: Blimey – fighting talk from the man in the red corner, who’s clearly forgotten works of art like The One, Larger Than Life, Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) and this album cover.
Anyway, they’re all back together for the first time since 2006, they’ve got an album on the way that’s “a personal record” about what’s going on in their lives right now. With that in mind, let’s hear the lead single.
Tom: Bloody hell, I’d encourage our reader to check that Wikipedia link. That’s an astonishing list of songs.
Tim: It is indeed, and with this one they’re basically singing what could be a certain other band’s next big hit. Roughly half the age of these guys, just made in big in America – really, really big – you know the one I mean.
Tom: I wasn’t sure about that — it sounded a bit too generic and, well, “meh” — but then that glorious final chorus hit.
Tim: It’s a great track, and to be honest it’s hard to imagine this not being a hit – not only have they got the bang up to date sound spot on, but they’ve still got the massive fanbase from back in the day. This will be a big track, albeit not a remotely personal one, and it will deserve it.
Tom: Agreed. Backstreet is, indeed, back.
Tim: Also, I repaired a MacBook Pro belonging to Nick Carter a while back. Probably wasn’t this Nick Carter, but it was still quite exciting.