“I’ve got mixed emotions” sings Nick Carter at the start of this tune, and with five years passing since a new Backstreet Boys song, and 18 years since they had any form of cultural cache, he is right to feel a bit of trepidation.
He needn’t have worried though, the new Backstreet Boys single is a home run, and not in that LOL-Gabbie-it’s-the-new-BSB-song way, and not in a throwback OMG 5ive are touring with S Club;let’s-go-Gabbie way. It’s just a great pop tune, by a group that know exactly what is required of them. They know what a banging Backstreet song sounds like, and this is what they have delivered.
The falsetto chorus could have sat nicely on any of the pre-cabin-and-Bon-Iver Justin Timberlake albums – but he changed up his style, took his eyes of the prize and BAM! The originals came along and swept in with this gem.
SIDENOTE: A timeline of the Timberlake voice, that nasally hum that slides into an MJ-style falsetto: I believe the origins of this voice are with Jordan Knight, main dude from New Kids On the Block. Check verse one of ‘Step By Step’. Then Nick Carter adopted it, as did Justin Timberlake, and now it’s Drake’s domain.
The best thing about this song, however, is the video clip.
It’s like they hired the exact same director and effects team that helmed their late ’90s clips, and the director went, “well, actually the old lights and screen are still set up in the old warehouse”, to which Kevin (it was probably Kevin, yeah?) would have said, “that old warehouse in Anaheim?” and Nick would have made some quip about how he hopes they’re aren’t still paying rent on that place. The director would giggle nervously, because it would actually be true, but they go along and check, the memories flood back, and they quickly decide to shoot an “old school” Backstreet Boys clip.
I feel this would have been the overall directive: keep it “old school”, with “old school” being bantered like a mantra throughout the two half-day shoots.
Look within yourself, and then try to tell us you DON’T still want it this way…
They haven’t used any lighting or effects past Y2K, the dance moves are also of that same vintage, and the guys don’t care that they are past the age where such moves are witnessed without too much heavy scrutiny.
I wrote some years ago, after seeing BSB on a double-header tour with NKOTB, that “Nostalgia rarely holds up this well, and as endless fifty-somethings keep crunching distortion pedals while straining to ‘rock out’ in inverse proportion to their age, this all seems quite vital and youthful by comparison.”
I also wrote in that same review that “there seemed to be a shared suspension of age-appropriate dress, dance-moves and audience response […] and rather than attempting to segue gracefully into middle age, they seem to be aiming at the same 12-17 market they always did, and the 25-39 audience responded in kind. They were, after all, once this demographic – and nobody seemed to mind falling back into those bad old ways for one evening.”
This clip and the song captures that same time-warp age-suspension thing the Backstreet Boys do so well, and it works a treat.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Backstreet’s Back, alright!”