fri 03/02/2023

Album: Backstreet Boys - A Very Backstreet Christmas | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Backstreet Boys - A Very Backstreet Christmas

Album: Backstreet Boys - A Very Backstreet Christmas

The Boys are back with a festive gift: pacing, phrasing and punch not included

'Ocado's not what it used to be...'

Good things don’t tend to come in slews. Slews seem to be reserved, pretty much exclusively, for the bad stuff: legal issues, school shootings, Christmas albums…  

And so we come, with aching predictability, to this year’s festive releases. Young at heart if not young in fact, US pop outfit Backstreet Boys have an impressive track record of catchy AF pop tunes under their belt from their 90s heyday. Use that as the sparkly wrapping for some of the biggest hitters in the Yuletide arsenal, and the result should be festive cheer all round, right?

Well, let’s have a look… First things first, the title doesn’t bode well. A Very Backstreet Christmas. It conjures images of a heavily shuttered workshop, set up in a poor part of town with little or no regard given to health and safety legislation, where legions of poor elves are worked to within an inch of their lives.

In reality, the album sounds about a tenth as interesting as that scenario suggests. Where we could have joy, we get a light dusting of saccharine sweetness; where we could have fun, we get earnest emoting; where we could have a knowing wink and a rimshot, we get poor pacing and worse phrasing.

And phrasing’s important at Christmas. Look at Bing Crosby – limited range, sure, but he know how to play to his strengths, and that meant making each word count. He wrung every ounce of meaning and more out of every lyric. For their part, The Backstreet Boys canter through “Winter Wonderland” like they’re in a theme park off the A31 and can’t wait to get off the clock and down the pub.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the other hand, is simply soporific. It sounds like the boys (the Boys?) have been at the prescription-only co-codamol, so devoid is it of lift or swing. In fact, the collection as a whole is so lacking in good, old-fashioned fun, it’s difficult to know who it’s aimed at. Fans will find none of the band’s trademark zippy funk lurking (final flourish “Happy Days” comes closest, but it screams “afterthought” like a sticking plaster on a broken leg). The cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas”, meanwhile, is a spectacular misfire and as utterly unnecessary as anything you'll have heard all year.

Festive cash grabs are par for the course – of course. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without pop acts joylessly strongarming us into seasonal submission like an MMA Santa with anger management issues, but this one gives absolutely nothing in return.

@jahshabby

It sounds like they’re in a theme park off the A31 and can’t wait to get off the clock and down the pub

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