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- How many tracks are on the album/How long is it? -
The standard version of the album comes with 11 tracks and the deluxe edition which im reviewing includes an extra bonus track called Helpless, which features the rapper Pitbull. The main tracks (and running times) are as follows:-
1 - Straight Through My Heart (this is the first single from the album) - 3:28
2 - Bigger (this will be their next single, which was announced recently) - 3:16
3 - Bye Bye Love - 4:21
4 - All of Your Life (You Need Love) - 3:55
5 - If I Knew Then - 3:17
6 - This Is Us - 3:03
7 - PDA - 3:47
8 - Masquerade - 3:04
9 - She's a Dream - 3:59
10 - Shattered - 3:54
11 - Undone - 4:14
- Who have they worked with on this album? -
One of the main differences with this album is the number of different high end producers and collaboraters they've worked on. These include RedOne on Straight Through My Heart (who produced Lady Gaga's hits) and All of your Life, T-Pain on She's a Dream, Ryan Tedder from One Republic who co-wrote Undone with Josh Hoge and Troy Jonhson as well as Max Martin who co-wrote Bigger. Of course Max is known for the songs he wrote for BSB in the past and he's had some new found success with hits by Kelly Clarkson and others over the last few years as well. Claude Kelly also co-wrote Bye Bye Love.
- What about the group themselves, did they write anything? -
Yes, all four members of the group co-wrote the track 'She's a Dream' and Howie also co-wrote the title track 'This Is Us'.
- So, what is it like, musically? is it any good?! -
Ok so on to probably the most important part of the review. Two years on from the release of their last studio recorded album, Unbreakable and after quite a long time spent recording with numerous different producers and collaborators, This Is Us is what they've come out with.
Given my thoughts on Unbreakable, I was a bit hesitant about this album, if this turned out to be as bland as I remember thinking that previous album was, upon listening to it in full for the first time, I was definitely going to disappointed but im happy to say that it wasn't the case. Compared to Unbreakable, I do feel that the tracks on this album are less 'same-y', though there is a bit of an element of that but generally I think they are more distinct and their definitely catchier.
Again, this is quite an uplifting album, it has quite a 'feel good factor' to it and its one thats easy to hum along to. I don't think that This Is Us is half as bland as I felt Unbreakable was and so I really wasn't disappointed with it. The album is quite a solid pop album I feel, though it definitely has more of an urban R&B feel to it, its still very much pop oriented, which shouldn't surprise anyone.
The majority of the songs are uptempo, there aren't many ballads, the ballads on this album are Shattered and Undone and then the second single, Bigger, thats more of a mid tempo track, its not a ballad and its definitely not an uptempo either (im not convinced its got much commercial appeal as a single but at this point I feel that whatever they release as a single won't be received too well by the media because their name simply isn't seen as 'cool' anymore, unfortunately). I like Bigger because of the lyrics and the meaning behind it, its a very uplifting, positive song. It definitely has that classic 'Backstreet' sound to it, the beat is quite jolly and the vocals are soothing too. Its one that would be easy to clap along to, I imagine it'll be great in concert!
Another track thats similarly midtempo like Bigger, is the title track, This Is Us. This also has a very similar uplifting and positive feel to it and its also pretty catchy. It features piano playing in the background and an acoustic guitar at the end which is very pleasant and has quite an understated feel to it, its one of those songs that would gradually get in your head!.
Back to the ballads and Shattered has to be one of my favourite. The vocal harmonies are quite good in this track, infact I didn't realise that Brian had such a wide vocal range, you may well be quite shocked when you hear this track, he belts it out! lol. Its quite an atmospheric track, with Nicks vocals providing quite a haunting start and the slowly sung low key lyrics build up this story that lead to a faster paced chorus where their vocal harmonies are somewhat showed off. I think you could compare it to Siberia from the Never Gone album, for anyone who knows that. I like that each of the guys get their own chance to sing in this song so none of them are really left out, though Brian and Nick mainly feature. Shattered is one of my favourite songs on the album, along with Bye Bye Love, which is really catchy and fun as an uptempo song. Undone, the other ballad, also has a similar haunting kind of a feel to it.
Speaking of comparing tracks on this album to previous songs of theirs, another one I'd compare would be the uptemo dance track Masquerade to their popular hit Everybody (Backstreets Back), to me it sounds quite similar and I'd imagine if there was a video made for this song, it would have a similar sort of feel to it as that video had.
My first thought upon having heard the whole album in its entirety was this is it? thats the end? I wanted to hear it again from the top, compared to with Unbreakable which, while ok it did have more tracks, they sounded so similar and I wasn't left feeling like I wanted to re-play it again that quick. To me this is a good sign that this new album is a definite improvement, for me anyway. I've played the tracks a good few times since and I don't feel at all sick of it, I like the different tracks for different reasons (lyrics, the beat/rythm, vocal harmonies etc.) and im sure I'll be listening to it alot over the next few weeks!. I do listen to a number of other musical artists/groups and I like a number of different types of music, so if I don't like something or find it too bland, I won't make too much of an effort to get into it as such but I can honestly say without trying to seem too biased, that this album is an improvement, so I would gladly recommend it to anyone interested in it.
- Instruments -
I quite like the use of instruments in this album, the main ones being piano and guitar, with guitars featuring on Undone and both on This Is Us. It adds a nice edge to the tracks.
- Its all good, then? there's nothing bad to report? -
Hmmm, not quite. Like I say, I try not to be too biased and I'll always comment on negatives to anything im reviewing, if I feel there are any and this is no exception. Although in general, I do love this album, there are a couple of things worth mentioning.
First of all, in my opinion, is the use of autotune. Now I wouldn't say its used too much but I'm just not a fan of it at all really. I can understand why they used it but it irks me to have their voices distorted, the whole point of the group, what got them noticed originally, was their vocal talent, so why you'd use that, ehhh, I'm not keen on it but it isn't used to such an extent that it sounds like all the tracks are badly artificial, its sparingly used so its not too much of a problem, just be aware that it is used at points.
Also, the track All of your Life as well as their first single and the first track, Straight Through My Heart, has quite a 'euro-dance' feel to it which might not appeal to some. It is perhaps a bit too bass-y and with All of your Life the lyrics are rather cheesy, so thats perhaps not the best song from the album, although its not awful, its not really great either, it could be seen as a guilty pleasure song perhaps! im sure you know what I mean by that lol. Straight through my Heart is similar although not quite as cheesy, it is better than some of their previous singles have been of late but it hasn't impacted too well on the charts and it is perhaps a bit too BSB, I don't know... I quite like it but I guess its no big shakes so to speak either... anyway yes, both of those have quite a 'Euro-dance' feel to it and for the most part, im not overly keen on that style of music, so thats worth baring in mind.
Finally, the lyrics in She's a Dream. Ok nearly every fan has something to say about this. Basically, BSB talking about 'shorty' = mass hysteria and unhappy fans, for the most part lol you can decide if you think its too embarrassing or hilarious that their using more hip hop/urban type lyrics in that song, some of the lyrics include
'Shorty ain't got cable,
She don't even got a radio, way more than able.
What kinda girl should I take her for?
The perfect kind, just what I like,
exactly what I had in my mind, a dream...
She's a dream... yeah.. '
you make your own mind up on that one! but thats just the one track. I honestly would say that its worth overlooking a couple of tracks that aren't necessarily 'your thing' for the better tracks because, in my opinion, there are some real gems in there!
- Anything else to report regarding the deluxe edition? -
Yes, so the deluxe edition basically includes one extra track, Helpless featuring Pitbull as track 12. It also comes with a DVD, which includes 20 minutes worth of videos which were shot during the groups last concert in London, England at the O2 arena. The videos are of them singing the classic BSB hits I Want It That Way, Inconsolable, The One, The Call, Everybody (Backstreets Back) and Shape Of My Heart as well as the official music video for Straight Through My Heart (which has a vampire theme to it).
The deluxe edition costs about £11.99 whereas the standard version can be bought for about £8.99, for reference.
- Any last comments?/Conclusions -
I think that, all in all, this is a decent album from a group that have done well to last so long in the music business (over 16 years they've been going now) having been labelled as a boy band. Yes their songs are pop and are typically boy band material but they do have particularly strong vocals which are again shown off pretty well in this album. I like the use of various instruments and some sound effects are present from time to time which adds to the atmosphere of the tracks.
I like that this is another album that has quite an uplifting feel to it. It isn't utterly 'sugary sweet', its quite listenable, I don't feel too embarrassed playing the majority of the tracks, other than She's a Dream and All of your Life, really. I think this time around, they've, for the most part, swapped quantity (track wise) for quality and so having listened to the album in full a few times, im left feeling relieved and impressed. This, to me, features the classic Backstreet sound with a modern twist and it isn't as mediocre as their last studio album was, so if you can overlook a few negatives as mentioned above, I would definitely say its worth checking out.
I hope you found my review useful and thanks for any and all r/r/c's (I'll be needing the spare change for the tour next month lol). This review will be posted on Dooyoo UK at some point, under the same username.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Straight Through My Heart
3 Bye Bye Love
4 All Of Your Life (You Need Love)
5 If I Knew Then
6 This Is Us
9 She's A Dream
12 Helpless - Backstreet Boys & Pitbull
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 I Want It That Way
3 One, The
4 Call, The
5 Everybody (Backstreet's Back)
6 Shape Of My Heart
7 Straight Through My Heart