June 27, 2005 12:00 PM


Never Gone

Although they would like you to think that they were never gone, a lot has happened since Backstreet’s last new disc, 2000’s Black & Blue. Justin went solo, Nick and Jessica became TV stars, and Britney got married (twice) and pregnant. While Backstreeter Nick Carter also released a solo album, 2002’s dud Now or Never, the Boys mostly just got older. And the teen-pop sound of their ’90s heyday seemed so, well, last millennium. So now that Backstreet’s back, it’s more like “Who cares?” than “All right!” This comeback attempt, though not as bad as it could have been, finds Nick, Kevin, A.J., Howie and Brian struggling to remain relevant as they have fully grown from boys to men (indeed, oldest member Kevin Richardson is 33). Bubblegum-flavored cuts like “Poster Girl,” a fetching guitar-pop ditty, and “Weird World,” with its buoyant “hey hey heys,” would be better suited for, say, Jesse McCartney. And rock-tinged tracks like “My Beautiful Woman” fail to bring the desired edge. Backstreet Boys are still smooth crooners on sweet if sappy ballads such as “Safest Place to Hide” and the first single “Incomplete,” although the insipid “Siberia” may have you wanting to banish them from the pop scene for good.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Incomplete”

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