April 29, 2002 12:00 PM

Michael Bolton (Jive)

Michael Bolton still tackles a tune like a linebacker, bellowing even the most banal lyrics. Having not had a Top 10 hit in more than eight years, though, he has taken a step toward repositioning himself as a sort of Backstreet Bolton.

For his first album of original material since 1997’s All That Matters, Bolton has turned to Jive Records, the label that brought you ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. The disc’s first single, the title track, was cowritten and coproduced by Max Martin, the Swedish mastermind behind BSB’s “I Want It That Way” and ‘N Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.” But although one can almost imagine Justin Timberlake singing the treacly ballad “Only a Woman Like You,” Bolton, 49, isn’t going after the teenyboppers here. He sticks to the fare that made him a fixture on adult-contemporary radio in the late ’80s and early ’90s, only occasionally adding a dash of Latin, Middle Eastern or country to the mix. Whether he makes you swoon or gag, you’ve got to give it to the guy for being able to sing an insipid song like “Love with My Eyes Closed” with such conviction.

Bottom Line: Michael Beltin’

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