Black & Blue – Backstreet Boys – 2000
Claimed Sales: 24m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
Let’s start with addressing the elephant in the room first off. The official album artwork for Black & Blue, an album that sold 1.6 million copies in a single week in the US; an album that was the follow up to two of the biggest selling albums of the 90s and an album released on a label that were dominating the album chart is simply unacceptable. It looks like it was created on Paint in a frantic rush to push the album out in time for Christmas. I have literally taken off an entire point in my score below because of how terrible this album cover is and Jive records should be ashamed that it was released like this. The album itself is a mixed bag, from the highs of obvious career standout mid-tempo Shape of My Heart to the slushy Boyz II Men ripoff Time. Shining Star is an RnB tinged Darkchild produced track that both manages to sound like every other track he produced for the pop acts of the time. In fact that’s a trend that Backstreet Boys and Jive records seemed to have at the time. Get Another Boyfriend sounds so much like tracks from NSYNC’s No Strings Attached and Britney’s Oops!.. I Did It Again that it’s obvious that Max Martin and Co where churning out pop hits and just waiting for them to land on these albums. In cases like this track in particular and the banging Everyone and Not For Me the results are great, where the Swedish writing and production teams know how to bring the best out of the band. Yet again it’s evident that this is a proper collaborative effort from the band, each with a distinctive voice and while none truly match the level of performance you’d get from the likes of Justin or JC, Backstreet Boys still have the edge as a consistently tight group. The less said about the dreary ballads like the painful Yes I Will and the over the top I Promise You (With Everything I Am) the better. The Spanish guitar of the melodramatic More Than That fares better, but this is a band who have settled into midtempo pop hits and danceable bangers perfectly. I haven’t even mentioned the ‘definitely not cheating on our girlfriends’ narrative of opener The Call that ends up being the album’s most brilliantly bad song. Black & Blue continues most of the magic that Backstreet Boys made on Millennium and as an album it’s just about on par with that record. It’s just a shame that they had to release it with the cheapest album cover of the decade.
Rating: 6/10 (Yes, I am petty enough to dock an entire point for that album cover)
Will I listen again?: Probably just the best songs on the album.
Best Track: I very nearly went for one of the trio of excellent Swedish pop bangers here, but Shape of My Heart is arguably a better song than the impossibly great I Want It That Way.