Never Gone – The Album That Could’ve Been

It’s the 25th anniversary this month and it’s got me feeling nostalgic as you guys all know.

I originally wasn’t going to tackle this topic. I thought about scrapping it, to be honest. Why? Because I was pretty sure I was the worst blogger to talk about this album. I admit it, I have a few issues with it. I’ve had rage issues when it comes to Never Gone if I’m honest with myself about it. Which I will be in here. I kind of have to be, I think. I do think it should be talked about. Because almost thirteen years later this album is STILL debated among fans. I figured I may as well.

I was going through some videos for my throwback posts, uploaded a few, organized a bit. I ended up rewatching the extras from the BSB Documentary. Mentions of the management influenced direction came up in one of the videos. That’s when I remembered this post I’d started and basically forgot about. You may not believe this, but for years I stood by the belief that the album was going in one direction and Jive forced it to go the other way. I felt it was easy to see, like when you look at the producers they worked with. Or the fact that the Boys wrote a lot of the songs that never made the album – all of which were in a more r&b flavored direction. It was hard to know for sure though when Unbreakable seemed to be a bit of everything, and This Is Us was very much a product of it’s time.

Still, I wasn’t surprised when In A World Like This was in the musical genre it happened to be in.

So I took a moment and put on Never Gone the album. Listened through it straight through without skipping or anything for the first time in YEARS. Yeah, it’s been that long. Crazy, right? But I needed to do it, and try to be as fair to an album I probably haven’t been very kind to. I’m a hard core fan, obviously. It’s why this blog exists. When we get bits of album information, I track it, I pay attention. Not so much to the soundbytes. Those will change from era to era. It’s just promotional math. But to the music they were making after Never Gone. The songs the Boys wrote, as opposed to what others wrote. The song Kevin wrote for the Never Gone album? Poppiest ballad on the entire album. I’m not saying it’s a bad album. I Still… came from that album and it’s one of my top ten faves. And over the years I’ve even come to appreciate the album as it is.

But it’s a polarizing album. It’s a frustrating one.

Why, is up for debate. It depends on your musical tastes. Howie spoke about how they cut back on the harmonies in an interview leading up to the album. For me, and others that was a warning sign. For others they shrugged it off. The album stands out as the most different in a line of BSB albums. In a game of “one of these things is not like the other”, Never Gone wins every time – and that’s including the albums that followed. A LOT of songs leaked in the opposite genre from the recording sessions for that album – all of them heavily rnb influenced. But when you make an album that’s nothing like you did before and nothing like you’ve done since, you have to expect some divide in the fandom about it.

I’m not going to lie, in retrospect I think the leaks are why I didn’t enjoy the album as much as I could’ve. Twenty Four songs leaked (counting different versions of the same song and covers) from this recording process. And the fact is? They’re the opposite of the direction the album took a direction in. Basically we were given a solid what if and it’s hard to let that go. Even so many years later. I listen to Lose It All and I wonder why Song For The Unloved didn’t make it instead of that song. I hear Crawling Back To You and think Tell Me should’ve been on the album instead. It’s like a kid who wanted ice cream and had to settle for a lollipop. You still got a treat but it doesn’t taste as good because you’re too busy thinking about what you didn’t get.

This is a long post but honestly I have a lot of thoughts about this album. When Incomplete leaked, I freaking LOVED it. I thought it was the best song they’d done at that time – but it was also the first BSB song I’d heard since the hiatus. (Besides Beautiful Woman but in my case I didn’t hear that song till after Incomplete. I wasn’t so…involved in the fandom yet. Leaks were a new concept.) Back when the album first came out I used to say the only songs I liked were I Still, Siberia, and Poster Girl. But that’s not true now. I’m not sure it even was then. The Never Gone tour was my first BSB concert ever so it’s got a special place in my fangirl heart. For an album I claimed I didn’t like, I still knew EVERY single word by heart at the shows. I still know the words to every track on the album now, which surprises me cause I do tend to skip over a lot of these songs.

Sure, if I wasn’t writing this post there’s a couple songs I’d skip over. But it wouldn’t be over half the album, or even half the album. It’d probably be three songs out of twelve. That’s not bad, not even close. Sure it’s not my favorite album but it seems the adult version of me (I was only eighteen when this album came out) is willing to admit she likes this album, even if it’s my “least favorite” – I still enjoy it over many albums from other groups or singers I claim to like. I like 98 Degrees, but I can’t sing every song off any of their albums by heart. But I can for Never Gone.

I smile and swoon to Nick’s voice when I hear Weird World. I burst out into song when I Still hits the chorus. I laugh during the spelling part of Beautiful Woman. I get chills hearing AJ sing during Incomplete. I remember the jokes they would make about Paris Hilton on tour when Poster Girl starts up. I adore when they do Safest Place To Hide a Capella. I wish to myself that they’d bring Siberia back to the set-lists. I get emotional when I listen to Kevin’s beautifully written song Never Gone. I belt out along to Just Want You To Know. Hate this album? I don’t hate it at all. It’s like secretly loving vegetables as a kid but refusing to admit it to mom cause you’ve carried too much of a fuss at this point. I love it, in my own sort of way.

In the end, I think Jive changed how the album could’ve developed. I think the album could’ve been something bigger, or even more epic. But honestly? It’s a wishing game now. The album Never Gone could’ve been? It never was. And that’s okay too. It helped the group grow and had this album not happened, things may not be the way they are. It’s part of BSB’s musical history whether you love this album or hate it.

And I mean…without this album, we never would’ve gotten the Just Want You To Know video.


And really, who doesn’t like Sphynkter?

15 thoughts on “Never Gone – The Album That Could’ve Been

  1. Ok maybe I’m one of the few. Maybe I’m weird. But from the first time I heard this album I loved it. In fact, after Black and Blue (because let’s face it, nothing will beat out the first 3 albums for those of us who have been there since the beginning), it became my favorite album until In A World Like This. I don’t know what you mean by leaks, where they come from or how you find them out, so I never knew there were other songs that should have been on the album or that it could have taken a different direction. All I know is I would play this album often when I was getting a shower and drying my hair because it’s fun to sing and dance to in front of a mirror. I wish I could have seen that tour. I didn’t get to see them til 2013 for their In A World Like This Tour. I waited years and I had to be in the very back of the venue. But I was there. I wanted to go backstage so bad it hurt but I couldn’t afford it. So I still have dreams of meeting them one day. Maybe go on a cruise or to another show with backstage passes. Until then I’ll be jamming to their existing albums, singing every single word. 😊


    1. Most of the fans now tend to either love or hate the album. There’s no middle and that’s okay. If you’ve never heard the leaked songs, check out our Media Archive – they’re all there. That said, I hope one day you achieve your dreams of meeting the Boys! Every fan deserves that moment ❤


      1. Sorry for posting my reply hastily. Thanks for directing us to the media archive Rose!! 😘😘


    2. Wow I could have written 99% of what you said. My top 3 fave albums Are Millennium
      In a world like this
      Never gone

      I’ve also never heard any leaked or un-released songs. Maybe someone or the blog writer can direct our poor souls to where to hear them (dare I say save them so that we can listen anytime??)

      I’ve never been on a cruise either. Heck I didn’t even know about them until the one in 2013 which was the previous one to 2018! (And I totally should have not the bullet and gone to this 2018 one. (Could have also gone to the 2013 one since I was [only] pregnant but not with a child yet that needed me. ) My husband and 3 yr old could have managed without me!!! That’s a regret I’ll carry!)

      My least favorite album is This is us. I’m just not into that dance/rave-type is music.

      Anyway, Hopefully we’ll get pointed in the right direction for the unreleased music and it’ll be like Christmas for us!!!!


  2. I’m relatively new to the fandom, can you discuss more about this? I’ve heard a lot of leaked songs but I don’t know which era the songs belong to. So you mean the Boys wanted to go to a more RnB sound after Black and Blue but Jive wanted them to go alternative rock?


    1. That’s what a lot of fans at the time believed. It’s hard to know for sure, but a lot of songs leaked from the NG sessions that were rnb based.

      Love Is
      All In This Together
      Can We Get Back To Love Again
      Forces Of Nature
      Don’t Disturb This Groove
      Set It Off (two versions)
      Song For The Unloved (upbeat)
      Song For The Unloved (rnb ballad)
      Color My World
      Lift Me Up
      Last Night You Saved My Life
      Let’s Do It For Love
      Love Knows I Love You
      Loving You
      Moving On
      Rush Over Me (or Rushing Through Me – two versions of the same song)
      Tell Me
      Welcome To My Heart

      Many of these were at least co-written by Howie as well. Towards the end of the recording period, (I want to say April or March) Jive hooked them up with Max Martin and everything sort of shifted. That’s when they recorded Siberia, Just Want You To Know, and I Still. There’s even a pop version of Climbing The Walls out there. With that many more rnb driven songs leaked from the Never Gone recordings being the exact opposite of the album, it really had a lot of fans mixed up and many were angry back then that they didn’t stay with that direction.


      1. Color My World was eventually given to Westlife for their Face To Face album that was released later after Never Gone. Having listened to both the BSB demo and the WL recording, it could have been a good collaboration between the two groups imo.


  3. And because there is no commenting on the media archive page.
    Rose, you need to check out AJ’s collaboration with a somewhat fake/parody band Death Death Die.
    AJ struck a chord with XM talk show host Jason Ellis and was on his show at least once if not more.
    Jason Ellis had a Death metal type “album” and band that AJ collaborated a song on called “butt town” or “take you down to butt town”.
    The song audio is on you tube but I’ve never been able to find the recording of the actual talk show when AJ was on. Maybe you or someone has a source for this????

    Also waaaaaay back when, ‘99 or 2000, the boys had a promotional cd out at Mervyns or jc penny’s. If you bought x amount of merchandise you got the cd.
    I had two, one broke in half on accident and I had a small cd case with that and some other CDs in it that I either left behind in a college dorm move or a bad egg roommate stole from me.
    I loooooved the songs on that (I think it was) Mervyns promo cd.
    Please try to find those!! I would instantly recognize the cd, but can’t remember the track names :,(


  4. I couldn’t agree with you more! There are so many unreleased songs that could have made it a solid r&b album. In my opinion it could have rivalled Usher’s Confessions album for sure and maybe even snagged a Grammy for a song or category, but alas we’ll never know…obviously you can’t pigeon hole artists; they can venture off in whatever direction they want but considering the songs they wrote, the artists they collaborated with, and their vibe at the time, Jive made a bad decision. They could have worst case done a double album with two different genres, kinda like Beyoncé with her I am…Sasha Fierce album with two sides. It’s not a terrible album, but it would have been nice to get the ice cream cone…


  5. I’m sorry for posting this a little late, however I don’t understand why Never Gone gets so much hate…I’m an avid BSB fan and I find Never Gone to be one of my fav albums. Maybe its the emo kid speaking for me considering I was into that genre of music at that time.

    I’m not sure if maybe it was because I was going through a very tough time when they released the album, but I felt like almost every song on that album spoke to me….


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