Our Play by Play Through Backstreet Boys’ DNA

DNA IS HERE. IT IS FINALLY HERE! We have the album in our hot little hands and holy crap.

I thought it’d be fun to write my thoughts as I listen to the song track by track. Then I thought it’d be even more fun if my friend, co-tweeter, and co-mod Gemma joined me in the blogging fun! Cause sometimes you just need a partner in crime on this stuff. She’ll be in green and I’ll be in blue. This way you can get some varied opinions and it felt more organic than a lengthy review. Not that I mind doing those as I’ve already written some detailed ones for Chances, No Place, and Breathe while Gemma wrote one for Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Still, why not switch it up sometimes, right? So let’s dig in!


1. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Rose: This is the song that really launched all of the craziness. Even when it’s almost a year later, I still marvel at how catchy this song is and how it manages to be current yet so very Backstreet at the same time. Still love it.

Gemma: My thoughts on the song haven’t changed much from the time I wrote my guest blog about it back in May. That was early in the song’s life and it sort of set the tone with how I’ve interacted with a lot of the songs on the album. This song and the album in general really show that there’s a difference between liking (or disliking) a song for reasons of personal preference and developing an appreciation for one because you can hear the care that was taken with crafting it. I’m in the former camp with this one and I think all the songs that follow can be succinctly divided into the two.  


2. Nobody Else
Rose: This track feels very otherworldly. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s very smooth and I could see it airing during like a dramatic sci-fi scene or something. It’s incredibly mellow and sounds like nothing else they’ve released. Track two and the experimenting is already obvious I think.

Gemma: I have to agree with Rose that this song is incredibly thematic and might work well on a movie soundtrack. The lyrics seem like they’re pulled from off a dramatic movie script. It does a good job filling out the album and keeps with a vibe that I think is decidedly darker than other BSB albums. This song also really makes me want a glass of wine.


3. Breathe
Rose: There are not enough words in the universe to describe how much I love this eargasm.

Gemma: It’s hard to think of this song in the context of the album because it’s the only a capella song and it’s a promotional song I’ve had more time to sit with than the others, but that being said, I think this is a great representation of a song that understands what it means to be both well-crafted and a fan favourite. I think AJ’s mentioned in the group’s promo blitz for the DNA that fans have wanted an a capella song for a while and he’s right. That acknowledgement along with a killer arrangement and vocals makes for a beautiful piece of work that is uber satisfying to listen to as a fan.


4. New Love
Rose: Whoa. First off this went DEEP vocally speaking. Also this song is sexy. It’s adult. These are grown ass Backstreet Boys singing this song. I’ve wanted a sexy rnb song from them for years. This is what I wished PDA had been. This is outside their box, Brian wasn’t kidding when he said we wouldn’t recognize them on this song. I dig it. This song made me realize I’ve been putting them in a box too. Welp, that box just got destroyed.

Gemma: This song prompted me to throw out any notions of what I thought a BSB song should be and just take it for what it is and let them experiment. It’s a nice reminder that when the guys started out we didn’t have the “Backstreet Sound” as it were; that had to be built over time. All that can happen from letting this song live is that it adds another verse to that larger song, and who doesn’t want that? I totally agree with Rose that it’s a FAR more successful version of PDA on all accounts. New Love is ultimately still growing on me but I’mma let it because I think the effort that went into it is worth it. Where PDA sounded awkward trying to be different, this song shines because of it.


5. Passionate
Rose: I want to marry this song. I am freaking obsessed beyond words. My first go through I wouldn’t even finish listening to the album. I literally kept clicking back and put it on repeat several times. Also – WHY is this song not a single yet? This song is funky. This song is radio friendly. This song is like something Bruno Mars would do but even better cause of the damn harmonies! I need more songs like this Boys. Now. Go make them.

Gemma: FINALLY, a song that echoes the awesomeness that is Set It Off. I think this song’s placement after New Love initially made it a little difficult for me to digest, but the more I listen the more delicious it is. Bonafide well crafted hit just like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and definitely worth a release as a single.

I almost want to put a pin in my thoughts on New Love and Passionate. What I’ve written here is what I feel in the moment, but these are the types of songs that change the game. I do think they need to marinate in my brain longer than a couple days.


6. Is It Just Me
Rose: This is a groove; the album starts to mellow out again here. I can relax to this after a long day at work. I’m so glad they’ve really dived back into rnb. It’s probably my favorite sound from them and songs like this are why.

Gemma: Woot! After two really heavy tracks we get to chill. I love the story in this song, it really grabs you and I think is something well-placed for an album like this, it’s sexy like most of the songs but this song’s sexiness comes from how honest it is – it’s lyrically naked. I feel like everyone’s thought “is it just me?” at one point or another in a relationship. Cool track.


7. Chances
Rose: Bless Ryan Tedder and Shawn Mendes for this song. Ryan Tedder just needs to keep giving them songs between this and Undone. Their voices soar, and it’s really a touching song all of us can relate to. Months old and I still play this one over and over.

Gemma: *Don’t geek out over Shawn Mendes’s Canadianness, don’t geek out over Shawn Mendes’s Canadianness, don’t geek out over Shawn Mendes’s Canadianness…*

This song does a really good job of sounding like classic Backstreet in structure, the only thing missing from that effort being harmonies. I love the concept of it and think that’s where it shines, similar to “Is It Just Me”. Another well-placed song that helps glue the album together.


8. No Place
Rose: I’ve never been a huge country person but this song really is them. It shows in the lyrics, it shows in the way they sing it. It’s a simplistic but touching song and can get in your head pretty freaking easily. 

Gemma: Yeah, country sounding songs are utterly “meh” to me but genre aside, it’s cool to hear a song reflect an idea that the Boys have talked about forever – that home is wherever their families are. Some of DNA’s songs are really pushing me to exercise my suspension of disbelief lyrics-wise, and it’s nice to have a track that I can tell is autobiographical.


9. Chateau
Rose: The first song that took a couple listens to get in to. But now I think the lyric Baby come back… and next thing I know I’m stuck singing it for an hour. So obviously this one is a grower. The lyrics are a bit rhyme-y but that’s fine. It’s probably why I’m singing it again now. Earworm, thy name is Chateau.

Gemma: This song just makes me happy and is probably the one I have the strongest unbridled emotional connection with. In an album full of relative exploration for the Boys this song pitches a tent all the fans can sit in a reflect on what we’ve been through in this fandom for however long we’ve been though it.

Chateau is also hooky as all get out like BSB songs of yore, and my heart jumped to the moon when I heard that signature blend on the chorus for the first time. MAN, I love that feeling. A lovely soft place to land as the album winds down.


10. The Way It Was
Rose: We need to talk about the stripped-down vocals at the beginning. SING IT NICKOLAS. I loved this song from the start. I was raised on oldies and hearing them do songs like this is truly the best. Nick really shines on this song but then, out of nowhere, Kevin comes belting. This is the kind of song that convinces me that during any other decade before now, it would have never taken this long for BSB to get the respect they’ve always deserved. Amazing.

Gemma: Shit the Backstreet Boys are talented. This is the type of song that makes me wanna pat myself on the back and just be like “YES BRUH – I’VE HAD THOSE MO’FOS PEGGED SINCE I BE WATCHING BARNEY – WHAT ABOUT IT!?” Man, I’m awesome.

Get it Backstreet Boys, get it.


11. Just Like You Like It
Rose: I’ve already said how I feel about country songs but the more I play this album? The more I actively skip to this song. What can I say, I’m a fan of songs that really showcase them. Simplicity can be everything. 

Gemma: Because country-tinged Backstreet Boys songs will always be songs I need to come around to liking, I don’t know that I’ve developed an appreciation for this song yet. It’s completely a personal preference thing and without having an understanding the meaning behind the song like I do with “No Place”, I don’t know that there’s enough here for me to get beyond my apathy toward the song’s genre.


12. OK
Rose: My first thought with this was Hot Hot Hot only a bit, less quirky? It’s definitely different. It’s like the older brother to that song and I definitely enjoy it more. I think the strongest thing about this album as a whole is how catchy it is. It doesn’t take long for you to sing it along. As I’m writing this I’m already going as long I’m with you I’m OK. It’s an oddly fitting way to close out the album though.

Gemma: What an awesome album closer. DNA is a lot to take in at times and QUITE the journey for a fan and it’s nice to inject a little levity and end the album on a heartening note. The guys and the fans have been through it and I think the song is saying that as long as we remain in this fan-mily and lift each other up we’re gonna be good.


Bonus Tracks (Japan Import)

13. Said I Love You
Rose: Every album I get angry about bonus tracks being bonus tracks. This is no exception. How? Why? This one is darker, an almost modern version of The Call. Could you imagine this live? COME ON! This song alone has me with no regrets on ordering the Japanese Edition of the album despite paying a lot for fast shipping. Said I Love You, But I…LIED – the beat on this one is fantastic.

Gemma: I second Rose’s comparison to The Call with this track. I remember being 11 hearing that for the first time and tripping out over how my beloved Backstreet Boys could do something so terrible. Welp, 19 years later and it’s clear that they are still A-1 human beings, lol. I actually had to pause it after the first chorus because I was so surprised at how punchy it was. Wicked track that I think would’ve fit perfectly on the album in place of the country-ish stuff.


14. Do You Remember
Rose: The other track I’m annoyed wasn’t on the main album, as perfect as it was. I remember when Kevin posted clips of this song as it was being recorded ages ago. It’s as good as I hoped as it was then. The harmonies are slick on this one and Kevin in particular stands out yet again. This is the kind of song you turn up in the car, driving down the road on a sunny day. The melody is upbeat and you just want to bop.

Gemma: LOVE the retro Carol King vibe on this track. Hearing Kevin lead gives BSB songs such a different feel. His voice is so calming and I think this song would’ve been a welcomed bright spot on the main track list.


15. Best Days
Rose: Now this one I’m okay with it being left off. The vocals are fantastic, it’s piano driven and it’s got a power ballad feel while still being more mid-tempo. I really like it, but it’s not a song I would’ve fought to have on the main record unlike the other two. Howie really drives this song and sounds great doing so.

Gemma: I agree with Rose here. I don’t know that the album needs another regretful song of longing. I adore that breakdown Kevin sings and hearing Howie lead is cool. Hopefully they can sit on this one for another album (or maybe an EP of bonus tracks?).


Overall Thoughts:

Rose: I had no idea what to expect. But what I thought we’d get wasn’t this. This is far better. They played with new sounds, new vocals, new producers. They took their time with this album and you can tell. If I ever thought an album was them, it would be DNA in that it really does touch upon everything they’ve done and want to do. This was as Kevin says “quality over quantity”. I know many will say this is Nick driven and I’m absolutely biased in my being perfectly fine with that. But all the Boys absolutely have incredible moments to shine on this album, Kevin especially. If this is the kind of album we’ll get every time we’re forced to wait five to six years? I’ll never rush BSB again.

Gemma: Now is a really good time to release an album like this. If I were to compare its vibe to another BSB album it would probably be This Is Us. Unfortunately, without Kevin that album’s attempt at reinvention felt to me like they were intentionally trying to carve out a place for themselves without him after musically leaving the door open on Unbreakable, and that never sat well. Having him on an album that has a similar sound (but let’s not kid ourselves, a MILLION times better) helps me understand that that was never the case, and it’s like I’ve gotten retroactive musical approval from Kevin to be OK with the fact that he left.

There’s just so much here and I have immense respect for the piece of work it is. It’s not a fan-servicey sounding album by any stretch and the fact that it’s unapologetic about being different at certain times but still understands that it’s a Backstreet Boys album at others makes it really inviting for me. DNA is simply a collection of great songs that help remind fans why we’re here in the first place, because the guys are talented.


Want The Import Version from Japan? Get It Here

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