After literally decades of waiting, we finally get our Christmas album from the Backstreet Boys. It’s hard not to have crazy expectations, high hopes and just wildly dreaming about what will be on the album. And honestly I’m guilty of this. Becuase we’ve just wanted this for so long, it’s easy to let the imagination run wild. And I’m beyond excited that I have this album in my hot little…streaming app cause my preorder from Target isn’t arriving on time.
Let’s start with first impressions, okay?
This is easily the most vocally balanced album they’ve ever done. Like seriously. I’d say they all have an evenly balanced time to shine. And when they attempted this on prior albums, like In A World Like This, it could sound forced at times. Even the Boys themselves admitted that. Yet on A Very Backstreet Christmas, it somehow works? It might be because since this is an album primarily filled with covers of Christmas classics, it inevitably lent itself to an older style of music. I’ve said for years that the harmonies of the Boys would’ve gotten respect far sooner if they’d existed in earlier decades like the fifties and sixties. These are songs clearly made for their harmonies.
Multiple times this album managed to give me chills.
This album really plays into their strengths. Both as a group and individually. Brian shines in a way he hasn’t because they catered to his current voice. He sounds fantastic and not because of editing. Howie gets to truly show off his range and remind people of just why you shouldn’t underestimate him. Kevin, man, on this album? He just oozes soul. He’s so silky smooth throughout that it’s almost criminal. AJ’s level of control on this album whether he’s crooning softly or belting his life away? Incredible. And Nick of course shows off one of his best skills, his vocal versatility. They really got the right producers for this, they did right by our Boys.
Now…song by song. Let’s go! Keep in mind I’ve obviously never been a musician or a critic. Just a passionate fan who loves to talk about music and has been forever fascinated by the craft itself.
White Christmas – Already man, I feel like I got thrown back on time. It also took me a second, cause AJ? He’s so soft here, it’s perfection. I can’t remember the last time a song started out AJ, Howie, though. Usually it goes AJ, Nick or AJ, Brian. Speaking of Nick, he’s singing in one of his lower registers and I really dig it. Kevin just sounds so natural. Like I said above, all five but not forced? Brian brings it in and you almost forget he has vocal dystonia. It’s simple, but that’s a good thing. That ending though…I can’t wait to hear that a capella ending live.
The Christmas Song – Now personally my favorite take on this was done by one Christina Aguilera growing up. You have to do this song justice, without deviating from the original. And I feel like the Boys walk that line perfectly. Harmonies stamping it as uniquely theirs at just the right times. Reminding you just why they’re the best selling boyband ever. The background harmonies throughout the song? They could melt chocolate.
Winter Wonderland – I said before I even heard this album that this would be Kevin’s song because it just fits him all too well. And while I prayed for an a capella, I’d expected it for O Holy Night, not this song. But all that accompanies them are simple snaps. Snaps and their voices. That’s it. This song made me mad. WHY?! Because it’s less than TWO MINUTES LONG. What the living Hell Boys?! The a capella on this is beautiful? WHY is it so short? Come ON. I could rave about this cover forever. There’s so much to it. And right now it’s probably my favorite of the cover songs. I’m a sucker for beautiful vocals and a capella. I’ll rage if they don’t perform this live, honestly.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – I feel like I fell into a Hallmark Holiday movie as I started playing this. Really. Also I think this album is the most I’ve ever heard Kevin solo. And that’s not a dig at prior records. Or the Boys. I understand how it happens but Kevin really gets showcased on every song and we’re only four songs in. And can we take a moment to bask in AJ’s power vocals here?
Last Christmas – This song had a whole freaking blog post. Funnily enough it’s the outlier of the Christmas covers. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. It’s just interesting. But I know it’s because it’s the most “modern” of the songs they chose that weren’t original music. Still love it though.
O Holy Night – This was definitely one I was looking forward to. While I’m admittedly not the most religious, I’ve always had an attachment to this out of all the slow holiday songs. Because it’s just always been stunningly beautiful. At first I was slightly disappointed it wasn’t a capella. However, the music doesn’t overpower their vocals, it compliments them. And the way their voices come together on the chorus? I got serious chills. This will get a ridiculous amount of replays I’m sure. A little bit of a swerve from Last Christmas, but not unwelcome. Nick on this one, he’s the one who caught my ear the most this time. He really lets his voice just…I don’t even have words.
This Christmas – This song is adorable and fun. It’s got this swing to it, and you immediately feel yourself bopping to the beat. I love fun Christmas songs. It’s got an element of funk that songs up until this point haven’t had so far. But the fact that it’s so fun and upbeat? It doesn’t sacrifice the harmonies for it. It’s jazzy and bluesy and man, BSB were really made for the wrong decade, weren’t they?
Same Old Lang Syne – So I’m not familiar with the original. But the way this fits BSB like a glove, if I didn’t know better I’d think this got written for them. I think my favorite repeating theme of this album is the fact it’s not overproduced. They really let the Boys stand on their own, making sure what really matters is front and center. Howie stood out to me here. The chrous, the amount of times all five come together on a verse…beautiful.
Silent Night – This actually was one of my least favorite Christmas songs. But Brian…where did this you come from? That opening was perfection! I missed this you! Him and Nick really sell this song for me. I’m not surprised about Nick since he sang it on The Masked Singer but still. Just, I’m stunned by how breathtaking their cover is.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – This jazzy tune, wow. AJ this is a side of you we don’t get to hear very often and I’m almost mad about it. Just when an OG fan has thought she heard everything, they pull out even more stops. Also if I could have Nick croon at me like this forever, I’d appreciate it. Please and thank you. In fact actually all five of you do that. Yup.
Now Let’s Move On To The Original Songs
Okay. There’s three and I’m going to really try and dig into each one.
Christmas In New York – This is the next single, reportedly. You best believe I’m paying a lot of attention. First off, it’s over four minutes. It’s been a few albums since we’ve gotten a single that long. I notice little things. It’s definitely got an older feel for a song I know is brand new. This entire album is making me want the Boys to do a bluesy pop album. Wow. The mood of this song makes me think of every movie that takes place in New York City, I could almost see some cheesy couple kissing under a light snowfall. Like this belongs in a movie. It’s so very Backstreet yet different than any other single out there. And not just because it’s a Christmas song. I don’t know if I would’ve chosen this as the next single. But that’s probably because there’s nothing but good options here. And hey I love that they went outside the box.
Together – This goes to a more classic pop that I would’ve expected for one of their original songs. That’s not a dig at it either. It’s upbeat, it’s poppy but it still has the silky smooth harmonies every other song leading up to this has had so far. Honestly I feel like this would be a great single as well. The chorus is ridiculously catchy. Original holiday songs have two gears, bad or wonderful. There’s no in between really. But so far we’re looking wonderful. I appreciate that even with the original songs, they still manage to keep it feeling old school and as if they belong just as much with the rest of the album.
Happy Days – Am I getting a pop/disco vibe from this almost instantly? Yes, yes I am. This might make it my immediate favorite of the three songs. I’m already dancing as I try to type. This is the song to party to. Not just on Christmas, but all the way up to New Years Eve. Where you’re toasting champagne glasses and counting down into a new year. This song keeps me smiling. And I love those songs, because they’re the ones that stick with you when you just want to drive down the road, blasting the song with your windows down. In that aspect it reminds me of Do You Remember from DNA‘s bonus tracks.
My overall closing thoughts? I’m stunned by the time and effort clearly put into this album. The amount of beautiful layered harmonies, weaving throughout the songs and not just on the choruses. They’re in the backgrounds, they’re on the verses, they’re all over. It’s a reminder to why they’ve cemented their place as the best selling boyband in history. The way they really took the time to showcase each and every member. I don’t think any of the Boys have ever sounded better. I can see why AJ in every interview has been so proud. I’m proud. This is the kind of album I’ll be able to play and shock naysayers with, because it blows any preconceived ideas away. Even good ones from someone like me.
It was worth the wait, Boys.