Photo Credit: Dennis Leupold
The existence of A Very Backstreet Christmas shouldn’t surprise anyone. Though the demand for new Christmas music remains low – year after year, more and more people seem to be sticking with the classics (Mariah, Kirsty MacColl, Michael Buble, etc.) over renditions from the stars of the moments – creating a holiday album remains an easy, low-stakes cash grab for the biggest stars. This is especially true for legacy acts who enjoy lasting goodwill and nostalgia – enter the Backstreet Boys.
One senses that if the quintet had released an album of holiday originals with their distinctive stylings, then A Very Backstreet Christmas could have been a refreshing and invigorating addition to the holiday canon. The problem then is that besides the two originals tacked onto the end of the album, the choice of covers is glaringly ill-suited to the stylings of AJ McLean and company.
No one asked for a Backstreet Boys Christmas album in October of 2022, yet here we are with A Very Backstreet Christmas – a collection of covers of the most famous holiday songs, from “White Christmas” to “Winter Wonderland.” Most of the songs covered here rely on capital P pop charm and an unashamed embrace of the saccharine, yet rather than giving into this, the Backstreet Boys put their own adult contemporary take on the music, sucking much – and in some cases, all – of the joy out of these songs.
The opener “White Christmas” is most indicative of this; a lifeless, flaccid cover lacking soul and interrupted with half-hearted “doo-wops” and I’m not sure “dum dums.” The following “The Christmas Song” is plagued by all the same problems, with the addition of some truly questionable vocal deliveries. The rest of the album plods on with the same problems reliably recurring – with, perhaps, the sole exception of “Last Christmas,” where falsettos and harmonies find the band inching closer than ever to recreating the original’s charm. Ultimately, the Backstreet Boys at least sound like they’re having fun on A Very Backstreet Christmas but the problem is that listening to the LP, no one else is.