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Battle for No. 1: Unbreakable vs. Blackout

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Douglas Boultinghouse
Staff Writer   

   Two of the biggest pop acts of all time each released new albums Oct. 30.  Both albums serve as “comebacks” for Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. 

   I find it strange that the best-selling female artist and the best-selling boy band would release albums at the same time.  Ironically, the two are label mates on Jive Records, a part of Zomba Label Group

   What was Jive Records thinking?  Obviously they were thinking about money.  In they end, the company will make a huge profit from the releases. 

   If Jive wants to put them against one another competing on the charts, why not compare them? 


   The Backstreet Boys, BSB for short, chose “Unbreakable” as the title for their eighth album, their first record in two years.

   The boys now consist of AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell and Nick Carter.  Original fifth member, Kevin Richardson left the group in 2006 to pursue other career options.  A return by Richardson has not been ruled out and the remaining four do not plan to replace him. 

   The new album opens with the clever title of “Intro.” 

   The small clip lacks a purpose.  The boys offer harmonizing notes with a snippet of a later track from the album.  Pretty much, you can ignore this opening. 

   The real music begins with “Everything But Mine,” an upbeat track with each member alternating verses. 

   “Oh, you're the calm when my world is crashing / My heart, my blood, my passion. Why, tell me why / You're everything but mine / I hold you close when it all goes crazy / And through it all, you'll be my lady / Why, tell me why / You're everything / Everything but mine,” the four sing on the chorus. 

   I actually like this song.  It starts off mellow, but picks up with the chorus. 

   The single “Inconsolable” slides in at No. 3. 

   “I close the door / Like so many times, so many times before / Filmed like a scene on the cutting room floor / I wanna let you walk away tonight without a word / I try to sleep, yeah / But the clock is stuck on thoughts of you and me / A thousand more regrets unraveling,” Carter sings.

   Think you’ve found another typical Backstreet ballad?  Guess what?  You’re right. 

   I have nothing against the song, I just feel like I’ve heard it from them about five million times. 

   This next song annoys me to death.  I wish I could like it, but one thing keeps me from doing so.  The chorus kicks in and literally mimics the chorus of “Inconsolable.”  You could probably overlay the tracks and they would match up perfectly. 

   “And I don't wanna wait another minute to hear / Something that I already know,” begins the chorus of “Something that I Already Know.” 

   “I don't wanna waste another day / I wish that I could find the words to say,” begins the chorus of “Inconsolable.”  The lyrics are similar and the arrangement sounds exactly the same.  Funny isn’t it? 

   Finally, the group presents a great song with “Helpless When She Smiles.” 

   “I'm a house of cards in a hurricane / A reckless ride in the pouring rain / She cuts me and the pain is all I wanna feel / She tears away just like a child / She drives me crazy / Drives me wild / But I'm helpless when she smiles,” McLean leads on the chorus. 

   The lyrics, arrangement and vocals showcase the boys at their very best. 

   Again you have another perfect track with “Any Other Way.” 

   “I can't imagine it any other way / A world without you is only wasted space / You're gone and I'll always wonder / Why it can't be any other way,” the boys sing. 

   Not one thing can be found wrong with this song. 

   Thankfully not a cover track, but one with styles reminiscent of previous BSB songs, “One in a Million” literally serves as a flashback, a very good flashback too. 

   “Wish I could tell her / You're one in a million / You're going the distance, babe / You're gonna work it out someday / I wish I could tell her / You're one in a million / But you never even look my way,” Carter and Dorough sing. 

   “Panic” - What a seemingly unfitting title for such an incredible song. 

   “You're always walking away / One step and everything's over / And you're running back to me / You say I let you down / Baby take me in or just take me out I'm already dead / I already said (I already said) I'm sorry,” the four sing.

    BSB look like they’re on a roll.  “You Can Let Go” fits perfectly in place with the many great songs on the album. 

   “You been holding on so long / Tryin' to make believe that nothing's wrong / Not letting it show / And there ain't nothing you can do / To make me turn away from you / I need you to know / You can let go,” Littrell sings. 

   “Trouble Is" - Uh…. What trouble? 

   “The trouble is I can't get her out of my mind / When I close my eyes at night / Who's gonna save me / Now she's gone / The trouble is there's a part of me / That still can't let go of her memory / And now I know what it is / Love is what the trouble is,” the boys sing on the chorus of the song. 

   I have no problem saying that “Trouble Is” stands as the best track on the record. 

   OK, get this.  Back in the day during the teen-pop phenomenon, the main boy bands were BSB and Nsync.  After the indefinite split of Nsync, each of the members went on pursue other projects.  JC Chasez went with a solo career (which flopped), but continued to write songs for other artists. 

   One of Chasez’s songs went to the Backstreet Boys.  I am utterly shocked at how horrible this song turned out. 

   “Treat Me Right” deserves to be scratched off of every copy of this album. 

   “It's wrong to treat me cold / I've no one to hold / One day I'm gonna say goodbye / What's it gonna be / Girl I'm gonna leave / Unless you turn around / And treat me right,” read the lyrics to the chorus. 

   Good lyrics amount to nothing when the arrangement brings them down to nothing. 

   “Love Will Keep You Up All Night” luckily revives the album from the disastrous track before. 

   “'Cause love will keep you up all night / It's not something you can decide / One day you're all alone / The next you're crying on the phone / Love will keep you up all night / You got a taste of sweet divine / It took you to the other side / Love will keep you up all night,” McLean sings with a great arrangement of music. 

   “Unmistakable” gives “Trouble Is” a run for its money as the best track. 

   “There'll come a day / When you'll walk out of my dreams / Face to face / Like I'm imagining / Baby how can I be sure / That you're the one I'm waiting for / Will you be unmistakable?” McLean asks through song. 

   The song clearly describes how the one person for you out there will be unmistakable in a crowd.  The message, the lyrics, everything about this song makes it honestly unmistakable. 

   The last song on the album, “Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon,” previewed in the intro, provides the perfect close to the album.

   “I kissed your face / 'Til the sun was in our eyes / 'Til the afternoon arrived / And I can't explain / Last night I saw the fireworks / The kind of pain that never hurts / The one you hate to love is made for you another unsuspecting Sunday afternoon,” Littrell, McLean and Carter sing. 

   Just like any new album these days, “Unbreakable” comes with a few bonus tracks.  If you purchase the Deluxe Edition, you receive the tracks “Downpour” and “In Pieces.”  Ordering the Japanese version gives you the track “Nowhere to Go,” and if order the Australian version or pick your copy up at Wal-Mart, you get the track “There’s Us.”  

   The Backstreet Boys recorded a cover of the song “There’s Us,” that was originally recorded by Alexz Johnson for the television show "Instant Star."  Johnson provides a more personal and enchanting version while the boys’ version doesn’t come close to matching her standards. 

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   “It’s Britney, _ _ _ _ _!” opens the album.  You can fill in the blanks yourself. 

   The “Queen of Pop,” the legendary Ms. Britney Spears makes her return with her fifth album “Blackout.” 

   With all the drama surrounding Spears, people tend to forget why she’s famous.  The girl makes insanely catchy music. 

   I am not sure how she had time to record this album, seeing how we witness her every move because the Paparazzi is attached to her 24/7, but luckily for us, she did. 

   “Gimme More,” Spears’ highest charting single since her debut single “… Baby One More Time” begins the club-driven album. 

   “We can get down like there's no one around / We keep on rocking, we keep on rockin' / Cameras are flashing while we're dirty dancing / They keep watching, keep watchin' / Feels like the the crowd is saying / Gimme gimme more,” the diva sings.

   Despite the fact the song repeats the words “Gimme” and “More” over and over, you cannot shake the song from your head. 

   Britney speaks up on the next track. 

   “Piece of Me” lashes back at the media.  The words “Piece of Me” could be taken as a threat or a complaint.  Each way fits the life Spears has lived. 

   “I'm Miss Extra! Extra! This just in! / (You want a piece of me) / I'm Miss she's too big now she's too thin / (You want a piece of me) / I'm Miss American Dream since I was 17 / Don't matter if I step on the scene / Or sneak away to the Philippines / They still gon’ be pictures of my derri¨re in the magazine / You want a piece of me?” Spears sings over electric beats. 

   You will find nothing but pure honesty with a sarcastic twist in this song.  Britney’s still got it. 

   “Radar,” another club track follows. 

   “When you walk (when you walk) / When you talk (when you talk) / I get the tingle / I wanna mingle / That's what I want (that's what I want) / And listen, baby, don't try to debate it / Try to make you understand / You're on my radar (on my radar) / On my radar (on my radar),” the pop star chants. 

   “Break the Ice,” the rumored second single falls into place next. 

   “We can turn the heat up if you wanna / Turn the lights down low if you wanna / Just wanna move you / But you're frozen / That's what I'm saying / Let me break the ice,” she sings. 

   The chorus on this track heats things up.  Brit’s definitely at her best level yet. 

   “Heaven on Earth,” a very mellow track, slips in as track No. 5. 

   “Tell me that I'll always be the one that you want / Don't know what I'd do if I ever lose you / Look at you and what I see is heaven on earth / I'm in love with you,” Spears softly sings with pop beats backing her up. 

   Spears hits a small slump with the next two tracks.  The lyrics showcased on the songs are too risqué to reference and besides that, are weak. 

   Skipping over “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)” and “Freakshow,” let’s move straight into “Toy Soldier.” 

   “Toy Soldier” sticks out there as much as it sticks in your head.  If her label releases this song as a single, I have no doubt it will destroy the pop charts as it climbs to No. 1. 

   “This time I need a soldier, I'm sick of toy soldiers / A boy that knows how to take care of me, / Won't be just coming over,” Spears echoes before moving into the lines, “I want it more than ever now / I realized that they ain't listenin’ / Like a princess supposed to get it / That's why I'm dustin off my fitted / Coming back looking delicious / Yes I know they wanna kiss me / Now I holdin’ their attention / Cuz new Britney's on a mission.” 

   Her mission must have been to create the best pop song to be heard in years.  The beats, the hooks and the synthesized vocals make this track better than any other pop song. 

   “Hot as Ice,” weirdly titled, picks up where “Toy Soldier” leaves off. 

   “I’m cold as fire, baby / Hot as ice / If you've ever been to heaven / This is twice as nice / Break it down,” Britney cheerfully sings. 

   The beats literally seem to bounce, and the lyrics are clever and witty. 

   “Ooh Ooh Baby” sounds like the title a 4-year-old would name a song.  But I don’t think a 4-year-old could produce a song this catchy. 

   “Ooh, ooh baby / In your arms I finally breathe / Wrap me up in all your love / That's the oxygen I need,” she sings before the repetitive chant of the word “Baby.” 

   Spears pushes limits again with “Perfect Lover.”  She pushes them so far it would be wrong to include the raunchy lyrics. 

   The last track on the album, “Why Should I Be Sad,” serves as the only ballad, and it’s not even a real ballad.   

   Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. wrote the song based on what he read about Spears in the tabloids.  He nailed it on the head describing the downfall of Spears’ marriage. 

   “I sent you to Vegas / With a pocket roll of paper / Don't put no ultimatums on you / I thought what could separate us / But it just seemed that Vegas / Only brought the playa part of you / Lavish homes and fancy cars / Even got the drop Ferrari / Filled up our garage for you / Made your choice with all the teams / People let us in magazines / Tell me who'd I do that for, who? / Why should I be sad? / Heaven knows / From the stupid freaking things that you do / Or should I get back or sad / Who knows? / Just take it all / As a sign that we're through / Goodbye,” she tells. 

   The bonus tracks available for this album include “Everybody,” “Get Back” and a remix of “Gimme More” from iTunes as well as the the track “Outta This World” on the Japanese release of the album. 

In Conclusion 

  There are changes I would make to both albums. 

   For the Backstreet Boys, I would get rid of “Intro” and “Treat Me Right.”  I would also rework the chorus to “Something that I Already Know.” 

   For Spears, I would replace “Freakshow,” “Get Naked” and “Perfect Lover” with the three bonus tracks. 

  The albums differ from one another greatly, but they both prove that 15 years later for BSB and nine years for Spears, both still hold the capabilities of producing great music. 

   The Backstreet Boys keep the radio and television warm with promotion for their album.  Sadly the same cannot be said for Spears.  She has not promoted her album at all.  I hope the reason behind her decision turns out to be focusing on her children and her current custody battle. 

   In all honesty, both albums show the artists at their strongest.  As for which of the two will take the top spot on the Billboard charts, I say Britney.  With the hype created around her album, it would be impossible for her album not to debut at No. 1.  BSB will most likely pull in second or third, depending on how well Carrie Underwood sells in her second week. 

   I suggest picking up both albums to add to your collection.  However, if you can only purchase one, pick up “Unbreakable.”  “Blackout” contains fun music, but the quality does not compare to that of “Unbreakable.”

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©The Voice 2007
09/17/2007 08:03:12 PM