The Backstreet Boys

Never Gone (Jive)

Here's the thing about comeback album titles that act like the album in question isn't a comeback: The gimmick doesn't work. On the first Backstreet Boys CD since the bottom fell out of boy bands a few years ago, the fab five try to convince us that Never Gone takes its title from the album cut of the same name: "Never gone, never far," sung over canned keyboard whine, "in my heart is where you are." Dudes, get real. Of course you were gone. You're as shocked as we are that your handlers gambled that you'd pull one out so late in the game. What's more, the disingenuous title actually works against some of the surprisingly likable material on Never Gone. Let us enjoy the pleasant surprise of "Incomplete," a swirling pop-metal Evanescence rip-off, instead of forcing us to hold it next to "I Want It That Way," with which it doesn't compare. Allow us to revel in "Just Want You to Know," a glorious "Since U Been Gone" redo, without being reminded of your pure-pop bona fides. Quit playing games with our hearts.

 
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