Backstreet Boys Ill Never Break Your Heart
The Backstreet Boys - I’ll Never Break Your Heart (1995)
It is impossible to talk about the Backstreet Boys without talking about cultural appropriation. Because, of course, the Backstreet Boys were a group of mostly-white young men put together to sing music popularized by black musicians: R&B, hip-hop and New Jack Swing. Not unlike the New Kids On The Block, who Maurice Starr put together as a “white New Edition, ” the Backstreet Boys were designed with the idea that white youths singing this music would be more palatable to a “general audience” than black youths. That is the sad truth.
You have to ask: would a group of black men, singing these same songs, be as popular and get the same kind of support that the Backstreet Boys did? It’s something that we need to think about. It’s important to remember that groups like the Backstreet Boys owe a ton of their success to the likes of New Edition and Boyz II Men, two groups that - while VERY successful, don’t get me wrong - never acheived the kind of gigantic success the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and a whole host of mostly-white boy bands acheived in the late 90s and beyond.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that this should prevent anybody from loving BSB with all their heart. LORD in HEAVEN knows I do! But it’s something we do need to keep in mind.
“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” is about as close as the Backstreet Boys got to recreating Babyface-era Boyz II Men, and I’ll level with you here: it’s awesome. For real. It’s the biggest and strongest ballad of their early career, and despite lacking the sheer vocal prowess of Boyz, Brian and AJ deliver a couple of their best vocal performances. Heck, it sounds like Brian’s ad-libbing a little during the chorus fadeout, something BSB never does ever??
Fabulous. It’s a ultra-powered schmatlz-crusher. And twist ending: Max Martin had nothing to do with it! Can you believe that?
I do love this song, but I’m glad the Boys never attempted anything like it again. If they kept recording obvious Boyz II Men ripoffs for the rest of their career, I don’t think they would have stuck around for long. Thanks to Max, their future ballads would be more uniquely theirs.
THE VIDEO: The Boys all live in a building together! They all have their own multi-colored rooms! Howie’s strumming his guitar! Nick’s wearing hockey gear or something! What isn’t there to love, ladies and gentlemen?