The Backstreet Boys were formed by Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell, and Kevin Richardson in 1993 in Orlando, Florida. Three years later, they were catapulted into the limelight with the release of their self-titled debut album. By the end of the 1990s, they were the biggest boy band on the planet. Scroll forward 20 years, and they’ve now sold over 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Here, we take a look back at the highs and lows of their career as we rank all the Backstreet Boys albums from worst to best.
Released on October 30, 2007, as the first album following Kevin Richardson’s short-lived departure and the first without the guiding hand of longtime producers Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, Unbreakable may have been a commercial success, but as yahoo.com says, it seems to be missing a certain “je ne sais quoi.” Their attempt to sound less like a boy band and more like a man band simply didn’t work, resulting in a bland, slightly boring album with few, if any, memorable moments.
8. This Is Us
After the disappointment of Unbreakable, the band re-enlisted the services of long-time collaborator Max Martin for This Is Us. The intention was to create their best record since Millenium. But despite the help of Martin and other major collaborators like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, the album faltered at the first hurdle. There’s a good scattering of catchy tunes, but there’s precious little originality, while some of the tracks (She’s a Dream and P.D.A., in particular) stand out for all the wrong reasons. It’s not unpleasant, but neither is it worth taking for a second spin.
7. Never Gone
Following a two-year hiatus, the Backstreet Boys reunited in 2005 for their fifth studio album, Never Gone. It was intended to move them away from the teen pop of their earlier albums into more adult territory, something it didn’t really manage. Despite selling over 3 million albums internationally, the critical response to the album was almost overwhelmingly negative. The material isn’t necessarily bad, but the delivery is almost painfully earnest. It never attains the dizzy heights of previous hits and never reaches far enough toward new territory, resulting in one of their least essential releases.
6. In a World Like This
In a World Like This was the first album to feature all five original members since 2005’s Never Gone. Understandably, expectations were riding high. Commercially, the album delivered the goods, debuting at number five on the US Billboard 200 and making the Backstreet Boys the only boy band in history to have nine US top 10 albums. Although the critical reception was mixed, most of the reviews veered towards the positive, with All Music calling it a surprisingly mature record and the LA Times saying that it proved the band had the grown-man chops to go beyond the usual contemporary club fare.
For their latest studio album, the Backstreet Boys ditched their longtime producers and friends Max Martin and Kristian Lundin and enlisted outside help from a team of collaborators that included Ryan Tedder, Ross Copperman, and The Stereotypes. Released in January 2019, DNA was a major hit, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 to become the band’s first number one since 2000’s Black & Blue, and their third in total. Not everyone liked it (godisinthetvzine.co.uk describes it as “embarrassing” and “wishy-washy”) but for the most part, it was well-received, with many critics praising its incorporation of contemporary electronic and synth pop into the band’s classic harmonies.
4. Backstreet Boys
Backstreet Boys released their eponymous debut album on May 6, 1996. Overnight, they went from a group of unknowns into one of the biggest bands on the planet… or on most of the planet, anyway. The album didn’t get a release in the US until the following year, but it proved a massive success in Europe, Canada, and Asia, debuting at No.1 in Taiwan, Switzerland, Malaysia, Hungary, Germany, Canada, and Austria. Consisting of a combination of hook-heavy dance numbers and syrupy ballads, it’s a frothy pleasure with enough charm to carry it through even the weaker moments.
3. Black and Blue
Following a massive hit like Millenium was never going to be easy. While Black and Blue doesn’t quite reach its predecessor’s dizzying heights, it’s still an impressive effort, with smooth ballads, thunderous grooves and plenty of up-tempo dance ditties. Stands out tracks include Everyone, Shining Star, and the irresistible hit single, Shape of My Heart. Released in November 2000, it sold over 1 million copies in the first week alone, becoming the best international selling album in history It’s since sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
2. Backstreet’s Back
After the success of their debut, the Backstreet Boys proved they were no one-album wonders with their second album, Backstreet’s Back. Glossy, slick, and packed to the brim with feel-good dance tunes and sugar-sweet ballads, it’s as perfect a piece of teen pop as anyone could want. Chief highlights include As Long As You Love Me, Quit Playin’ Games (With My Heart), and Everybody (Backstreet’s Back). Released on August 11, 1997, it was a massive hit, breaking into the top ten in countless countries and certifying diamond in Canada.
Millennium was the first of the band’s albums to be released simultaneously in the US and internationally, leading to a massive promotional kick and huge sales numbers. In the US, it sold almost half a million copies in the first week alone, going on to become the best-selling album of 1999. Worldwide sales hit over 24 million, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Described by Spin as the “swooniest blending of the five vocalists’ timbres to date, and mighty pretty besides,” it’s a hugely enjoyable listen that’s stood up to the passing years remarkably well.