Gone are the adult-contemporary touches they've favored in recent years. It's back to the pulsating beats and dance-music vibe. And Brian Littrell thinks now is the perfect time for the guys to show the world they still have what it takes.
"I think This Is Us is definitely the Backstreet Boys being comfortable with who we are," he told MTV News about the album, which dropped last week. "If you go back to 1995 and '96, when we first started releasing records, the thing is, those sounds that we were using then are actually back in style. The live-band sound is away. The techno drums, the Euro dance sound has taken over the airwaves with the Lady Gagas."
But Littrell is quick to point out that the guys aren't just jumping on the bandwagon of Top 40 trends. "We've been doing it for a long time," he said. "When we went back in the studio, the reason we went with this direction was we wanted to be able to dance onstage. We wanted to move around."
Since the guys have been together for so long, Littrell said critics and fans need to realize the group has to grow up. "When we do a record like This Is Us and it turned heads a little bit, like, 'Wow, it's edgier. It's different,' " Littrell said. "My thing is, back up 15 years ago, 'cause it sounds like what we were doing 15 years ago. It has a little more urban feel to it. Then again, we have to go back to our roots. We were all a bunch of Justin Timberlakes listening to R&B music before there was Justin Timberlake."
For the album, the boys hooked up with longtime collaborator Max Martin, as well as a few new faces, like Lady Gaga producer RedOne, T-Pain and Ryan Tedder.
"Everybody has us trapped in a box," he said. "Working with a guy like T-Pain, you have no choice but to get an R&B, hip-hop vibe, which is what we wanted to do. It's not just because T-Pain is T-Pain. We're fans as well, even though we're entertainers. We pulled in the Jim Johnsons, who did T.I.'s 'Whatever You Like' and Soulja Boy, what we call that dirty South sound."
For Littrell's favorite track on the album, the midtempo love ballad "Undone," the guys hooked up with OneRepublic frontman Tedder. "You can play it for anybody and you wouldn't know that it's us," he said. "That's when the song sells itself."