[Review] BtoB 'Press Play'
They say that when the right music gets you at the right age, it'll determine your lifelong listening preferences. My first experience with this kind of musical epiphany occured during the American boyband boom of the late 90's, when a family friend gave me copies of 'Backstreet's Back' and 'I Want You Back', the debut albums by the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC.
I stayed with my boybands throughout the late nineties and early 2000's, keeping tabs on the likes of 98 Degrees, O-Town, LFO, Plus One, and others, fascinated by these dancing groups who borrowed influences from disco, funk, motown, latin, hip-hop, and rock music, watering them all down into infectious dance pop. I lost interest in boybands over the years, right around the time Dreamstreet debuted, which is around the same time the boyband formula was doubling back on itself and borrowing more influence from other boybands than from outside music, losing it's original spark. I thought I'd just outgrown boybands and that the golden age was over, but BtoB's newest album, 'Press Play', has totally brought me back to the days of cheesy American boyband glory.
The two opening tracks, "Press Play" (featuring G.Na) and lead single "WOW" gave me flashbacks to the days when the only way I could listen to CDs was to sneak into my brother's room and use his fancy-schmancy six-disc changer while he was away at football practice. In fact, three different people overheard me listening to "WOW" and legitimately thought I had one of those old Backstreet Boys albums out. "U & I" is the kind of cheesy R&B-esque ballad where the band would break out some stools and lead the audience in waving their arms back and forth to the beat. "My Girl" calls to mind classic sappy ballads "As Long as You Love Me", "This I Promise You", and "I Want it That Way".
Lest you think this whole album is just a nostalgia-fest, they've included some variety. "I Don't Know Anything About Love" reminds me a little of SISTAR's hit "Alone" (especially the intro), with a similar intense feel and disco inspiration. Filler track "Stand Up" is in the vein of BtoB's previous singles, "Insane" and "Irresistable Lips"- both songs were okay, but I kind of forgot about them in the wakes of Infinite, U-KISS, and B2ST's comebacks. It really says something about how much BtoB has grown over the last few months when the least interesting track on 'Press Play' is on the same level as their previous singles.
All nostalgia aside, though, the album is objectively good. Sure, I chuckled a bit when "WOW" tried to convince me that "BtoB got your swag", and 'Press Play' isn't the kind of album that is likely to end up on anyone's best-of-the-year lists, but the vocals sound fantastic and the production is really well thought out, playing to all of BtoB's strengths and never taking itself too seriously. They've found an unexpected sound that really works for them and sets them apart from anything else we've heard this year. Sure, knowing that my childhood was so long ago that the music I grew up with is now fair game for retro throwbacks makes me feel a little old, but I'm glad to see it return in such solid form.
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