Backstreet pretty-Boy Nick Carter plays guitar, sings

The only possible thing the title of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter’s solo debut can refer to is his record label’s urgency to get the album out before his fan base outgrows junior high — and Nick himself. Not only has the album come out way too late, but it is really terrible. Now or Never doesn’t even have that Backstreet Boys charm, which helped sell millions of records way back in 2000.

Almost all of the songs have chunky guitars and in-your-face vocals (like “I’m going to ride a Harley on the highway/ I’m going to do it my way”) a la Pink or Avril Lavigne’s record exec-molded ‘tude. On top of the really weak guitar solos, there’s really, really weak scratching or double-tracking so annoying it makes the Backstreet Boys sound like real talents.

And then there are the ballads: “Do I Have to Cry for You” and “Heart Without A Home” will be played in dentist offices by the end of the month, or at the very least in the elevators in those shiny office buildings on the side of the highway. But the worst easy-listener on the album is “Miss America,” which I thought is about our fine country herself, except that Patriot Nick cries that she should “take it off, take it off” (so that they can “get it on, get it on”).

Perhaps the most telling thing about this record is that its first notes are ripped off from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I’m not sure if the people behind the album were somehow trying to reproduce Nevermind, a hands-down masterpiece (and one that sold a helluva lot of records). Maybe they were just being ironic: After all, the album really does reek of adolescence. The truth of the matter is that the only reason anyone would buy this CD is because they’re 12 and don’t know better. If what they want is good old pop, I hope they somehow stumble upon The Bends, Pet Sounds, London Calling, or Rubber Soul. The fact that it might drive teenyboppers to listen to other things is really this album’s only redeeming quality. And I’m glad the record is so bad: This is what Nick Carter gets for abandoning those poor, poor Backstreet Boys.

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