AJ McLean

Have It All

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Stepping outside of the Backstreet Boys a good ten years after the band’s prime, AJ McLean sidesteps the soft adult contemporary of the Backstreet reunion albums and creates a hard, glitzy pop album in 2010’s Have It All. Glitzy it is, modern it is not, despite McLean’s desperate attempts to ride a variety of new waves, diluting Ryan Tedder’s ice-cold ballads on “London” and walking some stair-step synths on “What If.” If all of Have It All was McLean attempting to do dialed-down versions of the modern hit parade, it’d be passable -- neither great nor embarrassing -- but it veers into the genuinely weird by having these knockoffs paired with McLean’s strolls down memory lane, how he revives the sound of 1990 via the Roxette-meets-Billy Idol silver sheen of “Drive by Love,” creates a pretty good Prince homage on “Gorgeous,” does a bit of a Billy Joel piano-pop tune on “I Quit,” and impressively mimics Motown on “Love Crazy.” As good as that tune is, it gets derailed by McLean’s unfettered vulgarity -- out of nowhere he begins speak-singing about wanting to “smack that ass and pull that air,” a jolt of aural pornography that does not jibe with the bright, bouncy tune -- and that tone deafness may not surface explicitly elsewhere on the record, at least as far as lyrics go, but the odd juxtapositions of sounds, styles, and eras show that AJ isn’t quite sure how to fuse all his interests -- including his still-potent desire for hits, since he clearly does want to have it all -- but that scattershot execution winds up making this album the most interesting Backstreet Boys-related project since the group’s heyday.

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