Fri, Mar 19, 2010
my paper
AJ McLean rides on pumpin' pop

By Sujin Thomas

HE IS probably better known as the "bad boy" of the Backstreet Boys, but AJ McLean pulls a decent front as a solo artist as well.

Past his much-publicised drug and alcohol addictions, he stepped out to perform shows in 2008 under both his own name and his self-concocted moniker, Johnny No Name.

This time, he keeps it real, going under his real name to release such a mixed bag of tricks that there will be something appealing for everyone.

Tracks range from material that fans will find reminiscent of typical Backstreet shoulder- shrugging pop to rock 'n' roll, and even Euro-dance.

In some sense, it re-defines his persona and outlook as a performer who refuses to be pigeonholed into the category of mainstream pop.

More so, it draws a clear line between McLean, the break-out solo performer, and McLean, the Backstreet Boy.

He reiterates this in the album's liner notes: "First and foremost, I want to thank God for allowing me to have an opportunity such as this to show the world what and who I am outside of the Backstreet Boys."

While there are no earth-shattering moments on the record, it does hold some nice surprises.

Opening track Teenage Wildlife, co-written and co-produced by former N'Sync member JC Chasez, is a pumping Euro- dance hit complete with strobes of electro and the now-infamous Auto Tune which tastefully warbles McLean's voice.

He rides the dance vibes on the title track too, which tackles his personal issues with fame and the difficult process of finding love in the process.

Later on, Love Crazy is a tongue-in-cheek affair dabbling in 1950s-style doo-wop while singing about getting naked and having sex.

It is a clear sign that all is well in the McLean camp, with perhaps more to come from him based on this success.

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