Album Review: Nick & Knight, 'Nick & Knight'

The notion that fans' appetite for boy bands of yore is not only alive but downright lusty was borne out most effectively by the 2011 project NKOTBSB, which brought together members of New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys for an album and tour. Nick & Knight, the new project of NKOTB's Jordan Knight and BSB's Nick Carter, distills that idea even further: What if a pair containing one member of each group did the same?

The duo's peppy self-titled debut proves that the concept can not only work but occasionally triumph. Both Carter and Knight have already used their boy-band cred to establish solo bona fides: Carter skewed pop-rock, while Knight was a soul man in waiting. Their collective album splits the difference between their proclivities to remind listeners of pop's recent past.

The LP opens with "One More Time," a jaunty play for ex sex with the bounce of mid-2000s pop-rock and plenty of youthful pep, although the deliberate guitars and coy vocals make it sound more adult than most rhythmic-radio mainstays - even boy bands age, after all. The jittery "Switch" recalls Knight's early work and the peaks of early-2000s pop. (A slightly different version of the song was released by rapper H2O as "Turn Me On," with Bruno Mars, in 2011.)

But the album really soars when the duo channels its R&B influences, which range from smooth loverman appeals to Drake's gloomy sound, cherry-picking soul signifiers to excellent effect. The airy "Just the Two of Us" interpolates the Bill Withers classic. And "Paper," a windswept ballad, has a screwed-down hook and narcotic feel that could get Beliebers wondering about the teen idols beloved by their moms back in the day.

-Maura Johnston


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