BTR's comeback sounds familiar, but also provides listeners a fresh twist on their approach to music.
In the times when cable was still relevant, I grew up with Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network constantly streaming on the flatscreen. Among the amazing shows running in the 2010's (that are sure to become classics), Big Time Rush was one of my favorites. It included a unique plot line, and a unique situation, at least in comparison with other sitcoms.
A band of hockey players hailing from Minneapolis frantically adjusting to the lights of Hollywood sounds hilarious, and it sure was. I was eight years old when the show first tarted, and my sister was six-- we couldn't take our eyes off of the charisma of Kendall, or the long hair of James. It was incredible, and it still is. I started rewatching the show in 2020, and to my surprise, a lot of what I was seeing was still funny.
The content of the show is merely scratching the surface of this big-time iceberg. I had a bit of a closed mind when it came to pop music at that age, growing up on rock classics. Only recently have I learned to be open to pop music like BTR's, and to not treat it like a classical piece or a symphonic movement.
It turns out BTR's music is actually good, and is actually put together with the idea that a large population will listen to it. It is beyond the scope of other songwriting for most sitcoms and Nick shows, such as iCarly. Yes, the show may have helped inflate their popularity, but from 2011-2013, BTR was gunning against the likes of One Direction, even beating them at popularity contests ( a reason why Harry Styles is in Eternals now, likely).
Their music has remained in rotation since I started watching the show again. There was an attempt to see the band live in Chicago, which happens to be today, but those valiant efforts failed. At the very least, new material from the group would be a fair compromise.
After some encouragement from an Instagram live stream, showing all 4 members answering questions in the studio, I have my compromise. "Call it Like I See it" released this Monday, to the knowledge of many, but to the surprise of even more. Yes, BTR is back.
Upon reading the announcement for the song, a mix of emotions came about. I was not entirely sure what the song would sound like, and wasn't sure what expectations I should have. This might have been influenced by the return of iCarly, but perhaps BTR has matured and aged with its audience, now ten collective years older. It was a question of how BTR would maintain its "child-friendly" image while simultaneously maturing into a different band. How would this question be answered in their new single?
Upon already many listens, the song sounds distinctly like Big Time Rush. The layered singing of the incessantly catchy chorus pulls me right back in 2011, if not even further. The single was definitely picked with the past in mind, and appropriately so. The first verse sees Kendall (I think) sharing a renewed desire "to make a demo track," and has the band feeling like they're "retro"-- indeed they are in this new single.
The track shares some modern influences, especially in the post-chorus verse, where the 4-piece bellows their range, effectively "taking me straight to paradise." The song's bridge references Space-X, and Nickelodeon can't be sued because of it now, which is nice. There is definitely an enhanced level of creative freedom associated with this comeback, as well as newfound level of musical maturity.
The song repeats a verse, then repeats the chorus and post chorus, before sending the listener to the hypothetical beach party with a blaring trumpet section and muffled crowd noise. The entire song is carried by a thumping bass line and is enhanced by waves of colorful synthesizers and keys throughout.
The song does sound distinctly like the BTR we are familiar with, but only to an extent. A lot of artists have been bit by the nostalgia bug, and rightfully so within troubling past 2 years or so. "Call it Like I See it" shares that same desire for the past as 5 Seconds of Summer's new song "2011," but it doesn't feel explicitly cliche or obvious, at least lyrically. "Call it Like I See it" takes it a step further, and looks beyond the past few years and reminds listeners of their childhood. On top of that, the track has distinct sounds adapted from the 1980's, where shares of Prince's Purple Rain and Rick Astley's "Whenever You Need Somebody" take note. Sounds of Ross and Rocky Lynch's The Driver Era are present, along with some Dua Lipa and BTS, making the new song extremely current despite valiant efforts to promote nostalgic emotion.
It was a little ridiculous to take BTR's first three albums with total seriousness ten years ago-- the show was always a laugh and her music reflected the insatiable desire to have a good time. With the grip of Viacom now gone, and with increased musical maturity and better songwriting ability, BTR has created a single that is meant to be taken as a serious pop song. Although their music exceeded expectations of what a Nick show could ever produce, "Call it Like I See it" raises the bar even higher. The band is extremely excited to release this new song (and more), as reflected in a video interview with Entertainment Weekly. Rightfully so, Big Time Rush-- the new single rocks.
Rating: 8/10-- song deserved to be longer!
Listen to "Call it Like I See it" : https://found.ee/CallItLikeISeeIt
Kristian Zenz is a writer and published author, as well as a poet and spoken word artist. Like his review of this song? More will be coming soon-- subscribe below now.