This Is Us is the seventh studio album, sixth in the United States, from American pop group Backstreet Boys. It is their second and last album as a quartet. It was released on September 30, 2009 in Japan through Sony Music Japan, October 5, 2009 in the UK through RCA, and October 6 in the U.S. as the final studio album through Jive Records.
The album debuted at number 9 on the US Billboard 200 making it their seventh top ten album following Unbreakable in 2007.RedOne produced the album's lead single "Straight Through My Heart" which was released in August/September 2009 and reached number 1 in Taiwan, number 3 in Japan, number 5 in Spain, number 106 in Billboard Hot 100, 19 in Canada, 72 in the UK, and 18 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart. It was their final album under Jive and their last album as a quartet before original member Kevin Richardson rejoined the band on April 29, 2012.
In an interview with Extra TV, the group confirmed the title of their seventh album to be This Is Us. In the official press release RCA/Jive Records describes the album as "a finely crafted R&B and pop album from four talented musicians who love what they do and who maintain the rare relevance in an industry that often disposes of pop acts. The 11 songs that make up album are the sounds of four skilled singers with a similar vision, who have dealt with the trials and tribulations that accompany fame at an early age and who came out as one of the most successful groups of all time. It shows remarkable growth as songwriters and continues to give us songs that has made millions smile."
On May 1, 2009, the Backstreet Boys management team expressed discontent at the fact that four recorded songs had been leaked on the internet. In an interview, A. J. McLean said that the group were "P.O.ed that music had leaked especially since extra care had been taken to keep the record secret". In the end, however, the group used the feedback from the leaks to help guide the direction of the album and even the song selection by comparing fan reviews to what producers thought about the songs. It was later revealed in 2011, that songs recorded for This Is Us were targeted by the German hacker, Deniz A., also known as DJ Stolen. In July 2010, the Rasch law firm logged a criminal complaint against DJ Stolen for "constantly placing hacked songs on the internet". Amongst those songs listed in the complaint was one called "Masquerade", described at the time as a new recording by the Backstreet Boys. However despite leaking, the song is still included on the album.
Regarding their collaboration with RedOne, McLean remarked that it had been largely a last minute affair. Due to timing, the group was not able to make any recordings with the in-demand producer; however, near to the album's turn-in date, RedOne revealed that he had worked on three songs for the group and was more than willing to collaborate. It was also revealed that there had previously been 5 or 6 songs in the running for the lead single, although a Kevin Borg production titled "PDA" was most likely to be released; however, the RedOne production felt like "it was meant to be". Interestingly one Tedder song, "Shadows", which was co-written by McLean was written for this album, but failed to make it, so Simon Cowell bought the song for Leona Lewis's second album Echo but in the end felt it more suited for a boyband and it was featured on Westlife's 10th album Where We Are.
One song that was not included on the album, "All in My Head", was later re-recorded as a duet with fellow boy bandNew Kids On The Block and featured on the 2011 collaboration album NKOTBSB.
The group simultaneously released the standard and deluxe editions of the album. The deluxe edition (limited first edition in Japan) featured a DVD with live performances of previous singles at The O2 Arena in London, along with the music video for the first single.
This is Us received generally favorable reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 67, based on 5 reviews.
AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine found the album's hooks more attention-grabbing than Unbreakable and the production more modern than pandering compared to New Kids on the Block's The Block, concluding that "the group sounds great for their age, and they sound like they're at their peak – which is no guarantee of a hit, but it sure makes for a better album than they've produced in quite a while." Mikael Wood of Entertainment Weekly praised the album for bringing back the band's old teen-pop sound with new producers and delivering them with confident vocals. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard admired the band's "foray into throbbing electronica" mixed in with the typical pop fare, concluding that it "may be a stepping stone in ushering [Backstreet Boys] away from their days on pop radio and firmly through the club door."
August Brown of the Los Angeles Times gave credit to the band for continuing to deliver catchy tracks but ultimately called the album "a competent but very late-adopted pop-trance slurry." John Terauds of the Toronto Star noted that the tracks have an '80s influence to them but said that "nothing sounds truly original." He also added that it will appeal only to diehard fans of the band. Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine criticized the album's producers for crafting songs that range from retreads of other songs ("Straight Through My Heart", "If I Knew Then" and "Undone") to "flat-out embarrassing" ("She's a Dream" and "P.D.A."), concluding that, "No matter how strong their voices might remain and no matter how sincere they may be about keeping their career going, Backstreet Boys' collaborators have failed them here."