The Backstreet Boys
If you ask any member of Backstreet Boys to share a seminal moment from the Grammy Award nominated pop juggernaut’s two decades in music, you’ll get a variety of different answers. There’s no shortage of accolades to choose between: the biggest-selling boy band in history, in excess of 130 million albums sold worldwide, the only group since Sade to release seven consecutive albums into the top 10 of the Billboard Top 200. However, the boys have their own picks.
Brian Littrell remembers the time the group performed the largest indoor show ever recorded at the Georgia Dome during 2000’s Millenium Tour, a record that still hasn’t been broken. Meanwhile, AJ McLean recalls an 8-hour Rio stopover in the midst of the Around the World Tour when 48,000 fans swarmed the outside of the hotel for a mere glimpse of the five boys. For Kevin Richardson, it’s a toss-up between performances on stage with Sting and Elton John, and the first time he and his mom heard 'Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)' on the radio in 1996. Each of their seven Grammy Award nominations holds a special place in Howie Dorough’s heart.
However, all five musicians agree on one thing - excitement for the future. That future started with their eighth full-length studio album, 'In A World Like This'. Not only did its release celebrate 20 years of Backstreet Boys, it was their first effort with founding member Richardson since 2005’s 'Never Gone'. It came hot on the heels of their historic global co-jaunt with New Kids on the Block, NKOTBSB. It also proved that the Backstreet Boys were back and better than ever.
After Richardson announced his return to the fold in early 2012, instead of simply hunkering down at home, the quintet hopped on a plane to the United Kingdom to spend three weeks living and writing together with producer Martin Terefe (Jason Mraz, Train) in London. They began work on the music which would eventually become 'In A World Like This', released in July 2013. For the first time since 2000, these five individuals all lived under the same roof and they rekindled their collective chemistry almost immediately.
“It was one of the best bonding experiences we’ve ever had,” affirms Howie. “We focused on the music. We had the opportunity to hone in on where we wanted to go creatively and we got to know each other on a new level with Kevin back. The group has a different dynamic with him. The sound feels complete and fully rounded.”
“It was like The Real World,” laughs AJ about their time in London. “We’ve been on tour buses before as a group, but here we were making breakfast, playing video games, working out, and cruising to the studio together. The first night there, we all picked up instruments and played a song together in this kumbaya moment. When Kevin came back, it was like we hadn’t missed a step. The morale’s better than ever.”
Kevin had felt the spark to join Backstreet Boys again in early 2012, and the trip to London only fanned the flame. “It was exciting, easy and comfortable,” he proclaims. “Music has always been a huge part of my life. When I left, I put it aside to focus on starting a family with my wife and work on other creative pursuits. The door was always opened though, and I felt inspired to call them after they finished the NKOTBSB tour.”
That inspiration proved infectious amongst his fellow band members as well. Free from record label obligations and truly independent for the first time in their career, their sound evolved. “It’s a natural evolution,” Brian says. “We’re not trying to be something we’re not but the subject matter is a little different. We have the freedom to do whatever we want now, and it’s an invigorating feeling.”