It might be more than a decade since their ‘Millennium' days, but the Backstreet Boys are still on a musical high
Boy bands. To sceptics, they are a label-made bunch of a few good-looking blokes with contrasting outer personalities, capable of endearing themselves more to screaming school and college girls than those with a more deeper appreciation of music.
Typically, there's one strong-silent type, one hunky brooding muscle-tattoo guy, a sweet boy-next-door, and one plain butter-won't-melt-in-the-mouth cute. Or, somewhat on those lines. To fans, they're adorable — and, honestly speaking, the music isn't bad either. The sales, too, speak for them.
There are a few who bring out one successful album or two and disappear, and then there are the Backstreet Boys, who embody boy band success as good as it gets. Among the Indian audience, especially, no boy band has received the adulation that the Backstreet Boys have.
As much as they'd be embarrassed admitting it, most 20-something girls in the country will know by heart ‘I want it that way', ‘Quit playing games' and ‘Larger than life', even if they have now moved to other artistes and genres in music.
When we meet the Backstreet Boys — AJ McLean, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough — backstage at the Rock ‘n India concert in New Delhi, we meet a group that's at ease at being older and, consequently, being able to move on to a more mature level in its music. Not to say the boys aren't having fun.
The India stop is part of the Asian leg of their ‘This Is Us' tour, as part of the promotion for their latest album.
About the album, “The music on the album is what the Backstreet Boys are best represented by,” says Nick. “Because of the amount of travelling we do, our inspiration has become international.”
While the group's first two albums — Backstreet Boys and Backstreet's Back — did more than well enough internationally, the group's biggest phenomenon till date has been their 1998 album, Millennium (which contained the hits ‘I want it that way', ‘Show me the meaning' and ‘Quit playing games').
Millennium, though, is not a benchmark now, say the bandmates. “On a personal level, our music is going to grow with us... Millennium stays our biggest hit, but if we never get back to the Millennium days, it doesn't really matter,” AJ says. “Seventeen years is not bad, right?”
Not bad at all. When the Backstreet Boys came up with their single, ‘Incomplete', in 2005 after more than three years since their previous album Black & Blue, it was a mixed reaction they received. While some welcomed their newfound maturity, others, ironically, criticised the departure from their trademark style.
“It's not easy being a popular artiste in the top 40 as well as trying to stay in the top 40. Everything is getting younger and younger as music progresses. In the end, we just want to put out music we feel good performing. As far as how our style has changed, we have tried to evolve what we feel comfortable. We'd like to have our peers enjoy our style, but ultimately it's about doing what we feel comfortable in,” Nick says.
“We've all grown up,” says Brian. “We got a special bond with the audience years ago, and we're happy we're performing.”
Though there have been ups and down and spells when the members concentrated on solo careers, they're happy to be back. “We're e're family. Most bands break, we haven't,” Nick says.
What started out as a five-member band was left with four after Kevin Richardson announced his departure in 2006. This reunion, though, doesn't look like its happening. “He's made his decision,” says Nick. The others nod.
Friends and rivals
By a strange twist of fate, a song co-written by Backstreet Boys' AJ with OneRepublic's Ryan Teddar will now feature in rival boy band Westlife's new album, Where We Are. Called “Shadows”, the song was purchased by Simon Cowell's record label for a Leona Lewis album, and then ultimately passed on to Westlife because the producers believed it was better suited for a boy band.
Ask AJ about it and he says (against a background of giggles from his bandmates), “I wish I was in the studio when they (Westlife) cut it. I wish we could perform it someday but…” (More giggles)
Backstreet Boys videos have been grand affairs, be it “Backstreet's back” or “Larger than life”. In fact, “Larger than life” (a dedication to fans) still remains one of the most expensive videos shot till date (with production costs somewhere above $2,100,000). The boys, though, seem slightly abashed when you bring it up. “This was in a time when every band was trying to outperform and outdo the other,” Nick recalls. “In fact, I had written the song — although I didn't pay for it… thankfully,” Brian chuckles. “It's a very expensive memory.”
“Don't tell people we're crazy,” are Nick Carter's parting words.SHALINI SHAH