|Origin||Orlando, Florida, United States|
|Genres||Pop, pop rock, R&B, teen pop, adult contemporary|
|Labels||RCA, Jive, Legacy Recordings|
|Associated acts||NKOTBSB, New Kids on the Block, Elton John, 'N Sync, Aaron Carter, Krystal Harris|
|Members||A. J. McLean
The Backstreet Boys (sometimes referred to as BSB) are an American vocal harmony group, formed in Orlando, Florida in 1993. The group consists of A. J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell. They rose to fame with their debut international album, Backstreet Boys (1996). In the following year, they released their second international album Backstreet's Back (1997) and their U.S. debut album which continued the group's success worldwide. They rose to superstardom with their third studio album Millennium (1999) and its follow-up album, Black & Blue (2000).
After a two-year hiatus, they regrouped and released a comeback album Never Gone (2005). Richardson left the group after the conclusion of Never Gone Tour in 2006 to pursue other interests. The group then released two albums as a quartet: Unbreakable (2007) and This Is Us (2009).
In April 2012, the group announced that Richardson had rejoined them permanently, and by July, they had started working on their next studio album. The group also made their very first performance as a reunited five-piece in August, as part of Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series.
The Backstreet Boys have sold over 130 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling boy band in history, and one of the world's best-selling music artists. They are the first group since Sade to have their first seven albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200. They also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 22, 2013.
Formation and early years: 1992–1994
Cousins Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell, both from Lexington, Kentucky, sang in local church choirs and festivals when they were children. Howie Dorough and A. J. McLean were natives of Orlando, Florida, who met each other and later discovered Nick Carter through auditions. The three, realizing that they could harmonize together, decided to form a trio. Meanwhile, Richardson moved to Orlando in 1990, where he worked at Walt Disney World and concentrated on music at night. Eventually, he met Dorough, Carter, and McLean through a co-worker, and the four decided to form a group.
In the course of all this, Lou Pearlman in 1992 placed an ad in the Orlando Sentinel to compose a vocal group. McLean, who was the first to audition for Pearlman in his living room, became the group's first member. In January 1993, Pearlman held an open casting call and hundreds of young performers auditioned at his blimp hangar in Kissimmee. Eventually, Carter, Dorough, and Richardson were selected after meeting Pearlman's expectations, and Littrell was accepted after Richardson had him audition over the telephone. He flew from Kentucky to Orlando to formally join the group on April 20, 1993, which is regarded as their anniversary date. Pearlman decided to call them Backstreet Boys, after Orlando's Backstreet Market, an outdoor flea market near International Drive which was also a teen hangout.
The Backstreet Boys had their very first performance at SeaWorld Orlando on May 8, 1993. The group then continued to perform in various venues during summer 1993, from shopping malls, restaurants, to a high-profile charity gala in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With a change in management in the fall, they began to tour schools across the U.S. (including Littrell's former school, Tates Creek High School), building a fan base while trying to get a record deal. Mercury Records nearly signed them in 1993, but the deal fell through at the last minute because longtime Mercury recording artist John Mellencamp threatened to leave the label if they got in boy band business. However, in February 1994, Jeff Fenster (then senior VP A&R Zomba/Jive Records) and David Renzer (then senior VP/GM of Zomba Music Publishing) caught the group performing at a high school in Cleveland, and signed them to their first record deal.
Debut album, worldwide success, and sophomore album: 1995–1997
In June 1995, the group flew to Sweden to record some songs with Max Martin and Denniz PoP, including "We've Got It Goin' On", which ended up being their very first single. "We've Got It Goin' On" was sent to radio in August 1995 and released as a physical single on September 5, 1995. In North America, Virgin Radio Montreal broke the group after the programmers heard it on the radio in Europe. The song was a minor success in the U.S., peaking at only No. 69 by December 1995, but it was successful in Europe, entering the top 5 in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, and the Netherlands. European success sent them on a summer tour there and shifted their promotion being mostly done in Europe. They finished recording their first album Backstreet Boys in April 1996 and it was released internationally on May 6, 1996, excluding U.S. and Canada; however, it was later released in Canada in October 1996.
Their popularity grew in Europe. They were voted the No. 1 international group by TV viewers in Germany in 1996 and "I'll Never Break Your Heart" reached a Gold status there for selling 250,000 copies. They also earned their first platinum record in Germany in 1996 for selling 500,000 copies of their debut album and shortly thereafter they began touring Asia and Canada. The Backstreet Boys quickly became one of the most successful debut artists in the world collecting awards such as Durchstarter (Best Newcomers) in Germany's Viva Comet Awards in 1996.
"Anywhere for You" was released as the last single from their international debut album on February 17, 1997. "Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)", which was originally released in Europe as their fourth single in October 1996, was released in the U.S. in May 1997 for their upcoming U.S. debut album. It managed to climb as high as No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100, eventually earning them a platinum-award for selling over one million copies.
The group began working on their second album, Backstreet's Back, in 1996. They also recorded the song "If You Stay" for the Booty Call soundtrack in the same year, which was released in February 1997. Backstreet's Back was released internationally (except in the U.S.) on August 11, 1997. Their self-titled U.S. debut album, which consisted of songs from their 1996 international debut album and Backstreet's Back, was released in the U.S. a day later, August 12, 1997. The U.S. self-titled debut peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. album chart, which eventually sold 14 million copies. Meanwhile, the second international release, Backstreet's Back, peaked at No. 1 in Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, selling well over five million copies in Europe alone. The two self-titled albums, the international debut and the U.S. debut, sold more than 28 million copies worldwide.
In 1997, Littrell brought a lawsuit against Lou Pearlman and Trans Continental claiming that Pearlman had not been truthful about the earnings made by the group. In the following year, McLean, Richardson, and Dorough joined the lawsuit which eventually resulted in a number of settlements.
Millennium and superstardom: 1998–1999
In November 1997, doctors discovered that a congenital hole in Littrell's heart had enlarged to dangerous proportions. Littrell postponed the open-heart surgery twice to meet touring obligations, and he finally underwent the surgery on May 8, 1998, in the middle of the Backstreet's Back Tour. The group postponed the tour until July 1998 to give Littrell time to recover. In September 1998, the group had to cancel a show due to Dorough's sister Caroline's death a day before.
On October 7, 1998, the group received the keys to the city from the mayor of Orlando in honor of the tornado relief concert the group headlined in March that raised over $250,000. The day was also declared as Backstreet Boys Day in Orlando. They also began recording their third studio album, Millennium, at the beginning of that month while in the middle of a lawsuit. The worldwide hit single "I Want It That Way" which topped the single-charts in over 25 countries made anticipation for Millennium high. Millennium was released on May 18, 1999, on which day the Backstreet Boys made a heavily publicized appearance on MTV's Total Request Live.
The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1, and managed to sell 1,134,000 copies in its first week of release. Four singles were released from Millennium: "I Want It That Way", "Larger than Life", "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", and "The One". Millennium became the best-selling album of 1999 in the U.S., selling 9,445,732 albums. It also holds the record for most shipments in one year, with 11 million shipment. Millennium remained on the Billboard chart for 93 weeks, eventually selling over 12 million copies in the United States and being certified 13 times platinum. As of January 2013, the album stands as the fourth best selling album in the U.S. of the SoundScan era.
On June 2, 1999, the Backstreet Boys embarked on the Into the Millennium Tour, which comprised 115 sold-out shows in 84 cities, with some additional dates put due to high demand. The second leg, which was sponsored by Sears, was sold out on August 14 onsale date and broke sales records. The concert at Georgia Dome, Atlanta, was the 5th most attended concert in American history and the most attended concert by a pop artist.
By October 1999, the Backstreet Boys faced new problems declaring their current Jive contract null and void, soon striking one of the largest record deals ever valued at $60 million with Jive.
Black and Blue, The Hits: Chapter One, and hiatus: 2000–2003
A trip to the Bahamas was made by the group members in May 2000 to write songs for their fourth album. They began recording the album on July 1, 2000 in Stockholm, Sweden, and wrapped up the recording sessions in September. A song completed during the July recording sessions, "It's True", was released on August 28, 2000 in a compilation album sold exclusively at Burger King restaurants, titled For the Fans.
The album, Black & Blue, was released on November 21, 2000. To promote its release, they traveled around the world in 100 hours, visiting Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, and New York. 55 of the hours were spent traveling and 45 were spent making public appearances. A DVD of the short tour, as well as a board game, was released in 2001, titled Around the World. The album itself recorded the best international sales in a week for an album in history by selling over 5 million copies in its first week of sales. In the United States, it sold 1.6 million discs in the first week making them the first artist since The Beatles to achieve back-to-back million plus first week sales. Three singles were released from Black & Blue: "Shape of My Heart", "The Call", and "More than That".
On January 28, 2001, the Backstreet Boys performed the American national anthem at the Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida. A week earlier, the group began the "Black & Blue Tour", which featured shows in five continents. The tour was put on hold in July when it was reported that McLean had entered rehab to battle alcoholism and depression after Richardson held an intervention for him at a Boston hotel. The tour resumed in August and concluded in November.
The Hits: Chapter One, their first compilation album, was released on October 23, 2001. It also included a previously unreleased song, "Drowning". The album entered the top 5 in the U.S., UK, Germany, and Canada, and the top 10 in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. In the U.S., The Hits: Chapter One was certified platinum for selling over one million copies. It was also certified platinum by IFPI for selling over one million copies in Europe. "Drowning" reached top 10 in many countries and as of 2002, the album had sold almost six million worldwide.
In 2002, the group expressed a strong desire to leave their management company, The Firm. However, Carter chose to remain with The Firm to manage his solo career. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the group began recording their next album without him. The relationship with Jive Records worsened when the Backstreet Boys filed a $75–100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group (Jive's parent company), claiming breach of contract. They claimed that the label promoted Carter's solo album Now or Never at the expense of the group.
In November 2003, McLean appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and his struggles rising to fame for the first time in public. The rest of the group surprised him by appearing in person to give him support, marking the first time the Backstreet Boys had appeared together in public in almost two years. The group began to reform and reconcile their differences, planning to start recording a comeback album at the beginning of the following year.
Never Gone and Richardson's departure: 2004–2006
The Backstreet Boys entered the studios in January 2004 to start recording the new album. They also started performing together to promote their return to the music scene. In September, they kicked-off a small Asian tour, visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Manila, performing some new material. Based on the success of this tour, they announced a Mexican tour, visiting Mexico City and Monterrey.
The album's first single, "Incomplete", was released to radio stations on March 28, 2005. Following the release of the single, they embarked on their Up Close & Personal Tour in March which served as a pre-album release tour. "Incomplete" peaked at number 13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and charted within the top 10 in 13 countries. It debuted at number one in Australia, becoming their first number-one hit in the country.
After spending more than a year recording, the Backstreet Boys finally released their comeback album Never Gone on June 14, 2005. The album debuted at No. 3 on the U.S. chart with first week sales of 291,000 copies. However, the drastic style change drew negative criticism from Rolling Stone. Never Gone was certified platinum in the U.S. and four singles were released from the album. The second single, "Just Want You to Know", hit the top 10 in the UK. The third singles were "Crawling Back to You" for the U.S. and "I Still..." for the rest of the world. Never Gone has sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide as of 2008.
The Backstreet Boys began the first leg of their Never Gone Tour on July 22, 2005 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The first leg ran until November 2005 in Europe and in January 2006 the second leg started in Tokyo, Japan. The tour concluded on February 2, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia.
On June 23, 2006, it was announced that Richardson had left the Backstreet Boys to pursue other interests. Both Richardson and the rest of the group issued a statement on their official site, stating that he departed amicably and the door was always open for him to return. Following Richardson's departure, the group was suggested to change their name to Backstreet, but they decided against it. They also turned down an offer to star in a reality show to find a new member and musicians who had expressed interest in replacing Richardson, such as Sam Licata and former 'N Sync members Lance Bass and Joey Fatone, stating that they weren't planning to replace him.
Unbreakable and This Is Us: 2007–2010
Two days after Richardson's departure announcement, the Backstreet Boys entered the studio to record their sixth album. The album, titled Unbreakable, was released on October 30, 2007. It received positive reviews, and opened at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, selling 81,000 copies in its first week of release. It performed well in Japan, debuting at No. 1 on the Japanese Oricon weekly album charts and staying there for another week. They released two singles from the album, "Inconsolable" and "Helpless When She Smiles".
The group went on a world tour to promote Unbreakable, starting in Tokyo, Japan on February 16, 2008. The tour included shows in Australia, Japan, Mexico, UK, Europe, Asia, Canada, and United States. The show in London's The O2 Arena was filmed and is available to watch online on MSN website. Richardson rejoined the rest of the group on stage at the Palladium in Hollywood, Los Angeles on November 23, 2008 for the last North American stop of the tour.
On October 6, 2009, the group released their next album, This Is Us. On this album, their sound went back to their original dance-pop beats and contains a more R&B sound. The album debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200, selling 42,000 copies in its first week of release. It peaked at No. 2 in Japan and was certified Platinum for shipments of 250,000 copies. Two singles were released from this album: "Straight Through My Heart" and "Bigger".
A few days after promoting the new album and filming the music video for "Bigger" in Japan, Littrell contracted swine flu, causing the group to cancel a signing at Hard Rock Café in New York for the NYC Pinktober event on October 5, 2009. The rest of the group were prescribed Tamiflu by a doctor, even though they weren't showing any symptom of the flu. The group subsequently canceled a scheduled CBS Early Show performance the next day on October 6, 2009, which was also the release day of their new album, This Is Us. In late October 2009, the group embarked on the This Is Us Tour, which lasted over a year and consisted of 122 shows.
The Backstreet Boys, including Richardson, filmed a segment for The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 22, 2010. Richardson also performed with the group in the show's studio later that day, making it the second time he had performed with the group since his departure.
NKOTBSB and Richardson's return: 2011–2012
In May 2011, the group announced that they had left their longtime label Jive Records. In the same month, they embarked on a joint tour with New Kids on the Block as NKOTBSB. Prior to the tour, they released a compilation album of their biggest hits, also titled NKOTBSB, which also includes a mash-up and two new songs. At the conclusion of 2011, the tour placed 17th on Billboard's annual "Top 25 Tours", earning over $40 million with 51 shows. The tour lasted until June 2012, comprising 80 shows in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. During the show in Staples Center, LA, in July 2011, Richardson once again joined the group on stage.
As he had announced before on On Air with Ryan Seacrest in October 2011, Richardson hosted a beach party, part of the group's second annual cruise, in the Bahamas on December 3, 2011, where he performed with them. On Seacrest's radio show, he also stated that he would love to perform with the group again on a more regular basis. The statement, along with his appearance at the cruise event, prompted speculations that he might rejoin the group for good, but both he and the group remained quiet on the matter.
The Backstreet Boys finally announced that Richardson had rejoined them permanently during a show in London on April 29, 2012. A few days later, McLean and Littrell revealed on separate occasions that Richardson had returned since 2010, before NKOTBSB Tour started. He had been in talk to join the tour but ultimately decided not to. They supported his decision and kept his return a secret until the tour was over. "I think it was the right decision. I think for us to maximize the ability that we have as five to move forward, it wouldn't be with another group, it would just be on our own," Littrell said. The group spoke positively about Richardson's return, stating that they couldn't be happier to have him back. Richardson himself was thrilled to be back with his old bandmates, saying that they have a chemistry and a bond.
The Backstreet Boys moved into a house together all by themselves in July 2012 as they started working on their new album with producer Martin Terefe in London. On August 31, 2012, they closed out Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series in Central Park, New York. It was their first performance as a fivesome since Richardson rejoined the group. During the show, they announced that they were going to have their third cruise in October 2013. It will be the first cruise to feature all five members.
The first single featuring Richardson's vocals in six years, a Christmas song titled "It's Christmas Time Again", was premiered on AOL Music on November 5, 2012, and released on November 6, 2012. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard's Holiday Digital Songs chart in the same month.
20th anniversary: 2013–present
The Backstreet Boys celebrated their 20th anniversary, which fell on April 20, 2013, with a fan celebration event in Hollywood that day. During the event, they also previewed several songs from their forthcoming album, In A World Like This, scheduled to be released on July 30, 2013, and showed a teaser of their documentary film which is scheduled to be released in 2014. The group also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 22, 2013, and had the day declared as Backstreet Boys Day in Hollywood. In May 2013, the group will embark on In A World Like This Tour which starts in China.
The Backstreet Boys have always prided themselves as a vocal harmony group and not a boy band. In order to fight the boy band stereotype and the backlash from New Kids on the Block's lip sync scandal in the beginning, they sang a cappella at every chance they got. The ad they answered in 1993 was for a singing group with "New Kids on the Block look with a Boyz II Men sound", and they aimed to have a white version of Boyz II Men. "We were fans of New Kids, but were we really modeled after them? No. We looked at ourselves as Shai, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, the true vocal groups. That's who we listened to and who we really wanted to be like," Littrell stated in 2011. The Backstreet Boys often employ polyphonic harmony, which makes them unique and sets them apart from other singing groups. In choruses, Littrell, Carter, and McLean usually sing the melody with Dorough harmonizing above the melody and Richardson covering the bass parts. During Richardson's absence, McLean and Carter together covered his part in choruses while Dorough took his solo parts.
The Backstreet Boys' musical style has evolved over the years. On their debut and sophomore album, they sang a hybrid of R&B and dance club pop mixed with new jack balladry and hip-hop. With Millennium and Black & Blue, they started to abandon R&B and shift more toward pop and pop rock, as demonstrated on songs like "I Want It That Way", "Shape of My Heart", "Larger than Life", and "Not For Me". The group drastically changed their style in 2005 with their comeback album Never Gone, which is an adult contemporary record featuring only live instruments, a departure from their previous pop sound that features a lot of synthesizer. Compared to their previous albums, Never Gone is "more organic, more stripped-down, less harmonies, more instrumentation". Their first album without Richardson, Unbreakable, is similar to Never Gone. It leans toward adult contemporary and contemporary pop music and features interwoven choral harmonies, piano, strings, guitar, and drums, with a little bit of hip-hop and reggae elements on some tracks, such as "One in A Million". With their seventh studio album, This Is Us, they went back to their original dance-pop beats combined with electropop. It also contains a more R&B sound compared to Unbreakable.
Partnerships and other ventures
The second leg of Into the Millennium Tour, which was also the first North American leg, was sponsored by Sears and was officially titled "Sears Presents Backstreet Boys Into The Millennium". The sponsorship was a part of Sears' new integrated marketing campaign that exclusively featured the Backstreet Boys. The campaign included a 30-second advertisement, featuring the group, which was aired from August 1–15, 1999. The advertising promoted a back-to-school sweepstakes which gave each of five fans the chance to win a $2,000 Sears shopping spree with their favorite Backstreet Boys member, and a trip for four to the group's concert on December 1, 1999 in Tampa, Florida.
Carter, who was a comic fan, met comic book writer Stan Lee through his manager from The Firm in February 2000. Carter subsequently told Lee about his original concept of a six-issue series of comic books featuring members of the Backstreet Boys as superheroes called "Cyber Crusaders". Lee was interested in the concept; however, they ultimately decided to make it into only one issue. The comic book, titled Backstreet Project, was released in 2000 and was available for purchase at their concerts and online stores in 2000–2001. In addition to the book, a series of flash-based webisodes were also published in 2000.
In January 2000, the Backstreet Boys signed a deal with Burger King. The deal included an exclusive compilation set that was only available for sale at Burger King restaurants. The compilation consisted of three CDs featuring a new song called "It's True" and live songs from the group's previous tours, and a VHS tape featuring backstage footage and interviews. In August 2000, it was announced that the deal would also include three TV commercials featuring the Backstreet Boys, and a promotion, which was the inclusion of an exclusive Backstreet Project Cyber Crusader toy in each Burger King Big Kids Meal and Kids Meal.
In August 2012, it was revealed that the Backstreet Boys would be doing a series of Old Navy commercials. The first commercial featuring the group started airing on September 19, 2012. "It was a great way to show people that we're back," Richardson said regarding the commercial. The group also performed at an Old Navy event "Fit For Fall Fashion Show for All" in Bryant Park, New York on September 14, 2012.
- Brian Littrell – vocals (1993–present)
- A. J. McLean – vocals (1993–present)
- Howie Dorough – vocals (1993–present)
- Nick Carter – vocals (1993–present)
- Kevin Richardson – vocals (1993–2006; 2012–present)
- Backstreet Boys (1996)
- Backstreet's Back (1997)
- Millennium (1999)
- Black & Blue (2000)
- Never Gone (2005)
- Unbreakable (2007)
- This Is Us (2009)
- In A World Like This (2013)
The group has received seven Grammy Award nominations as of 2013, including four nominations in 2000. The group has also received two American Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, a Juno Award, and many others.
- We Wanna Be with You Tour (1995–1996)
- The Space Show (1996–1996)
- Backstreet Boys: Live In Concert Tour (1996–1997)
- Backstreet's Back Tour (1997–1998)
- Into the Millennium Tour (1999–2000)
- Black & Blue Tour (2000–2001)
- Up Close & Personal Tour (2005)
- Never Gone Tour (2005–2006)
- Unbreakable Tour (2008–2009)
- This Is Us Tour (2009–2011)
- NKOTBSB Tour (2011–2012)
- In A World Like This Tour (2013–)
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of best-selling music artists in the United States
- List of best-selling albums in the United States
- List of best-selling albums
- Top ten best-selling albums of the Nielsen SoundScan era
- List of most expensive music videos
- List of awards received by Backstreet Boys
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- Backstreet Boys at the Internet Movie Database