Backstreet Boys - The Man Band

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Date: Jun 16, 2005
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Backstreet's back all right, but what does it mean? A lot of people must have thought the group and perhaps the whole boy-band era it represented was gone for good. But return the Boys have, a little older, a little more pop-rock in their sound, five years after the release of their last record. MTV News' John Norris finds out where the Boys have been, what they've been up to and what they have to say about Paris Hilton, Tommy Lee, AJ's relapse and Oprah Winfrey. John Norris: Did you guys have your doubts about whether this reunion was actually going to happen one day? Or were you always pretty sure of it?

Kevin Richardson: We were sick of looking at each other, sick of hearing each other. I mean, we were just going nonstop there for about eight years. We were burned out.

Norris: So what changed that?

Richardson: Having time to reflect on everything that had happened to us since 1995. Some time to focus on ourselves, spend time with our families, some time for AJ [McLean] to work on his recovery, some time for Nick [Carter] to work on a little solo project. Brian [Littrell's] a father now. Just time to appreciate everything we went through and reflect, and get grounded again and recharge our batteries.

AJ McLean: When we finished the Black & Blue tour, there was a dark cloud over the whole tour. There was a lot of negative energy, not just coming from my situation. There was 9/11. A couple of us had lost members of our families. There was just a whole lot of bad juju going on. We had originally said, "We'll take a year off and then we'll get back in the studio." Then it became two years, then three. But the whole catalyst for this was when I went on "Oprah." Little did I know all four of them were going to show up. We all lost it, and that was the moment we all decided, "Let's go do this again."

Norris: A lot of people were surprised to hear a power ballad as the lead single from Never Gone. Howie Dorough: We had wanted to get back with [songwriter/producer] Max Martin, but there was a backlash of that Swedish, synth Euro sound, that came from us, 'NSYNC [and] Britney, so we felt we had to get away from that. Max didn't know how to work with us directly to change our sound, evolve it into something better, and he stumbled upon it with this song intended for the "Spider-Man 2" soundtrack, "Climbing the Walls." Once we put our voices on it, the album started growing into something more organic, more stripped-down, less harmonies, more instrumentation. The last song we recorded was "Incomplete." It leaked, and we said, "This is a good thing, let's go with it."

McLean: It shows growth, it shows maturity. It's still us. It's not too over the top. It's not over your head. It's not too complex. It's just us growing up. We can go onstage and not worry about all the added BS that comes with all this stuff. And this is my first time being on tour with the guys sober. When I got out of rehab, I was newly sober, I wasn't going to meetings then. Sure enough, a year later, I relapsed. I didn't get married. Everything in my life fell apart ... again.

Norris: How bad was it?

McLean: It was bad enough. I dove into a bunch of pills, smoked weed. I told my sponsor, "I smoked weed last night, but I didn't inhale." But as my fiancee at the time said, "But he was on so many pills, he doesn't remember." You can't BS a BS-er. None of these guys believed a word I said. And now I've got their respect and their trust; our relationship is better than before I started drinking and doing drugs. My life is the best it's ever been, and it's only going to get better.

Norris: You guys are no strangers, some of you more than others, to the tabloid world ... Nick Carter: I'll tell you what, I've had a lot of scrutiny. [Everyone laughs.] Don't believe everything you hear, number one. Number two, if we let things like that get underneath our skin, we would not be able to do our job properly. I learned the hard way. I guess I've come from a family that's had some success, so you could look at it like, "It's good they're still talking." At the same time, talk about something that's more positive. Not everybody's perfect.

Richardson: When all the stuff hit the fan with one of his exes, I was like, "Take the high road. Don't fall into the trap."

Carter: Obviously, you could fight back with fire, but I learn from them, they're my bigger brothers, even as much as I was distraught and a little bitter from everything that had happened because I was so in love with [Paris Hilton]. I was trying to be the best I could for her, and in some ways it wasn't good enough. When I look back at it, I'm happy where I am now. I can focus more, and I can contribute more than I ever did to this group. I used to be so wrapped up in relationships and girls and didn't really give 100 percent to music. Don't get me wrong, I still like women very much. I just pick and choose a lot better.

Norris: Now these are party credentials: Tommy Lee, who wrote songs with you that'll appear on his next album, told one of our writers that Nick Carter is one of the biggest party guys he knows.

Carter: I'll tell you, me and Tommy have had some fun together. He's a really cool guy. He takes care of his family, he's very responsible, he's someone to look up to. He parties hard ...

Brian Littrell: Not as hard as you!

Carter: I've partied hard a little bit. I'm toning it down for a while now, just because, you know, whatever. I played Tommy all the music we've done, he said, "Yo dude, that's great, man." You can't look at it like it's hard rock. It's more like U2 or like Journey big vocals, big harmonies. I'm really, really happy with the direction. Are they going to call us "men bands" now?

Richardson: The word "boy band" used to offend me. Now I don't care, I'm over it. Call us a boy band. Call us ... just call us!

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