Backstreet Boys (1993 – Now): The Untold Story of Backstreet Boys

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“Show me the meaning of being lonely....” I bet this line ignites some song in your mind! Do you have the recollection? Do you remember the song? Can you sing the entire lyrics? Well, let’s just dig into the life and journey of the Backstreet Boys, one of my favorite American Boys’ bands of the 90s.

It has been a minute since I last wrote! Life happens! But am back. Hoping we will return to our normal writing schedule this week. How have you been holding on? Last month was a hell of a busy month with many issues here and there. I hope this new month (August) will bring some good tidings.

As we head towards the 2nd half of the year, I feel musical. Today, as usual, after a hectic twelve hours’ writing streak, I opened YouTube to get some steam off. Somehow, I read a headline that reads “Show me the meaning...” on CNN! Immediately my mind wondered and brought to life the Backstreet Boys’ hit song “Show me the meaning of being lonely”. That immediately led me into a binging spree of the Backstreet oldies.

For the last three hours, I have been listening back-to-back to Backstreet Boys’ songs. It is amazing that their songs are timeless. Am still listening to them with the same enthusiasm that I had back then when they released the songs. It never gets old.

Backstreet Boys Transformation: Things Have Really Changed.

Like everyone else... I know you do this too. I did a search to see how the group looks like now. They were the face of music back then. And since the groups seem to be intact, I figured they must have really grown to men right now! Actually, they should change their names to Backstreet Men...or something!

And with the fame and money, they have accumulated so far, I guess it is time they should even consider dropping the “Backstreet” bit. Because I am sure, they no longer hang around the back! (Pun intended)


The Now and then photos of the band really show how they have really changed. Not just the songs but the complete appearance and swag of the members is on another level. Am glad the group has very good stories behind them. Unlike many other artists who get confused with fame. These boys have managed to stick together and keep their cool. Well, the nostalgic journey back in time led me to check the back and then videos of similar groups like Westlife, NSYNC, MLTR among others.

Oh...the 90s was a great period. “Musically speaking”! I wonder how the musicians back then managed to produce songs that last forever. How comes a song for the ‘90s, and sometimes all the way back to the ‘80s and ‘70s manage to win my heart after all these years. It is amazing how musicians manage to do this. I sometimes think the 90s and 80s guys were music geniuses.

Who Was the King of Pop Back then?

Well, i am not sure how Michael Jackson became to be popularly referred to as the king of pop. Yes, I agree his songs were awesome, and he deserves the top seat on the pop lineup of artists of the 90s. But again, the Backstreet boys really killed in pop.
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Before we go deep into the Backstreet boys, I would like us to think about the history of pop and how it has evolved since the 90s. I know we all loved pop back them. Pop music was a favorite of all teenagers and even adults back then.

You would seem odd if you could not sing along a bunch of pop music from the 90s and 80s. It was the in-thing for all ages. People may even argue that pop music was their favorite genre or that pop musicians are the ones they listened to consistently back in the day.

Ok, pop was my favorite. Honestly, who doesn’t like Michael Jackson and Katy Perry? We all grew up listening to English pop music, and even if our tastes have shifted tremendously over time, we’ll always adore the evergreen pop songs like those by Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, Lionel Richie, Elton John, Billy Joel, Madonna, and many more. Don’t tell me you don’t feel like dancing when you hear a Michael Jackson song!

Backstreet boys also came top on the list with the earliest hits. Actually, when they were actually boys. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) is one of those oldies that never get old! I love the simplicity of the videography and the choreography. Plus, the message in these songs are timeless. They will stick around with us forever.

With over 130 million records sold worldwide at the time, and still wowing people 20+ years later, this is undeniable the King(s) of pop! I was a teen back then when they were just rising and becoming popular worldwide. I wasn’t their fan from the beginning of their journey. In spite of this, I grew up listening to their songs on the radio every day until I started loving them

When I first bought their album, I knew I was in for an unforgettable night of sweet pop! I remember listening to them on my Walkman back then. It was a mind-blogging experience. Most of the bands today got inspiration from the Backstreet Boys.

Let us dig into the history of the Backstreet Boys...

The History of The Backstreet Boys: All you Need to Know About the BSB.

There were many people that helped guide the Backstreet Boys to their enviable position throughout the years 1996 – 1998. Behind the band stood Johny and Donna Writght together with Louis Pearlman as well as Denniz Pop and Max Martin. These were the heroes behind the heroes we all know.
Nick Carter was the youngest, blondest, most nimble, and androgynous member of the band and the key to propelling them bast boy band status into something massive. Teenage girls who made up most of the Backstreet Boy’s fan base back then, elevated Nick to the status of sexiest and most eligible Backstreet Boy by writing and singing the hits from the second album with him as the featured singer. Dressing him in subtly different ways, keeping his girlfriends out of media, and covering his chest.

That is just a is the story. Back in 2018, the band posted this tweet on Twitter as they marked their 25th Anniversary on April 20th:

The Backstreet boys are among the few music bands that have remained intact for many years. This is what has made their loyal fans to remain true to the groups. All their concerts then and now are still strung with people. All their latest releases are selling just as well, despite being in a competitive and evolving technology-ridden music industry today. The band has still managed to win the heart of fans.

But Who are the Backstreet Boys?

As the name suggests, Backstreet Boys was created in Orlando Florida in 1993. Nick Carter, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson make up the group’s members.
Backstreet Boys, their debut worldwide records, shot them to prominence (1996). The same year they also released their second international album Backstreet Boys and their self-titled U.S debut album Backstreet boys. Both albums were a huge successes for Backstreet Boys and helped sustain the group’s global success.

Their studio album Millennium of 1999 and its follow-up, Black & Blue of 2000, catapulted them to superstardom in the year 2000. With the lone sing “Drowning”, they also put out a greatest hit CD called The Hits – Chapter One in 2001. It was two years before they reunited for a new record, Never Gone in 2005.

Richardson left the group in 2006 to pursue other interests. Unbreakable in 2007 and This is Us in 2008 were the group's next two albums released in 2009. It was revealed in 2012 that Richardson will be joining the group on a permanent basis. Following their 20th anniversary, they published their first independent album, In a World Like This, in 2013.

More than two decades after the group’s formation, and 19 years after their last top-ten album, DNA in 2019 debuted at number one. They became the first boy band in three decades to top the U.S album charts.
Image Courtesy:
It is estimated that the Backstreet Boys have sold more than 100 million records worldwide making them the world’s best-selling boy band. Billboard’s 200chart, and the only boy band since Led Zeppelin to do so.

Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) awarded Backstreet Boys the Millennium diamond certification, making them one of the few acts to have multiple diamond albums. In 2013, the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Wal of Fame.

The group ran a show from 2017 to 2019 in Las Vegas called Larger than Life, it was a residency show. In January 2015, Backstreet Boys released their first documentary film called Backstreet Boys: Show Em What You’re Made Of.

BSB (1993 – 1995): The Formative Years of the Back Street Boys

AJ McLean and Howie Dorough were both from Orlando, Florida, and met through a mutual voice instructor before discovering Nick Carter through auditions. When the three realized they could harmonize well together, they decided to form a trio.
Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell, cousins from Lexington, Kentucky, sang in church choirs and festivals as children. Richardson relocated to Orlando in 1990, where he worked at Walt Disney World during the day and focused on music at night.

Lou Perlman advertised for a vocal group in Orland Sentinel in 1992. McLean became the group’s first member after becoming the first to audition for Pearlman in his living room. Around 1992 and March 1993, Pearlman conducted open casting calls at his Kissimme blimp hanger, and hundreds of young performers auditioned.

Dorough, Carter, and Richardson were eventually chosen after satisfying Perlman’s objectives between late 1992 and March 1993. In the same year, Littrell traveled from Kentucky to Orlando to formally join the group, immediately he received a call from Richardson. As a result, the 20th of April became their anniversary.

The Origin of the Name “Backstreet Boys”

Pearlman chose the name Backstreet Boys after the Backstreet Market in Orlando. This was an outdoor flea market near International Drive that also served as a teen hangout back then.

In 1993, the Backstreet Boys made their debut at SeaWorld Orland. Throughout the summer of 1993, they continued to perform in a variety of settings, including shopping malls, restaurants, and some high-profile charity banquets in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
After changing the management I the fall, they started touring schools across the United States including Littrell’s former high school, Tates Creek High School, creating a fan base while attempting to land a record deal.

Mercury records almost signed them in 1993, but the agreement fell through at the last minute when John Mellencamp threatened to leave the label if they became a boy band. Nevertheless, in 1994, Jeff Fenster who was by then the senior VP A&R Zomba/JIVE Records, and David Renzer, then senior of Zomba saw the group play at a Cleveland high school and signed them to their first record deal.

The trio traveled to Sweden at the end of December 1994 to record some songs with Max Martin and Denniz Pop, including “We’ve Got it Going On”, which became the first single and was completed in 1995.

“We’ve Got It Goin’ On” was released as a single in 1995 after begin delivered to radio in August 1995. After hearing the group on the radio in Europe, the programmers at Mix 96 in Montreal broke the group In North America.

The song was just a small success in the United States, peaking at No. 69 by December 1995, but it reached the top 5 in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, and the Netherlands. The success in Europe sent them on a summer tour and switched their promotion to be largely done in Europe.

BSB (1996 - 1997): Backstreet Boys Going Global and Debut Album

Backstreet Boys finished recording their debut album in the spring of 1996, and it was released internationally in 1996 omitting the United States and Canada. However, it was later released in Canada in October of the same year.

In Europe, their popularity grew, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” was certified Gold in Germany after selling over 250,000 copies, and they were voted the top foreign group in the country in 1996. They also received their first platinum record in Germany in 1996 for selling 500,000 copies of their debut album, and they began touring Asia and Canada immediately after.
They were also one of the world’s most successful debut performers, winning prizes like Durchstarter for best newcomers in Germany’s Viva Comet Awards in 1996. In 1997 “Anywhere for Your” was released as the final single from their international debut album.

“Quit Playing Games with My Heart”, originally released as their fourth single in Europe in October ’96 was released in the United States in 1997 for their impeding self-titled first album, Backstreet Boys in 1997. It peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning them a platinum certification for selling over one million copies.

In October 1996, the band began work on their second album Backstreet’s Back. In the same year, they recorded “If You Stay” for the Booty Call soundtrack, which was released in February 1997. Backstreet’s Back was released worldwide in 1997. In 1997, their self-titled U.S debut album was released a day later, in 19997, and included songs from their 1996 international debut album and Backstreet’s Back.

The self-titled debut in the United States peaked at No. on the album chart and eventually sold 14 million copies. Meanwhile, Backstreet’s Back reached number 1 in Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, and the Netherlands. It sold over 5 million copies in Europe alone. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) and “As Long As You Love Me” were the most successful singles from Backstreet’s Back and the album’s premiere in the United States.

The two self-titled albums, the international and U. S debuts, sold over 28 million copies worldwide. Doctors discovered a congenital hole in Littrell’s heart had expanded to hazardous dimensions in 1997. He postponed the open-heart surgery twice due to travel commitments and finally had it done on May 8th ’98 in the midst of the Backstreet’s Back Tour. The trip was postponed until July ’98 to allow Littrell time to recover.

BSB (98 – 99): The Turn of the Millennium

In 1998, Littrell filed a lawsuit against Lou Perlman and Trans-Continental, alleging that Perlman lied about the group’s earnings. Perlman and his company made around 10 million dollars between 1993 and 1997, but the band only made 300,000 dollars. Richardson, McLean, and Dorough joined the lawsuit the following year which resulted in a number of settlements.
The quartet made its Latin America debut on Valentine’s Day of 1998 at the Via del Mar Int’l song Festival in Chile. Later that year in October 1998, the group got the keys to the city of Orlando’s mayor in honor of the tornado relief event they headlined in March which earned more than $250,000. Backstreet Boys Day was also recognized in Orland.

They also started recording their third studio album, Millennium, at the beginning of that month, despite the fact that they were embroiled in a lawsuit. The worldwide hit single “I Want it That Way,” which topped the singles charts in over 25 countries, raised the bar for the millennium. Millennium was released in 1999, the same day that the Backstreet Boys appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live.

The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 1,134,000 copies in the first week. The Millennium released four singles, namely:
  • I Want It That Way
  • Larger than life
  • Show me the meaning of being lonely
  • The one.
The Millennium was the best-selling album in the United States in 1999, selling 9,445,732 units. It also retained the records for the most shipments in a single year, with over 11 million. Millennium remained on the Billboard charts for 93 weeks, selling over 12 million copies in the United States and earning 13 platinum certifications. By January 2013, the album was the fourth best-selling album in the United States during the SoundScan era.

Backstreet Boys (BSB) went on the Into the Millennium tour in June 1999 which included 115 sold-out gigs in over 8 cities with some additional dates added owing to overwhelming demand. The return tour was sponsored by Sears, sold out on the first day of sales on August 14th, and surpassed sales records.

The event at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome was the fifth most attended concert in American history and the most attended by pop artists. In October 1999, BSB were facing fresh issues after declaring their current JIVE contract null and useless, and they quickly struck one of the richest record deals ever estimated at 60 million, with JIVE.

BSB (2000 – 2001): The New Awakening of The Backstreet Boys

The members of the band traveled to the Bahamas in May 2000 to write songs for their fourth album. They started recording the album on July 1st 2000 in Stockholm, Sweden and finished in September. “It’s True”, a song completed during the July recording sessions, was published in August 2000 in a compilation album named For the Fans, which was available exclusively at the Burger King restaurants.
In November 2000, the album Black and Blue were released. To promote it, they journeyed around the world in 100 hours, stopping in Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, and New York. They did spend over 55 hours traveling with the remaining 45 spent making public engagements.

In 2001, Around the World, a DVD of the brief trip as well as a board game was produced. The album sold nearly 5 million copies in its first week of sales setting a record for the biggest international sales in a week for an album in history. It sold over 1.6 million copies in the first week in the US, making them the first artists since The Beatles to record back-to-back million-plus first-week sales. Black & Blue had three singles released:

  • The shape of my heart
  • The Call
  • More than That
The Backstreet Boys sang the American national anthem at Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida in 2001. The band finished their Black and Blue tour which took them to five continents. The tour was canceled in July after it was revealed that McLean had entered rehab to battle alcoholism and stress following Richardson’s intervention in a Boston hotel. The tour began in August and ended in November of 2001.

Immediately after rejoining the Black and Blue Toor the group was dealt a devastating blow when the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred. On the night of 10th September, the band had finished a sold-out show in Boston, Massachusetts, and the next morning Littrell’s wife Leighanne planned to board American Airlines Flight 11 back to Los Angeles, along with Daniel Lee, who was going back home to Los Angeles to see his wife, who was due to give birth to their second child.

Leighanne, on the other hand, canceled her ticket that night in order to spend more time with her husband. Lee was one of the 92 persons murdered when the hijacked airliner crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The following day during a concert on the band’s next leg of the tour in Toronto, Littrell gave a brief remark about Lee and led the audience to a moment of the morning for Lee and all the victims of the terrorists’ attack.
In 2001, their debut compilation album, The Hits – Chapter One was released. It also included “Drowning” from the previously unreleased songs. The album debuted in the top 5 in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. It was also in the top 10 in Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, and New Zealand.

The Hits: Chapter One was certified platinum in the United States after selling over one million copies. It was also certified platinum by the IFPI for selling more than a million copies in Europe. “Drowning” entered the top ten in numerous countries, and the album had sold nearly six million copies worldwide by 2002.

BSB (2002 -2004): The Respite

The group indicated that they would wish to leave their management, The Firm, in 2002. Carter on the other decided to remain with the Firm to manage his solo career. Shortly after, the rest of the band started working on their album without him. The Backstreet Boys’ relationship with JIVE records deteriorated when they launched a $75 to $100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group, JIVE’s parent company. They claimed a breach of contract.
They claimed that Carter’s solo album Now or Never was promoted at the expense of the group by the label. McLean was seen on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003 for the first time in public to discuss his addiction to booze and drugs, as well as his hardship ascending to prominence.

The rest of the group stunned him by showing up in person to show their support, marking the first time they appeared in public together in over two years. The band began to reassemble and mend fences, with plans to begin producing a return album.

BSB (2004 – 2006): Another One Left the Group

The BSB went into the studio again in 200 to begin work on their next album. They also began playing together in order to publicize their return to the music world. They began a modest Asian tour in September, presenting new material in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Manila. Based on the popularity of this tour, they announced a Mexican tour which would include stopping in Mexico City and Monterrey.
In 2005, the album’s first single, Incomplete, was issued to radio stations. Following the single’s release, they started their Up Close and Personal Tour, which acted as a pre-album release tour. “Incomplete” rose to number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and charted in the top ten in over 13 countries. It was the number one in Australia, making the country’s first number-one hit.

In Mid-2005, they released a comeback album called Never Gone after more than a year of recording. The album opened at number three on the Billboard selling over 291,000 copies in its first week. The significant change in style, however, garnered criticism from Rolling Stone. Never Gone was certified platinum in the United States. And the album spawned four singles. The second song “Just Want You to Know, reached the top ten in the United Kingdom. Crawling Back to You was the third single in the United States, and “I Still...” was the third single internationally. Never gone sold over three million copies globally.

In 2005, the Backstreet Boys kicked off the Never Gone Tour in West Palm Beach, Florida. The first leg ran throughout Europe until November of 2005, while the second leg began in Tokyo, Japan, in January 2006. In 2006, the tour came to an end in Melbourne, Australia.
Richardson announced his departure from Backstreet Boys in 2006 to pursue other interests. Richardson and the rest of the group released a statement on their official website, indicating that he left peacefully and that the door was always open for him to return.

After Rich’s departure, the group was advised to change their name to Backstreet but they declined. They also declined an opportunity to appear on a reality show to recruit a new member, and musicians who had indicated an interest in replacing Richardson like Sa Licata and former NSYNC member Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone stated that they had no plans to do so.

A Few Years Later...

It was announced in August 2012 that Backstreet Boys would appear in an Old Navy commercial. The commercial staring the group began airing in September 2012. They performed at an Old Navy event the same month called “Fit for Fall Fashion Show For All” at Bryant Park New York.

While on tour in Europe the trio recorded a series of ads for Swedish warehouse company NetOnNet in Sweden in 2004. The commercial first aired in 2014. They recorded a song called “Larger Than Life” for the advertisement. This was a remake of their hit’s song Larger than life with altered orchestration.

Final Thought

Just like any other music group, the Backstreet Boys have managed to stay strong even after the many fallouts. I still love their songs. They have never grown old or bored me at all. I think this is because of the motivating story behind the group.

Am really looking forward to their next tour. And I hope they will all be together in their next tour.

How do you remember the Backstreet Boys? Which was your favorite song?

Who was your favorite artist in the group?