|Origin||Orlando, Florida, United States|
|Genres||Pop, pop rock, R&B, teen pop, adult contemporary|
|Labels||Jive, Legacy Recordings|
|Associated acts||New Kids on the Block, Elton John
N Sync, Pitbull, Hilary Duff, Nick Lachey, 98 Degrees
A. J. McLean
The Backstreet Boys (sometimes referred to as BSB) are an American vocal group, formed in Orlando, Florida in 1993. The band originally consisted of A. J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter and Kevin Richardson. 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 debut album in the United States which continued the group’s success worldwide. They rose to superstardom with their album Millennium (1999) and its follow-up album, Black & Blue (2000). After a three-year hiatus, the band regrouped and have released their comeback album: Never Gone (2005), as well as two further albums Unbreakable (2007) and This Is Us (2009).
Kevin Richardson left the group in 2006 to pursue other interests.
The Backstreet Boys have sold over 130 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling boy band of all time. According to Billboard, they are the first group since Sade to have their first seven albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200.
Formation and early years: 1992–1995
Cousins Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell, both of whom came from Lexington, Kentucky, initially began singing in local church choirs and festivals while 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 who joined the two for local commercials, theater, and television. The three, realizing at one audition, that they all shared a great affection for classical soul which they were able to harmonize together, decided to form a trio. Meanwhile, Richardson moved to Orlando, where he took several jobs at Disney, including a tour guide, and the roles of Aladdin and a Ninja Turtle and concentrated on music at nights. Eventually, he met Dorough, Carter, and McLean through a co-worker, and the four decided to form a group. Brian Littrell was later invited to join, turning the group into a quintet. In the course of all this, Lou Pearlman, in early 1992 had placed an ad in Orlando Sentinel announcing auditions to compose a boy band. A.J., 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 during which hundreds of young performers danced and sang at his blimp hangar in Kissimmee, south of Orlando. Eventually, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Howie Dorough were selected after meeting Pearlman’s expectations. Brian Littrell was added to the group after Richardson had him audition for the group over the telephone.  Pearlman decided to call the group Backstreet Boys, naming it after Orlando’s Backstreet flea market. The group had its very first performance at SeaWorld Orlando in May 1993.
Debut Album’s and American success: 1996–1997
The first single that was chosen to be released was “We’ve Got It Goin’ On” which was sent to radio in August and released as a physical single on September 5, 1995. (In North America, Montreal radio broke the group after local programmers heard it on European radio.) The song was a minor success in the States peaking at only No. 69 by December, the single; however, enjoyed quite a success 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 the Backstreet Boys’ promotion being mostly done in Europe. In November 1995 they filmed their second video music for their second international single, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart“, which was only issued in Europe on February 12, 1996. They finished recording their first album Backstreet Boys in April 1996 and filmed their fourth music video, “Get Down (You’re the One for Me)” in Germany. On May 6, 1996, their debut album was released internationally, with an exception of the US and the Canadian markets; however, it was later released in Canada in October 1996.
European popularity grew and the Backstreet Boys kicked off 1996 being voted the No. 1 international group by TV viewers in Germany, in the meantime, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” reached a Gold status there for selling 250,000 units. The group earned their first platinum record in Germany in 1996 for selling 500,000 units of their debut album Backstreet Boys during which time 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 Germany’s Viva Comet Awards in 1996 for the category of Durchstarter (Best Newcomers).
The Backstreet Boys began recording their second album Backstreet’s Back and also recorded the song, “If You Stay“, for the Booty Call soundtrack later released in February 1997. They released “Anywhere For You” as the last single off their international album on February 17, 1997. The single “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” released in May 1997 for their upcoming U.S. debut album managed to climb as high as No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100 eventually earning them a platinum-award for selling over one million units. While the album Backstreet’s Back was released internationally (with an exception of the US market) in August 1997, their self-titled U.S. debut, which consisted of songs from Backstreet’s Back and the previous self-titled international version of Backstreet Boys, was released in U.S. on 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 back home. 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 units in Europe alone. The two self-titled albums, the international version and the U.S. version of Backstreet Boys sold more than 28 million copies worldwide, 14 million of which were sold in the U.S.
In 1997, Brian 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.
Millenium, Black and Blue, and World stardom: 1998–2000
While in the middle of a lawsuit, they began recording the follow-up to their 1997 releases at the beginning of October 1998. All versions of Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time album released prior to May 18, 1999 featured previews of tracks from their upcoming album Millennium. The worldwide hit single “I Want It That Way” which topped the single-charts in many countries including the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, 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 Millennium . 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 the end of December 2008, the album stands as the fourth best selling album in the US of the SoundScan era.
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.
A trip to the Bahamas was made by the group members in May 2000 to write songs for their album. They began recording their next album on July 1, 2000 in Stockholm Sweden, which wrapped up its recording sessions in September. A song completed during the July recording sessions, “It’s True”, was released on August 28, 2000 to a compilation sold by Burger King. They released the album’s first single, “Shape of My Heart“, to radio on October 3, 2000. The Backstreet Boys released their next studio album Black & Blue on November 21, 2000, and to promote the release of the album, the boys traveled around the world in 100 hours to Sweden, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and the US; 55 of the hours were spent traveling and 45 were spent making public appearances. It 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. Despite the initial excellent sales, Black and Blue never matched up to the hype that their first two albums made. The first single off the album was “Shape of My Heart,” followed by “The Call” and “More Than That.” In the first week of release, Black & Blue’s first single “Shape of My Heart” was played on 170 out of 171 of the Top 40 stations in the U.S. and eventually peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile overseas, the song entered the Top-5 in Germany (No.2), Switzerland (No.1), Austria (No.4), the Netherlands (No.3), Sweden (No.1), Norway (No.1), Finland (No.3), Italy (No.1), Australia (No.5) and New Zealand (No.1). In late February 2001, the album’s second single “The Call” made it into the Top-10 in the UK and the third single “More than That” made it into the Top-20.
Black and Blue Tour, The Hits: Chapter One, and Hiatus: 2001-2003
In January 2001, the Backstreet Boys kicked off the first leg of their “The Black & Blue Tour“, in which they were to perform on five continents. The tour also had extremely expensive production costs. The second leg of “The Black & Blue Tour” was put on hold when it was reported that A.J. McLean had checked himself into rehab to battle alcoholism, cocaine addiction and depression after Richardson had held an intervention for him at a Boston hotel. Three sold-out shows for Air Canada Centre were postponed until September. On January 28, 2001, the Backstreet Boys performed the American national anthem, in front of an audience at the Super Bowl XXXV at the Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida.
The Hits: Chapter One, released on October 30, 2001 was a collection of the Backstreet Boys’s classic hits and a previously unreleased song, “Drowning“. While the album entered the top-5 in the U.S. (No.4), United Kingdom (No.5), Germany (No.4) and Canada (No.1), it managed to enter the top-10 in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In the US, The Hits: Chapter One was certified platinum for selling over one million units. Similarly, the album was certified platinum by IFPI (Europe) also for selling over one million units there.
In 2002, the band expressed a strong desire to leave their management company, The Firm. Nick Carter chose to remain with The Firm to manage his solo career. Jive, according to industry observers, had no choice but to bank on releasing Carter’s solo album by the end of the year. The relationship with Jive worsened when the Backstreet Boys filed a $75–100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group (Jive’s parent company) claiming breach of contract. The group stated the label promoted Nick Carter’s solo album Now or Never at the expense of the group who wanted to promote their fourth album. According to the suit, in November 1999, the Backstreet Boys revised their 1994 contract and committed to releasing two further albums for Zomba. In exchange for delivering them on time as part of a predetermined schedule, the group would receive multiple non-returnable payments that would serve as advances against future royalties.
In November 2003, A.J. McLean appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show where he talked for the first time in public about his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and his struggles rising to fame. The rest of the band surprised him by arriving in person to give him support, marking the first time the Backstreet Boys had appeared together in public in almost two years. The episode later aired in December 2003 to nationwide audiences. The band began to reform and reconcile their differences, planning to start recording a comeback album at beginning of the next year.
Never Gone and Richardson’s departure: 2004-2006
The Backstreet Boys entered the studios in January 2004 to start writing the new album and mentioned they had recorded four songs for the album in February. 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. Based on the success of this tour, they announced a Mexican tour, visiting Mexico City and Monterrey and performing all new material.
After a three-year hiatus, their single, “Incomplete“, was released to radio stations on March 28, 2005. The album is named after a song on the album which mourns the loss of Kevin Richardson’s father. The drastic style change drew negative criticism from magazines such as Rolling Stone, which gave the album one star. On June 14, 2005, the Backstreet Boys released their comeback album Never Gone, which they spent more than a year recording. The album debuted at #3 on the U.S. chart with first week sales of 291,000 copies, and #1 debuts in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Germany, India, Chile, Brazil and South Korea. The Backstreet Boys began the first leg of their The Never Gone Tour in July in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was their first Australian tour. Never Gone was certified platinum in the US and four singles were released from the album. The first single was “Incomplete“, the second single was “Just Want You to Know“, and the third singles were “Crawling Back to You” for the US and “I Still…” internationally. Never Gone has sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide. Never Gone’s second single “Just Want You to Know” hit the top 10 in the UK, but was not as successful in the United States. It was one of the group’s weakest performing U.S. singles, only peaking at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The third international single “I Still…” debuted at #1 on the Japan International Singles Chart. The third US single, “Crawling Back to You” peaked at #15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.
In June 2006, Richardson left the Backstreet Boys to pursue other interests, issuing a statement on band’s website on June 23, 2006.
Unbreakable and This is Us: 2007–2010
The Backstreet Boys’ sixth album Unbreakable, was officially launched on October 30, 2007. It was their first effort since Richardson’s departure. While the album had received positive reviews, it did not perform as well as its predecessor, Never Gone. Unbreakable opened at #7 on The Billboard 200, selling 81,000 copies in its first week of release. Two weeks after its debut, the album dropped out of the top 100. However, it performed well in Japan, debuting at #1 on the Japanese Oricon weekly album charts and staying there for another week.
On July 25, 2007, the first single was confirmed as “Inconsolable,” a piano-driven power ballad similar to Never Gone‘s “Incomplete.” It reached #21 on the US Adult Contemporary Charts, but managed only #86 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Helpless When She Smiles” was the next single to be released from Unbreakable. It only managed to reach #52 in the US Adult Contemporary charts and in turn failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
The group went on a 45 date World tour to promote Unbreakable in Tokyo, Japan on February 16, 2008. Dates were confirmed for the tour being titled the Unbreakable Tour in Australia, Japan, Mexico, UK, Europe, Asia, Canada and The United States. They recorded a tour DVD in London’s The O2 Arena which can be seen on YouTube, but has yet to be released. Richardson rejoined the rest of the band in Los Angeles at the Palladium in Hollywood on November 23, 2008 for the last North American stop of the Unbreakable Tour.
In 2009, the group began working on a new album that was released on October 6, 2009, called This Is Us, and were confirmed to be working with Max Martin, OneRepublic singer Ryan Tedder, RedOne, Ne-Yo, Brian Kennedy, Alex James, Pitbull, Claude Kelly, Jim Jonsin, Eddie Galan, T-Pain, Rami Yacoub, Kristian Lundin and many others. Unlike Unbreakable, This Is Us‘s sound went back to their original dance-pop beats and contains a more R&B sound. The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200, selling 42,000 copies in its first week of release. It peaked at #2 in Japan and was certified Platinum for shipments of 250,000 copies. On August 27, 2009, the first single, “Straight Through My Heart” was released. It failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 but managed to peak at #18 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. The second single off the album was “Bigger“. On October 30, 2009, the group went on the This Is Us World Tour, which concluded in Hanoi on March 26, 2011.
A second Backstreet Boys greatest hits album was released on January 26, 2010. The compilation is titled Playlist: The Very Best of Backstreet Boys and is part of a series of similar Playlist albums issued by Sony Legacy. It was their last album for Jive Records, as they parted ways with the label.
In November 2010, the Backstreet Boys closed out the American Music Awards with New Kids on the Block. On November 8, 2010, it was confirmed that they were planning to have a joint tour with New Kids on the Block in 2011. Prior to the tour, the new supergroup released an album of their biggest hits, including two new songs, “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” and “All in My Head”. On October 16, 2011, new tour dates were announced for UK and Europe.
On October 25, 2011, Kevin Richardson made an announcement on Ryan Seacrest that he will be hosting a special Beach Party Concert in the Bahamas on December 3, 2011. The party is part of the group’s second annual cruise, the SS Backstreet, which runs from December 2–5. He also stated that he would love to perform with the group again on a more regular basis.
- Backstreet Boys (1996)
- Backstreet’s Back (1997)
- Millennium (1999)
- Black & Blue (2000)
- Never Gone (2005)
- Unbreakable (2007)
- This Is Us (2009)
- 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)
- The Black & Blue Tour (2000–2001)
- Up Close & Personal Tour (2005)
- The Never Gone Tour (2005–2006)
- Unbreakable Tour (2008–2009)
- This Is Us Tour (2009–2011)
- NKOTBSB Tour (2011–2012)
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of best selling music artists in US
- List of best-selling albums (USA)
- List of best-selling albums worldwide
- List of best-selling boy bands
- Top ten best-selling albums of the Nielsen SoundScan era
- List of most expensive music videos
- List of awards received by Backstreet Boys