Backstreet Boys

A hugely successful American boy-band, Backstreet Boys reversed the normal path of commercial success by finding fame in Europe before conquering their homeland.

The core membership of the Backstreet Boys – Carter, Dorough and McLean – first met at television auditions. After performing for several months as a trio, they recruited Richardson, then working at Disney World, and his cousin Brian Littrell. Their friendship with record producer Louis J. Pearlman secured them the services of management duo Donna and Johnny Wright, who arranged for them to tour. Snapped up by Jive Records in 1994, they began work on their début album with Veit Renn and Tim Allen.

Backstreet Boys (1995) was an instant success, reaching the Top Ten across Europe and spawning a big hit single, ‘We’ve Got It Goin’ on’ (1996), the Boys being seen as a white Boyz II Men. However, in North America, where boy-bands were not as well established, only the Canadian market fell for the group’s charms. With their second album, Backstreet’s Back (1997), the band managed to crack the US market, and achieved three international hit singles with ‘Quit Playin’ Games (with My Heart)’, ‘As Long as You Love Me’ and the title track, accompanied by a spectacular music video drawing influence from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.

The Backstreet Boys took a year off in 1998 while Littrell had corrective heart surgery, but returned to the charts with their third album, Millennium (1999), which topped the US album charts and included the hit single ‘I Want It That Way’.

© Phil Hardy, Dave LaingThe Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music, 2001

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