- AJ McLean (1993–present)
- Brian Littrell (1993–present)
- Howie Dorough (1993–present)
- Nick Carter (1993–present)
- Kevin Richardson (1993–2006; 2012–present)
Beginnings and International Successes: 1992-1996
Lou Pearlman, an aviation entrepreneur based in Florida, was inspired by the success of the New Kids On The Block in the 1980s to create his own clean-cut band. After a series of auditions in 1992 and 1993, he recruited Nick Carter (at 12, the band's youngest member), Howie Dorough, 19, Alexander James McLean, 14 and following the departure of two members - Sam Licata (later performing as Phoenix Stone) and Charles Edwards - Kevin Richardson came aboard in March 1993, who was 21. The group took its final shape on April 19, 1993, when Brian Littrell, cousin of Richardson, joined the group after a phone audition. Their first concert, on May 8, 1993, was performed for 3,000 teenagers at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Pearlman later booked them at grade-school assemblies and shopping malls, and assigned management duties to Johnny Wright, who had worked with New Kids on the Block.
After a possible Mercury Records deal failed, the band was spotted in Cleveland, Ohio by an executive from Jive Records in February 1994. By June, they were recording their first single; an urban pop song by writer/producer Denniz PoP called "We've Got It Goin' On". The single struggled in the US and reached only #69 on the Billboard charts; but it sold well in Europe, later earning the band their first Gold record in Germany. In the summer of 1996, the band's first self-titled album was released in Europe and Canada, going gold within weeks in Europe. Jive and Pearlman kept the band busy overseas for the next two years, sometimes putting on tours for five straight months.
European popularity grew, and the Backstreet Boys kicked off 1996 being voted the No.1 International Group by TV viewers in Germany - "I'll Never Break Your Heart" went gold there and hit No.1 in Austria. The group earned their first Platinum record in Germany and toured Asia and Canada.
Breakthrough in the United States: 1997-1999
By 1997, pop music was returning to the forefront in United States, with the likes of the Spice Girls. Jive and Pearlman decided to bring the boys back to their home country after 8.5 million discs had been sold worldwide. They began recording their second album, Backstreet's Back, releasing "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" in August, coinciding with the release of their second international album, the band released a self-titled album in the US which collected songs from both international albums. They hit big on the U.S. charts, and debuting at #1 in Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Finland and Austria. The two albums sold over 25 million copies worldwide (14 million copies in the U.S.) In December 1997, the band embarked on a 60-city, 20-country tour.
In 1997, Littrell (soon joined by McLean, Richardson and Dorough) brought a lawsuit against Lou Pearlman, in which they claimed that Pearlman had hidden and misused money earned by the band. The case was settled in 1998.
In 1998, Littrell underwent open heart surgery in the middle of their sold-out US 39-city tour, at the insistence of his then girlfriend (and now wife) Leighanne Wallace; he had twice postponed the surgery in the past. He had been struggling with a heart murmur since he was born, almost dying at the age of 4 due to a bacterial infection. Littrell needed about 8 weeks to recover from the surgery. Shortly after, the Backstreet Boys cancelled an appearance in Minnesota after learning that Howie Dorough's sister had died of lupus. In October 1998, the band received the keys to the city from the mayor of Orlando in honor of the tornado relief concert the group headlined in March.
On February 17, 1999, the Boys received their first Diamond award from the RIAA for shipment of 10 million copies of their self-titled album. At that time, they had hired a new manager team called "The Firm", famous for managing bands including Limp Bizkit and Korn. Along with their new management team, the Backstreet Boys sued Pearlman several more times, until he renegotiated the settlement on terms more favorable to the band. Executives of the Firm stated that the Backstreet Boys had bought out Pearlman's stake in the band, but he denied this.
Millennium: The follow-up album 1999-2000
On May 18, 1999, the Backstreet Boys released the album Millennium, which sold over 1.13 million units in its first week, setting, at the time, a record for first week sales, until April 2000, when 'N Sync's sophomore album, No Strings Attached sold 2.4 million units in its first week. The album also recorded the most sales for an album's second and third weeks. Rolling Stone reports that sales might have been bigger if some stores had not run out of CDs. The album dominated the worldwide charts, landing at the #1 spot in 25 nations. It was certified 11 times platinum on December 22, 1999, and went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide. The first single "I Want It That Way" was a significant hit, reaching the #1 spot in over 18 countries. In addition to receiving gold and platinum awards in 45 countries, the band's sophomore album was nominated for 5 Grammy Award's including Album of the Year. In August, the Backstreet Boys sold out a 39-city tour in less than a day, selling over 765,000 tickets in a matter of hours, prompting additional shows in many markets and shattering a number of box-office records selling out all 53 concert dates of their Into The Millennium Tour which kicked off in September. The tour drew over 2 million fans, breaking the record for largest indoor audience.
Impressed by the success of the Backstreet Boys, Sony BMG, which already owned 20 percent of Jive's parent company, purchased a remainder for $3 billion, the most ever paid for an independent record company. In the meantime, The Firm negotiated tens of millions of dollars in advance payments for recordings and performances from Jive and the concert promoter Clear Channel. Also by the end of 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.
In 2000, the Backstreet Boys graced the pages of the new millennium's first issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Burger King made a deal with the boys for tour sponsorship, videos, and CDs with unreleased live tracks that were available for sale at Burger King restaurants in August and September. In February, Littrell and Richardson confirmed their engagements to their fiancées.
Black And Blue: 2000-2001
In November 2000, the group released a new album, Black & Blue, with the idea of the title of the album coming from Brian as the boys were in Los Angeles for a photoshoot when they were all dressed in black and standing in front of a blue background when out of the blue, Brian suggested the album be called Black & Blue. To promote the release of Black & Blue, 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. The album debuted with 1.6 million units sold in the first week in America, making the band the first ever artist to have two albums sell a million or more copies in the first week. In November 2000, Black & Blue had sold more than five million copies worldwide in its initial week, setting a new first-week record in international sales. Globally, Black & Blue whose 13-song selection features six songs co-written by members of the group, including two written by all five Backstreet Boys achieved platinum status in over 30 countries and gold certification in 10 regions around the world during its first week of release. 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. Meanwhile overseas, the song immediately jumped into the Top Five in Sweden (#1), Norway (#1), Canada (#1), Germany (#2), Switzerland (#4), Austria (#5) and Holland (#5). Towards the end of 2000, McLean first started using cocaine while shooting for the video "The Call". The album's second single "The Call" made the Top 10 in the UK and the third single "More Than That" made the Top 20.
In 2001, the Backstreet Boys kicked off the 1st leg of their "2001 Black & Blue World Tour", in which they were to perform on five continents within the span of 100 hours. The full tour earned US $350 million in ticket sales, placing the tour among the highest-grossing ever, though the tour also had extremely expensive production costs ("The largest concert set ever constructed," according to the president of Zomba Music Group). The tour was featured on a CBS TV special, The Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life. To coincide with the special, TV Guide issued six different covers of the boys: five individual shots and one group photo.
The second leg of Black & Blue summer tour was put on hold when it was reported that A.J. McLean had checked himself into rehab to battle drinking, drug addiction, and depression, after Richardson had held an intervention for him at a hotel in Boston. The tour was postponed until September. Another tragedy struck when the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred, killing a Backstreet Boys crew member, Daniel Lee, who had been using time off in the tour schedule to travel from Boston to Los Angeles to be with his pregnant wife. The death caused the cancellation of the band's plans for overseas tours. Despite the tragedy in New York that day, the Backsteet Boys went ahead with a planned concert that night in Toronto, where they performed to less than 5000 fans, and angered many in a public struggling to cope with the enormity of what had happened.and went on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide.
Greatest Hits: 2001-2002
In October 2001, the boys released The Hits: Chapter One, a disc of their greatest hits. The band members say they resisted the album, feeling that it was too early in their careers for a "greatest hits" collection, and that it would ruin their long held plan to mark the group's 10th anniversary in 2003 with such a release. The record sold over 6 million copies worldwide, and yielded an international top 10 hit "Drowning". The Boys performed at the United We Stand concert in Washington, D.C. as well as The Concert for New York City (two benefit concerts for the victims of September 11) and were a part of the All Star Tribute benefit single "What's Going On" (with proceeds going to AIDS and 9/11 charities). By the end of 2001 and into 2002, it became clear that the Backstreet Boys were on an extended break with no new recordings or releases.
During Their Break: 2002-2004
In 2002, the band expressed a strong desire to leave their management company, The Firm. Not surprisingly, the company did not put up much resistance. However, Carter chose to remain with The Firm for them to manage his solo career. It became apparent that this was reason for their lack of resistance to the Backstreet Boys moving on and this unexpected move forced the band to take a break. Starved for a blockbuster album release, Jive, according to industry observers, had no choice but to bank on releasing Carter's solo album by the end of the year, ahead of the next Backstreet Boys' album, which was due in early 2003.
In 2002, Nick Carter's solo album "Now or Never" was released. The album peaked at #17 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Gold.
The relationship with Jive got even worse when the Backstreet Boys filed a $75-100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group (Jives parent company) claiming breach of contract. The band's lawyer stated that ZMG used the Backstreet Boys' trademark to shuttle traffic to other Web sites and for a band this big, which was supposed to receive royalties from the record label, were not getting any personal attention it needed. 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.
During their break, Kevin starred on Broadway's "Chicago", Nick released his solo album, also Brian, Howie and AJ all worked on their solo records. In November of 2003, Brian's wife Leighanne, gave birth to the couple's first child, Baylee Wylee Littrell. In December 2003, 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 band began to reform and reconcile their differences to start recording a comeback album.
In 2004, the Backstreet Boys started performing together to promote their return to the music scene. In September they kicked-off a small Asian tour, visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, as well as Manila. Then, based on the success of this tour, they announced a Mexican tour, visiting Mexico City and Monterrey, performing all new material. Renewed interest grew with the announcement of airing an hour long televised documentary of the Backstreet Boys on VH1's Behind The Music.
Comeback: Never Gone 2005-2006
After a three-year hiatus, their new hit single, "Incomplete", was released to radio stations on March 28, 2005 and quickly became the #1 most requested song in top markets in both U.S. and overseas. The song was a change from their previous albums, switching to more of an adult contemporary style similar to the music of Coldplay rather than the traditional teen-pop that had previously dominated the charts. The drastic style change drew negative criticism from magazines such as Rolling Stone (who gave the album only 1 star) and many long time fans, who felt they should have stayed true to their trademark pop sound.
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 substantial first week sales of 291,000 copies, including #1 debuts in Japan, Pakistan,Germany, India, Chile, Brazil, Australia, and Korea. In that year Brian Littrell scored a #1 hit on the US Christian Charts with the single "In Christ Alone". The Backstreet Boys began the first leg of their Never Gone Tour in July in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Never Gone was certified platinum in the US and four singles were released from the album. Their first single "Incomplete", the second single was "Just Want You To Know", the third singles were: "Crawling Back To You" for the US and "I Still..." (international). Never Gone has sold over 3 Million copies worldwide.
Backstreet Boys' second single "Just Want You To Know" hit the top 10 in the UK, but was widely considered a flop in America, it was the group's worst performing U.S. single only managing to peak at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The third international single "I Still" debuted at #1 on the Japan International Singles Chart with 2,182 copies sold, making the first ever international single to enter at #1 on the chart in Japanese history. The third US single, "Crawling Back To You" peaked at #30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.
On May 2, 2006, Brian Littrell released his first solo album Welcome Home (You) with the title track as the first single. Both album and single made the top 3 on the Billboard Christian Charts.
Departure of Kevin Richardson from the band
On June 23, 2006 the band issued a statement regarding Kevin Richardson's intention to leave the Backstreet Boys. The reason stated was his wish to pursue other interests that he could not while in the group. The rest of the Backstreet Boys wished him the best of luck in the future and they have no plans on replacing him. They noted that he would always be welcome to return should he wish to do so. Since then, Kevin has returned to the role of young hotshot lawyer named "Billy Flynn" in the Broadway musical Chicago for a short engagement in Toronto, Canada from November 21December 3, 2006.
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. 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, in 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.
In August 2012, it was revealed that the Backstreet Boys would be starring in an Old Navy commercial. The 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.
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 and In a World Like This: 2013–present
The Backstreet Boys celebrated their 20th anniversary, which was on April 20, 2013, with a fan celebration event in Hollywood that day. At the event, they previewed several songs from their new album and showed a teaser of their documentary film, due for release to theaters 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 embarked on their 20th anniversary tour officially titled In A World Like This Tour which began in China. The group also made a cameo in the 2013 movie This Is The End as themselves, performing their song "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)".
The group released the first single from their eighth studio album, In A World Like This, digitally on June 25, 2013. The song, also called "In A World Like This", was later released as a physical CD in Japan on July 3, 2013, and released to the radio on July 22, 2013. The album itself was released in the US on July 30, 2013 and in other countries some time later. It was the group's first independent album, released under their own label, K-BAHN. It reached the top 5 in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Taiwan, and Japan. The group released a second single from the album, "Show 'Em (What You're Made Of)" in November 2013.
In December 2013, the Backstreet Boys performed their two original Christmas songs in the annual "Christmas in Washington" TV special which was also attended by the President of the United States Barack Obama and his family.
The Backstreet Boys members were due in court on March 24, 2014 over a claim they filed against their former manager Lou Pearlman. The group alleged that Pearlman still owes them $3,451,456.04 and they are also asking for $87,728.58 in legal fees for having to fight him in court for years. But in March 2014, the group stated that they have a scheduling conflict and discussed postponing the hearing by 90 days.
Did You Know?
- According to Guinness Book of World Records in 2001, "the biggest boy band in history" was the Backstreet Boys when they achieved record-breaking sales of 17 million copies of their album Millennium by March 2001.
- The Backstreet Boys are the only group in Canadian history to have three consecutive Diamond albums, commemorating sales of over ten million units.
- Backstreet Boys hold the record for being the World's Biggest Money Maker for Concerts and Album Sales since their debut in 1997 to 2005 with US$534 million according to Jive records and as ranked by Celender Magazine.
- The Backstreet Boys gave 8 performances at the 2000 Grammy awards.
- In August 1998, 50 fans were treated for various injuries including hyperventilation
and fainting at a concert in Alberta.
- The Backstreet Boys are the only artists to win a record four World Music
Awards for three years in a row since 1999-2001.
- According to Jive Records, the band is "the highest selling boy band
of all time", selling 98 million albums worldwide.
- US$14 million of merchandise was purchased by fans during the 1999 "Into
The Millennium" tour.
- In 2000 60 concert-goers were hurt at a performance in Washington as the crowd
was pushing forward to the stage.
- The Backstreet Boys have sold a total 200 million books worldwide.
- "I Want It That Way" was ranked No. 10 on Rolling Stone & MTV's
100 Greatest Pop Songs list.
- The Backstreet Boys have been ranked #22 on the Top 500 Pop Artists of the
Past 25 Years list in 2005.
- The band performed the American national anthem at Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa,
Florida in 2001.
- In a 2001 Billboard.com poll, 30% of the 16,863 votes for the top album of
2001 were for "Black and Blue". The next closest challenger, the Beatles'
"1", pulled in 15% of the vote.
- In 2001 over one million tickets for the "2001 Black & Blue U.S.
Tour" were sold during the first 24 hours of availability.
- The Backstreet Boys teamed with Stan Lee to produce a Web-based franchise
named The Backstreet Project which chronicled the adventures of the Backstreet
Boys as cyber-crusaders. The project debuted as a limited-edition collector's
comic book that was sold exclusively at Backstreet Boys concerts. The animated
series was launched on the Web in the summer of 2000 using Macromedia Flash
animation and was sold out on the first day. (See link in the External Links
- "I'll Never Break Your Heart" was the #1 video on the first episode
of MTV's Total Request Live in 1998.
- In 1998, Orlando declared October 7 as the official "Backstreet Boys
Day" in honor of the tornado relief concert the group headlined which raised
about $250,000 for local victims of the devastation.
- In 2002, the Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, proclaimed March 2, as the official
"Backstreet Boys Day" in conjunction with their fan convention.
- In April 2006, the Backstreet Boys were given a Recording Academy Honors award
to mark their success in the music industry so far.
- The band performed at the 2006 NFL Pro Bowl halftime show.