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    Then there were four' - South China Morning Post, Feb 28

    Gianna S.
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    Then there were four' - South China Morning Post, Feb 28

    Post by Gianna S. on Thu 28 Feb 2008, 1:10 pm


    Then there were four
    Backstreet Boys' A.J. McLean tells Michelle Chan why less is more

    Feb 28, 2008

    Backstreet Boys are back after three years in the musical wilderness. And the first thing fans will notice is that the five-piece that were one of the biggest names in pop are now a quartet.
    This comes across from the opening track of their sixth studio album - Unbreakable - a sweet a capella that was the hallmark of the Florida-based outfit during their multi-platinum peak in the mid-1990s.

    When founding member Kevin Richardson opted to step away from the limelight so he could start a family, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and A. J. McLean decided to pick up where they left off with their last "comeback" album Never Gone (2005).

    "It's definitely a little bit weird for us just because we were a five-piece for 13 years, but we've definitely got used to it," says McLean.
    He says that despite the loss of Richardson the group's harmonies are as strong as ever.
    "You really can't hear that much of a difference as far as the harmony [goes]. That's because a lot of times we would just [go] crazy with harmonies and do a six- or seven-part [vocal arrangement]. There was never really a five-part harmony, it was really a four-part harmony.
    Kevin and I would usually double up and sing the same part," McLean says.

    "The main difference is obviously visually ... you only see the four of us now," McLean says.

    And the boys have no intention to replace Richardson. Instead, they've decided to leave the door open, hoping that one day he might rejoin the fold.

    "We'd definitely [be] ready to have him back," McLean says.

    The heart-throbs started out 15 years ago and were a hit outside their native US before they made it big at home.

    They released their first single, We've Got it Goin' On, in 1995 and it met with immediate success in Britain and on various European charts. In 1996, their self-titled debut album sold 7.5 million copies internationally, while 1997's follow-up, Backstreet's Back clocked up global sales of 10.2 million. Later that year they struck it big in the US when gangsta rap and rock were dominating the charts.

    In those years, teenage girls the world over were singing along to sappy ballads such as I'll Never Break Your Heart and upbeat numbers like Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) and, perhaps, their best-known hit Everybody (Backstreet's Back).

    Over the next several years, the boys rolled out a litany of chart-toppers. Millennium, released in 1999, sold more than 20 million copies in 43 countries and went multi-platinum in 28 countries. Their next effort, Black & Blue (2000), did even better.

    After years of recording and touring, the band decided to take a break to pursue solo projects. Nick Carter released a solo album - Now or Never (2002), Littrell became a father, Dorough did charity work, and Richardson took a lead role in the Broadway musical Chicago. Meanwhile, McLean worked on conquering his drug addiction.

    The next time Backstreet Boys were seen together was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, during which McLean openly discussed his stint in rehab and his lengthy battle with alcohol and drugs.

    Like most boy bands, Backstreet Boys have attempted the tricky transformation from being teenage idols to adult contemporary performers. And 2005's optimistically titled pop-rock set, Never Gone, went some way to achieving that goal with more mature tracks such as Incomplete and Siberia.

    Apart from undertaking another world tour in the first quarter of this year, McLean says that both he and Dorough are still working on their first solo albums. "I've always wanted to do something on my own ... And the time was just never right
    [before]," he says.

    "I finished my record towards the end of last year and we're moving forward to mixing songs," he says.

    Fans can look forward to elements of rock, funk and soul, with losts of horns and guitars. "I wrote pretty much the whole record along with other writers and producers and a lot of the lyrics are very personal, very intimate and special to me.

    "It's kind of a breakout record in the sense that I introduce myself as an individual," McLean says.

    As for Dorough, McLean says his band mate is putting the finishing touches on a record that will feature English and Spanish songs.

    As for tomorrow night's show, McLean says the boys will focus mainly on their dance tracks.

    "We are putting a lot more dance records on this tour so that we can bring movement back to our live shows," he says.

    Backstreet Boys, tomorrow, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Arena, Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau, HK$480, HK$780, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 3128 8288


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