For McLean, the most harrowing moment of Spears' explosive June 23 court hearing was when the 39-year-old pop superstar said she isn't allowed to remove her IUD to have a baby, which the former boy band member described as "physical abuse" and "grotesque." McLean also claimed Spears was pretty much his neighbor and that they both frequent the same shopping center and little cupcake shop. However, last time he saw her at the cupcake shop, the 43-year-old entertainer said, "It broke my heart."
"When I last saw her, my wife asked me to go in to get some cupcakes for a birthday party for one of my daughter's friends. Went in, she was there, she looked right at me and I was like, 'Hey, it's AJ!' And she just kind of had this glass face," he said. "Like, she just didn't know who was there. It took her a minute. And then she realized it was me and we hugged and we talked for a brief moment. But I could just see that this wasn't her, like, I'm not looking at the person I knew from years and years ago."
What also doesn't sit right with McLean as someone who's been sober for nearly three years during his 20-year battle with substance abuse and addiction is that Spears cannot benefit from the same kind of help as him. "The fact that she cannot stay in contact with anyone from her fellowship, from when she was going to AA meetings, that is BS to me because that's the whole core of what we do in this program, is fellowship," he explained. "We lean on each other, we look up to each other for support and, if somebody were to take that from me, it would really be difficult for me to stay sober, honest to God."
At the band's peak in the early aughts, the Backstreet Boys famously revealed in a July 9, 2001-dated episode of TRL that McLean had entered a rehab facility for the first time and they would be postponing their tour as a result. Carter sees a parallel between McLean and Spears' situations in the beginning, when teams behind an act's career can easily look over an artist's own well-being and not have the right priorities.
"I think that kind of can also tie back into the Britney situation. You have labels and you have managers and you have people who are tugging at you because there's like this one moment that you gotta squeeze everything you can out of the artists at the expense of the artists' health and wellness," Carter chimed in. "And I think that at that point, the entire group, the four of us, we got together, and we said, 'You know what? Even though this is a multimillion-dollar tour, the biggest stadiums and arenas that we had ever been in at the time, it was like, 'Stop.' Everything had to stop at that point. And I think that's the one thing about our group is that we know each other, we see each other and there's a time when, look, all of this can go away in a second for us, and we're still going to have to be family and brothers to one another. And that's more important than business."
See McLean and Carter's interview below.