Is there life beyond the boy band phenomenon? The Backstreet Boys, and Zomba Label Group president/CEO Barry Weiss are on a mission to prove there is.
“Never Gone,” due June 14, is the first studio album from the multi-platinum act in nearly five years. After selling more than 73 million albums worldwide, according to the label, group members Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, Nick Carter and A.J. McLean decided to take a hiatus. “We had been going on a nonstop pace for over eight years,” Dorough says. “It was taking its toll on the relationships in the group. We got to a point where we were taking each other for granted and we were taking our business for granted.”
Dorough admits there was also some concern that they were over-saturating the market. “We thought the market probably wasn’t ready for us to try to come up with another record,” he says. “We just thought instead of pushing it out there in the people’s faces, we decided to take a good, healthy break. We looked at groups like the Eagles and Aerosmith, groups that have been around a long, long time. In order to do it properly and to have long careers without getting burnt out, you need to take a break every so often.”
Dorough dabbled in real estate and began recording an English/Spanish-language album. Littrell and wife welcomed a son, and he signed a deal with Reunion Records to record a Christian album, due next year. McLean worked on his sobriety and a solo album. Carter released a solo album, “Now or Never,” in 2002. Richardson performed in London and on Broadway in “Chicago.”
Dorough says the catalyst for the reunion came when McLean and his mother appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the rest of the group surprised him there.
When they got back in the studio, they first found themselves exploring a different sound. “It actually started off in an R&B direction about a year-and-a-half ago,” Dorough says. But it morphed into a pop album as the group worked with a slew of top producers, including Max Martin, Mark Taylor, Billy Mann, Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik, Dan Muckala and John Shanks.
Muckala produced the first single, “Incomplete,” which has been welcomed at pop radio — despite some initial skepticism. The song is No. 9 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart and No. 18 on the Adult Contemporary list.
The album features the act’s trademark harmonies, but “we’ve stripped it down and kept it more organic,” Dorough says. “It’s not all five-part harmony like everything used to be. It’s like Backstreet Boys meets Matchbox Twenty meets Maroon5 meets Coldplay.”
To give fans a glimpse of the new album, the group hit the road for 18 dates this spring. “For the most part, the entire tour sold out within 20 minutes,” group manager Johnny Wright says. “It was a pleasant surprise.” He adds that the audience ranged from 11-year-olds to 35-year-olds.
The week of the album’s release, the group will make appearances on NBC’s “Today” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” ABC’s “The View” and CBS’ “The Early Show.”
This summer the group will embark on a tour of amphitheaters in up to 35 markets. Plans call for a stadium tour next year.
Excerpted from the June 4, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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