The Backstreet Boys — in the midst of recording their pop/R&B-infused ninth studio album — will play an important role during two live tapings of NBC’s comedy series Undateable on Friday night (Jan. 29). Aside from performing throwbacks “Larger Than Life,” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” all five members will sing some of “I Want It That Way” for a surprise scripted sing-along during the episode, fittingly titled “The Backstreet Boys Walk Into a Bar.”
In an interview with Billboard, Backstreet Boys harmonizer Howie Dorough, 42, discussed the group’s close connections with the TV show, the possibility of touring with the Spice Girls, the progress on their next album as well as fatherly advice for new dad Louis Tomlinson of One Direction.
“We’re definitely doing our classics — we’re basically the soundtrack to the full episode,” Howie D told Billboard on Friday, just hours before Undateable airs live twice at 8 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. PT. “We’re all fans of the show. Each of us in different ways has a connection. A.J. [McLean]‘s brother-in-law is a stand-in, and he knows actor Chris D’Elia. I have a good friend whose producing partner is Phill Lewis, the director, and I’ve met him over the past few years.”
UPDATE: Watch a scene from the episode below, where the Boys help with a marriage proposal.
The performances will wrap up season 3 of Undateable, which this year decided to air every episode live with musical guests performing at the beginning and end of each taping. That show-altering decision came after the success of the live season 2 finale featuring Ed Sheeran as a guest actor and performer, music supervisor Tony Von Pervieux explained.
“Once you have Ed Sheeran on your show, the bar is set pretty high, so the producers expect me to pull through each week to bring in the A-list talent,” Von Pervieux said. “Having had Ed on does make the sell a little easier, but it was still a challenge for me to get some of the bigger acts to say yes because unless they’ve seen the show, they don’t know what to expect since we’re not a Kimmel or Fallon or Big Bang or SNL. We are a hybrid of those shows, and bands don’t just come on our show to perform, they come to be a part of the show.”
Other performers who have helped attract new viewers to the show this season have included Weezer, Meghan Trainor, Charlie Puth, Alessia Cara, American Authors, Andrew McMahon, Saint Motel, Kodaline and Nico & Vinz.
For the Backstreet Boys, the appearance begins a busy year for the guys, who want to release a single this summer and an album before 2016 ends, under the direction of new manager Ron Laffitte (OneRepublic, Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys).
“We’ve recorded five songs already that we feel really great about, and we’re out there searching for the right songs and writing our own songs as well, so we’re probably close to midway through,” Howie D said. “We’re hoping, God willing, to have a single out by summertime and then the album out shortly after that.”
“The album will be a bit uptempo R&B — pop R&B — with a dance flavor in there,” Howie D said. “One song has a piano — very Coldplay-ish maybe, very worldly, unique vibe.”
Once the album is complete, the Backstreet Boys will go on tour — potentially with the Spice Girls. “We would love to do a tour with the Spice Girls. I’ve been in touch with Mel B because we saw her at America’s Got Talent when we performed almost two years ago. She came up to us and said, ‘We should definitely go on tour together,’ and we said, ‘Absolutely, we’d love to,’ because we both came out at the same time and already did some shows together in Europe,” Howie D said.
“We’ve always felt like since we did the New Kids on the Block collaboration that doing these collaborations are cool — a lot of artists are going that direction. We think the Spice Girls would be a great fit with us. Right now, they are going on their 20th anniversary so they’re trying to figure out their cards to figure out what makes the most sense in getting themselves together first and doing a tour with us afterward. It’s all right now in talks, but we’d love to make it happen. The ball is in their court.”
From one boy band to another, Howie D — who is the dad of two children — also offered some parenting advice for new father Louis Tomlinson of One Direction.
“Hopefully he slept the last couple years because there’s not going to be much sleep now for him,” he joked. “Now, within my group, four of us are fathers and Nick [Carter] is about to be a father soon. I truly believe kids teach you to be selfless. Believe it or not for me, I think they balance you out. It’s easy to lose yourself and become selfish. As you get older, and God willing you’re always going to be successful, with or without success your kids are going to be there for you. I encourage Louis to take as much of his downtime and invest in quality time with his kid and try to be a good father as much as possible — that’s time that you can’t get back.”
Whether or not the Backstreet Boys’ appearance will boost Undateable‘s ratings and help get the show renewed for another season is yet to be seen. The show is averaging more than 2.7 million viewers each episode.
“I think [the musical guests have] affected more social buzz than ratings — it’s hard to tell what makes the ratings spike, but I definitely think people talking about what bands are playing each week is a big thing and that might help boost ratings a bit with new viewers,” Von Pervieux said. “It also helps when the bands’ fans have never seen the show and decide to watch.
“Our goal each week is to make the band happy, to make it the best possible experience for them. If the band really enjoyed doing the show and walked away feeling good, then that’s all we give a shit about. And so far, we’re batting a thousand.”