Monday, March 1, 2010

What keeps the BSB together?

By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark (The Philippine Star) Updated March 02, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Backstreet Boys have changed — make that matured. They’re no longer the bubble kind of group who thrilled to the mass hysteria their hit songs
(e.g. I’ll Never Break Your Heart, Shape of My Heart, etc.) generated in one country after another.

The Backstreet Boys’ A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough say their recent show at the Araneta Coliseum is a sign that they are going back to traditional melodies

Most of the guys have gotten married or are about to and have started their own families.

“Some of the guys bring their own families with them,” says A.J. McLean. “Our fans are older themselves and bring their own families with them.”

Their fans no longer see Howie Dorough as the heartthrob of yesteryear but as loving father and devoted husband whose appeal lies in his being just like one of them.

A.J. himself admits he’s getting married next year and will soon “join the club.”

But that doesn’t diminish their stature one bit. In fact, it enhances their image as human beings who practise what they preach in all those love songs the group popularized through the years.

“When we were younger, things were hysterical,” recalls A.J. “They put us on the pedestal. But now we’re on the same page. People are bringing in their husbands and wives (to the shows).”

Still, he knows there’s a Backstreet Boys fan in schools, parties and other places where young people gather.

After all, the energy they showed in their concert at Araneta Coliseum last Saturday night has never waned. It was one big party where the dancing and feet stomping never stopped.

The group adjusted to the times by bringing in a DJ and a couple of female dancers. They also changed costumes six times, the better to keep concert goers’ eyes on stage.

In keeping with the movie theme of the show, each member came representing a film. A.J., for instance, represented The Fight Club.

The music, they promised, is back to basics.

“It’s back to the sounds our fans like: Pop, R&B, ballads, organic sound,” explains A.J.

It’s the kind of music their fans fell in love with, as far as some 17 years ago, when the band members were just teenagers and started making a name for themselves.

Those years were not a walk in the park, states A.J. Like all fledgling bands, they had their share of “not knowing what was gonna happen” before they cut their first record deal in 1996.

“We were just traveling around the US and playing in middle school. It was not an overnight success,” relates A.J.

They look at hot boy bands like JLS and see the eagerness, the love of music that catapulted them to the top.

“We met JLS and see ourselves in them when we were just starting, except that at 20, they’re older than us when we were starting,” adds A.J.

Now that Backstreet Boys are nearing their 20th year in the business, their only advice to other bands is to practice patience.

“The music industry right now is fickle. It’s constantly changing. It will actually become worse before it becomes better,” warns A.J.

The group doesn’t feel daunted at all. Out of every crisis, there lurks an opportunity. And so they’re trying to make the best of it.

Now, they feel, is the best time to go out of their comfort zone and experiment on their music.

“Our album, Never Gone, is our biggest experiment,” says A.J.

The album, which they are also promoting in the country, is no longer just dance grooves and upbeat tempo. Here, the boys go back to the good old melodies that make ballads and R&B songs so popular.

“It’s back to the traditional sounds, to something more organic,” A.J. describes the band’s latest studio release.

The guts to leave their comfort zone reflects a confidence borne out of 17 years of success.

“We don’t have to do it for the money,” Howie reveals. Instead, they do it because “It’s great to work hard at something, not only for ourselves but for our fans.”

Along the way, Howie — and the rest of the group, also composed of Brian Littrell and Nick Carter — discover the joy of working with others.

Howie, for his part, found working with Sarah Geronimo in a duet “simply amazing.”

“We allow each other to collaborate with other artists,” says A.J.

But this doesn’t mean they will give in to the temptation of disbanding when a good offer comes along.

“Who knows,” Howie thinks aloud, “We may even come up with Backstreet Boys 2, this time made up of our children.”

A.J. chimes in, “But my fiancée and I are planning to have a baby girl.”

Nonplussed, Howie retorts, “It’s gonna be Gladys Knight and the Pips then!”

Whatever it is, the Backstreet Boys’ love for music will always push them to raise the bar, to outdo themselves.

They may no longer be the boys part of their name says they are. But make no mistake. No matter what age, no matter what time, the Backstreet Boys will always be there with the music they love to share with an audience that never seems to tire listening to them.