Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Backstreet Boys returning to Fresno

By Mike Osegueda, The Fresno Bee, Calif. 

June 29--If you ask the Backstreet Boys' A.J. McLean, he and his all-grown-up boy band aren't that different from current pop prince Justin Bieber and those heartthrob Jonas Brothers.

"Pop music to me, and to all of us, goes in cycles," says McLean, 32, whose group stops at Save Mart Center on July 1.

"It goes in one giant circle. If you go back 15 years, when things really kinda hit for us, it was really the big grunge and hip-hop scene."

Then their debut album struck gold, casting a spell over teen girls around the world with songs like "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" and "As Long As You Love Me."

Soon, they were selling 14 million albums and leading the biggest pop music trend since the days of New Kids on the Block.

Next came 'N Sync, Britney Spears and many others whose names are only footnotes in the boy-band history books. (O-Town, you out there anywhere?)

"That opened this huge floodgate of pop music," McLean says. "That's happening all over again. It seems to happen every 10 years. Pop has changed where it's [artists like] Chris Brown and Rihanna, and that's still pop. It's definitely huge right now and it's opening up floodgates again."

The pre-teen girls these days are shrieking over Bieber and the Jo Bros, but the hype also leads to a renewal of interest in the teen icons of the previous generation.

New Kids on the Block, for instance, have enjoyed a revival in the past couple years. Like Backstreet Boys, they played a Save Mart Center date last summer.

In fact, the two groups recently teamed up for a concert in New York City, which got people talking about the possibility of the two teaming up for a tour.

McLean is a tease, saying only, "there's been talk about all kind of things."
But if you watch the video online of the two groups performing together, you'd know that boy-band hysteria is still alive and well -- just aged.

"Honestly, I think it needed to happen," McLean says about the boy resurgence of the past few years. "Music on the radio is all over the place. There's no consistency. There's a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Things are going a little too left field. There's no more good melody, There's no more good lyrics. It's all the same beat, it's all the same producer."

Some might scoff at the idea of a boy-band member condemning bad music, but McLean is nothing if not passionate about pop music.

"Bring back the actual pop music," he says. "Songs that you can actually sing along to, and dance to, and songs that become memorable. That's something we pride ourselves on -- songs that are timeless."

But he's not just living in the past, re-treading those same songs that made them famous years ago. Backstreet Boys' most recent album, "This Is Us," released in September, was pretty well received.

Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Considering these guys' combined age, the result is surprisingly unembarrassing."

And McLean has a bold statement of his own: "Any song, in my opinion, is equally comparable to anything that Bieber's got. You can dance along with them. They get stuck in your head."