We spoke to Backstreet Street Boys’ AJ Mclean on a very cloudy day in California to discuss their upcoming UK tour and their phenomenal global chart history.
Your debut single ‘We’ve Got It Going’ On’ was deemed a minor success in the states (reaching Number 69 in December 1995). How extraordinary does it feel knowing you had a lukewarm reception to your first record and 16 years later you become THE biggest boyband on the planet selling around 160 million records?
“We are very fortunate! There was a gap in the market for us at the time. New Kids had just split up. It was perfect for us.”
‘I Want It That Way’ is clearly your signature tune. It spent 10 weeks at the top in America.
“That was the song that did it for us, it’s a blessing. When anyone asks what it means I say ‘no idea!’, but it just works. It’s a timeless song. It’s always the last song of the show; all our fans know that song. We’re very proud of it, it’s done so many things for us and it’s kept us going.”
It was Number 1 here in the UK and beat Westlife and 911 at the time. You also achieved a mammoth 16 Top 10 hits in the UK too!
“Wow I didn’t know that! It’s like my birthday, well Happy Birthday to me! It’s awesome. We loved Take That, Westlife and Blue. When Take That spilt up, it was the perfect timing for us. I was really excited when they got back together and especially for the Take That tour.”
Your third effort, ‘Millenium’ has jaw dropping statistics in America: It sold over 1.1 million in its first week, sold nearly 9.5 million albums in 1999 and remained on the Billboard chart for 93 weeks, eventually selling over 12 million copies!
“Really? I didn’t know all of this! That’s crazy. It was overwhelming times for pop. It just doesn’t happen...unless you sell like Lady gaga and sell for 99 cents online, it’s great marketing. I’ll never forget the phone call that said we’d sold one million albums in four days! I nearly fell out of my chair, it was crazy! The only act prior to that was Garth Brookes. Selling 160 million albums means we have sold ten million each year!”
Success didn’t slow down either...forth album ‘Black And Blue’ sold five million albums internationally in a week and set a record!
“It’s incredible. It’s like an evolution. We just wanted to make great pop music and better ourselves.”
Bringing you up to the modern day, you have in the past few years merged with the other 90s pop phenomenon New Kids On The Block to call yourselves NKOTBSB. You will be touring the UK and Europe next year.
“I was a huge fan of New Kids, I have all their records. I loved the boys, the Jackson 5 and New Edition. To be onstage with these guys is amazing.
“People are always curious as to how it’s gonna work. Well we do separate stuff. Well do a set, then NKOTB will do theirs, then us etc, before we join together for the end of the show. There will be new stuff and duets in which Donnie and I will be collaborating.
“There’s gonna be a lot of testosterone and a lot of horny women during the show! We’re all gonna be on this amazing journey with hit after hit. We’re gonna have so much fun I promise you.”
What do you make of European boybands?
“I have a special place in my heart for Westlife. I’m a big fan of the Irish accent! I also love Take That and Robbie is a great friend of mine after all the troubles we’ve been through.”