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Music Interview

Backstreet Boys

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Backstreet Boys
It seems horribly clichéd and oh-too-easy to revert to the old Backstreet's Back line... but it's true! The '90s heartthrobs-turned-suave foursome are returning with their "best album since Millennium" (their words) and a frankly fantastic lead single straight from the RedOne school of stuck-in-your-head-and-won't-ever-get-out pop anthems (our words). More than a little excited, we called AJ McLean from the group to find out more.

How would you describe 'Straight Through The Heart', the new single?
"I'd use two words - Backstreet Boys. Obviously we've worked with a current producer so it's got an updated sound, but the one thing that we were very adamant about, after hearing feedback from fans, was that we wanted to go back to being us. There was a formula that worked for us and this is exactly that."

How did you come to work with RedOne, who's obviously Lady GaGa's producer?
"Well, it was really down to me and Nick because we're friends with a couple of guys who work with RedOne. I kept bringing up GaGa because I have a crush on her, so Nick called the guys we know and finally we got through to Red. Then it sort of fell apart and didn't happen and we lost hope. Then, just when we thought we were done making the record, we got a phone call from our management saying Red had three amazing songs for us. We did them and we got our first single!"

Did you have another lead single lined up beforehand then?
"We had a few options before we worked with Red, but then we heard 'Straight Through The Heart' and knew it was meant to be. It hits the nail on the head. It's Backstreet Boys. It's dance, it's pop, it's urban, it's current, it's fresh, it's new. We actually had a good problem, which was having five or six options for the single. We made this record hit for hit and we honestly believe it's our best since Millennium."

You've worked with Max Martin, your Millennium producer, on the album. Was that a conscious decision to try to recreate your classic sound?
"We met with him while we were touring the last record just to see if he was even interested. Obviously he's busy with Pink and Kelly Clarkson and people like that. He sent us a track called 'Bigger' and we loved it - it's like the new 'I Want It That Way'. He's one of the reasons why we've had the hits that we've had."

Would you say 'Straight Through My Heart' is reflective of the rest of the album?
"It was actually the icing on the cake. We went into this album wanting to do pop and R&B, which is what we're known for, but we really pushed to have more uptempo songs so we could bring them to the live shows. My favourite song on the record is called 'PDA', which we did with Kevin Borg, who's the Black Eyed Peas' musical director. It's pretty awesome - definitely a club record. Before we got with RedOne, it was looking like the first single, so for all we know it could be the second!"

Some tracks from the album leaked earlier this year. How did you deal with that?
"At first we were P.O.ed because we were trying our hardest to keep this record a secret, but it was actually a good thing in the end. It was interesting because we got to see which songs were more popular than others. The ones we thought were better weren't necessarily the ones the fans liked - it was a 50/50 thing, which is good."

This is your second album without Kevin. Was it any easier as a four-piece this time around?
"Definitely easier. It's been almost four years now. What was a little bit nervewracking is that this record is exactly what Kevin wanted us to do before he left. He heard some of the songs when we were demoing stuff and he loved it. We're still contracted for one more record, so hopefully - maybe - he'll be back for the last one. That would be pretty awesome! Since he left, we've told him the door is always open. He's family."

You're touring later this year - what can we expect from the show?
"We want a true Backstreet Boys show with lots of cool little gags - not over-the-top, just a well-performed show. We'll be doing a couple of really old songs like 'Get Down' and 'We Got It Going On', but they're going to be remixed which will be pretty cool."

Do you still remember the old dance moves?
"We do, but we're getting a brand new choreographer so we're going to start from scratch. It's about time we got rid of the hat routine from 'All I Have To Give'! We might do the signature 'Backstreet's Back' move for the fans though, but for most of the songs it's all going to be new. We'll be in dance rehearsals for six weeks which will make for an amazing show!"

Speaking of the old routines, what do you think when you look back at some of your earliest videos?
"Oh dear God! Some of them we can live without! Not the video, but the wardrobe, which only really made sense in that time and era. Hands down the worst of the worst was 'Quit Playing Games'. We were in the rain with fluorescent shirts showing our pecs and stuff. It was like 'OK? Really? Seriously?!'"

Backstreet Boys release 'Straight Through My Heart' on September 29. The album This Is Us follows on October 5.

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