The Backstreet Boys have spent the last few months visiting radio stations across the country promoting their new album, In A World Like This.
Wait — really?
“It’s basically like 1996 all over again,” West Palm Beach native AJ McLean said in a phone interview.
The group is all grown up, of course, and the new album — the first the quintet has recorded since 2005’s Never Gone — is also the first to be released on the band’s own independent label, K-BAHN. The group left Jive Records in 2011 after past disputes.
This time, BSB — which also includes Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell — have had to take the indie trail. McLean said that the big-time radio plays of the past are no more.
“No marketing, no support,” he said. “We’re going back to those drastic roots.”
But it has worked. In A World Like This hit No. 5 on the Billboard chart earlier this month, making the boys a successful nine for nine in albums to reach the top 10.
“It’s just mind-blowing. You don’t need that big label to achieve the highest goal,” McLean said.
The lack of a major label gave the group complete control to “write about whatever the hell we want,” according to McLean. “It was a little nerve racking,” he said of recording the album last year in London.
In the video for the Max Martin-produced title track, a television screen shows the Supreme Court’s dismissal of California’s Proposition 8, paving the way for legalized gay marriage. And in Madeleine and Show’ Em (What You’re Made Of), the group touches on suicides, bullying and their own children.
The latter track McLean co-wrote. On the opening verse, he sings, “You find the truth in a child’s eyes,” a telling lyric for McLean, who has battled addictions and stints in rehab. His daughter Ava is less than a year old.
“I just want to set a good example for my daughter,” he said. “By touching on certain subject matters, I think it shows people we’re more than just a typical pop band.”
And that is true of the entire album. Songs range from acoustic harmonies to heavy ballads and catchy dance numbers. McLean said it is the Backstreet Boys’ “best album since Millennium.”
And during Sunday night’s show at Cruzan Amphitheatre, McLean promises some of those “old dance moves.” The hometown boy plans to be in the area early to have lunch with his parents and reconnect with friends he has not seen in 20 years.
He visited his hometown recently for the upcoming Backstreet Boys documentary, which chronicles the rise of all five members. McLean showed the other guys his childhood room (with the permission of the current homeowners) and even visited some of his elementary school teachers.
The Boys will make another trip South in October for their third annual fan cruise, which leaves out of PortMiami for a weekend voyage to the Bahamas. The trip will be Kevin Richardson’s first time aboard.
For McLean, the success has finally hit a reflection point. He said the late ’90s and early 2000s was a “whirlwind” that was hard to bask in.
“Now, we can look back and go ‘Wow,’ ” McLean said.