Spice boys. Monkees ‘97. New Kids on the Block: The Sequel. Industry wags are having big fun coming up with snide nicknames for the Backstreet Boys, five comely lads who are the latest contenders in pop’s long procession of prefabricated singing groups. But with their current single, ”Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” sitting at No. 3 on Billboard’s pop chart and their eponymous American debut album shipping gold this week, the Boys are taking the gibes in stride.
”Yeah, people will look at us and see an automatic stereotype,” sighs Howie Dorough, 23. ”But once they hear us, they’ll know we’re for real.”
While their R&B-tinged pop fits comfortably alongside Hanson and the Spice Girls on the airwaves, the Backstreet Boys (who are comanaged by former New Kids on the Block tour manager Johnny Wright) have actually been around longer than either of those groups. Formed in Orlando, Fla., in 1993, the Backstreet Boys — whose members range in age from 17 to 25 — released their first single, ”We’ve Got It Goin’ On,” in September 1995. Although America responded with a shrug, the group went on to become international superstars, inspiring fan clubs in Asia, Europe, and Canada, and selling more than 5 million copies of their debut album worldwide.
”People think we’re from London or someplace,” says Brian Littrell, 22. ”But now it’s time to come home. It’s important to us to be recognized here.”
Although early indications are that the Boys will replicate their overseas success Stateside, they confess to having reservations about some of the more crass trappings of stardom, including several marketing plans. ”TV cartoons, bedsheets, dolls…I don’t know about all that,” says Kevin Richardson, 25. ”There is such a thing as oversaturation.” One idea to which they give a thumbs-up is the Backstreet Boys comic book, which the group’s resident sketch artist, Nick Carter, 17, has been working on. The sci-fi story line, he says, involves ”each of us developing a power, like mutants, and battling a group of aliens who are trying to take over the world through music.” Guess we’ll see you in the funny papers, boys.