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Music / Backstreet Boys

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L-to-R: Nick Carter, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, and Kevin Richardson.
Everybody, yeah,
Rock your body, yeah,
Everybody, rock your body right,
Backstreet's back, alright!
— "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"

If you are thinking of a Boy Band, chances are the first that pops up in your head will be the Backstreet Boys. Formed in 1993, they became hugely popular after debuting in the States in the summer of 1997. The five original members were A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, and Kevin Richardson. Richardson left in 2006, making them a four-man group for a while before he permanently returned to the band in 2012.

The group was formed by airline mogul Lou Pearlman, who had leased one of his airplanes to New Kids on the Block and realized there was money to be made in a clean-cut band of boys. He recruited local talent from Orlando and spent the first half of the '90s training them in singing and choreography. After plenty of legal troubles, the group became first famous in Europe, and then became the Boy Band for girls to swoon over in the U.S., being a major part of late-'90s pop culture. After even more legal troubles (specifically, a horrible contract which allowed Pearlman to take a massive fraction of their profits), the band left his management and have continued to perform ever since.

As time went on, the Boys became good friends with the New Kids, the very group they were capitalizing on, eventually forming a boy band supergroup NKOTBSB, as well as Nick Carter and Jordan Knight's superduo, Nick and Knight.


  • Alexander James "A.J." McLean - born January 9, 1978. (1993–)
  • Howard Dwaine "Howie D." Dorough - born August 22, 1973. (1993–)
  • Nickolas Gene Carter - born January 28, 1980. (1993–)
  • Kevin Scott Richardson - born October 3, 1971. (1993–2006, 2012–)
  • Brian Thomas Littrell - born February 20, 1975. (1993–)


  • Backstreet Boys (1996)
  • Backstreet's Back (1997)
  • Backstreet Boys (U.S. edition; 1997)note 
  • Millennium (1999)
  • Black & Blue (2000)
  • The Hits: Chapter One (2001)note 
  • Never Gone (2005)
  • Unbreakable (2007)
  • This Is Us (2009)
  • In a World Like This (2013)
  • DNA (2019)

The band has sold over 130 million records worldwide, making them one of the biggest selling groups of all time. According to Billboard 200, they are the first group since Sade to have their first seven albums reach the top 10 on the chart.

Tropes related to the band:

  • '90s Hair: Nick (in)famously sported a bowl cut at the start of the group's career. He later revealed, during a concert in Brazil, that he wanted to grow out his hair to look like Kurt Cobain, but thinks he ended up looking like a lesbian instead, which he sees as the reason why he wound up as the most popular among the fanbase.
  • Affectionate Parody:
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • "If you want it to be good girl, get yourself a bad boy".
    • Also, two words: AJ McLean.
  • Alliterative Name: Backstreet Boys.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Nick, to the rest of the guys, being the youngest. Poor Howie got pranked by him all the time. Nick is on the opposite side of this in his normal life, what with having Aaron as a younger brother.
  • Badass Longcoat: Kevin in the video for "I Want It That Way" and "The Call".
  • Band of Relatives: Brian and Kevin are cousins. Brian was brought in on Kevin's recommendation.
  • Beach Episode: The music videos of both "Incomplete" and "Inconsolable" are mainly set on a beach.
  • Bespectacled Cutie: The female protagonist of the "Chances" music video is a cute young woman wearing specs.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Kevin is the embodiment of this trope.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The music video for "The Call" ends with the boys facing a woman who is obviously pissed at them leading a bunch of people seemingly ready to beat them to death.
  • Boy Band: Right above *NSYNC, they were the boyband of the late '90s. They are the most successful boy band of all time (although NSYNC were more successful domestically, and One Direction and BTS would arguably later surpass them in worldwide fame due to the effects of globalization and social media). However, despite still having "Boys" in their title, the group has insisted on rejecting that label for nearly two decades, identifying instead as a "vocal harmony group".
  • Break-Up Song:
    • "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" is a "You're cheating on/lying to me so we're done" type.
    • "Shape of My Heart", "Incomplete", "I Still", "Inconsolable", and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" all qualify as the "Please don't go/I want you back/I wish we were still in love" type.
    • "All I Have to Give" and "More Than That" are the "Attempting To Convince Someone To Breakup With Their Partner" type.
  • The Bus Came Back: Kevin, who after leaving the band in 2006 in order to focus on living a more normal life with his family, didn't necessarily stop him from occasionally appearing as a guest from time to time, until he officially came back in 2012 — and with the band's 20th anniversary right around the corner, too.
  • The Cameo: They do this at the end of the 2013 movie This Is the End. All five of them.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: The song "How Did I Fall in Love With You" is about the realization that the singer's friend is one of these.
  • Cool Shades: AJ is mostly seen wearing these. In some music videos, (specifically "The Call") he's even wearing his Sunglasses at Night.
  • Cool Starship: The main setting of the "Larger Than Life" music video.
  • Crossover: With Arthur.
  • Cyborg: Nick and possibly AJ during the music video of "Larger Than Life".
  • Dance of Romance: Subverted in the "Chances" music video; it climaxes with the protagonists dancing and then sealing it with The Big Damn Kiss, only for this to be revealed as an Imagine Spot/What If? scenario.
  • Dead Person Conversation: "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", in a meta sense, has the boys singing to their deceased loved ones (Howie to his late sister, Kevin to his late father, AJ to his late girlfriend, and all the boys to their late mentor Denniz PoP). A fan of the band almost joined them, but the music video shows said fan being saved by Nick.
  • Dead to Begin With: Brian in the "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" music video. It's actually a shoutout to Brian's open-heart surgery.
  • Deliberately Monochrome:
    • The video for "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", for the most part, is shot in a desaturated color scheme with occasional splashes of red.
    • Meanwhile, "Shape of My Heart", from the album Black & Blue, is shot in straight-up monochrome with a blue tint.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: "Shape of My Heart", "Incomplete", "I Still" and "Inconsolable".
  • Dramatic Wind:
  • Due to the Dead: The music video of "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" is openly dedicated to both their late manager and their deceased loved ones. A fan almost joined them courtesy of a bus, but the music video sees Nick save said fan (with Denniz PoP, said manager, and AJ, who lost a girlfriend in a car accident, on the bus).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first single, "We've Got It Goin' On", which features boastful lyrics, a funkier Parliament-esque tune and solos by Brian and AJ only, is jarringly different from any of the Boys' subsequent singles. The music video also tries to paint AJ as the Face of the Band, a move that didn't exactly work, and had Brian calling himself "The B-Rockster". Also notable is that the then-15-year-old Nick isn't even on the record, as he was going through puberty and his voice had just dropped.
    • If you're only familiar with single version of "Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)", you might be surprised to find out, that the original album version had Brian singing both verses. The song was actually recorded on the same session as "We've Got It Goin' On". By the time the song was about to become a single, the producers, seeing Nick's growing popularity among the fanbase, decided to have him record new vocals for the second verse. note 
  • Emerging from the Shadows: The music video for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" opens with the boys silhouetted by very bright lights in the background.
  • Entitled to Have You: "I'll Never Break Your Heart", "All I Have to Give" and "More Than That" can have this vibe, though the point of all three is to encourage the love interest to leave or move on from an explicitly unhappy relationship.
  • Exty Years from Publication: The music video for "Larger Than Life" is set at New Year's Eve 2999, a full millennium from around the time the single was released.
  • Fan Flattering: "Larger Than Life", "Everyone", and "Bigger". The last one is notable for being dedicated to the fans that stuck with them even after their popularity began to wane.
  • For Want of a Nail: "Chances" is about lovers pondering about the possible scenarios if they didn't come to each other's lives.
  • Friendly Rivalry: With *NSYNC. See the trivia page for more details. It's their fans that hate each other.
  • Good Parents: The guys have a tune called "The Perfect Fan", written by Brian to his mother. The lyrics "You showed me how to care / And you showed me that you would always be there" pretty much give the gist of the whole thing.
  • Grief Song:
    • "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely". It was supposedly dedicated to Dorough's dead older sister, and the video shows images and references to her and other lost loved ones of the band members, including Kevin's father, a girlfriend of AJ's who was killed by a drunk driver, and former producer Denniz PoP, who passed away in 1998. The music video for the song sees Nick save a fan who almost joined Kevin's father, Howie's sister, AJ's girlfriend, and Denniz, courtesy of a bus.
    • Also, the title track to 2005's Never Gone.
  • Human Popsicle: The music video for "Larger Than Life" begins with the group being unfrozen at New Year's Eve 2999.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: The twist to the plot of the "Straight Through My Heart" video.
  • Hyperlink Story: The music video for "The Call" features the boys in separate scenes and its plot moves to gradually pull them all together, with the very last scene/shot is showing all five of them finally together (though Nick and Howie came really close in crossing paths, with the former meeting the impostor of the latter).
  • Iconic Outfit: Their all-white outfits from Millenium, and "I Want It That Way" more specifically, are famous enough to be referenced in parodies of classic boy bands in general, not just the Backstreet Boys.
  • Imagine Spot: The "Chances" music video concludes with The Reveal that the Meet Cute and climatic Dance of Romance of the protagonists actually didn't happen.
  • Insistent Terminology: They are not a boy band, they are a vocal harmony group. Many fans will argue for their labeling as a 'pop group' or 'adult contemporary group' after the turn of the century when they shifted their sound somewhat.
  • Intercourse with You: "Get Down (You're the One for Me)" and the aforementioned "If You Want It to Be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy)".
  • Irony: One of their singles from their debut (American) album is called "Backstreet's Back." While a cool title, even the record executives questioned what they were coming back from if this was their first album. The band suggested it could just mean that they were back home.
  • Latin Lover: The appropriately named "Spanish Eyes".
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 1 + 3.
  • Manly Tears: AJ in the music video for "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely".
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: In the music video of "The Call", a cheating man goes to a party, meets a gorgeous lady, and goes with her instead of returning home with his girlfriend. Once in the taxi and about to kiss, she gets off the car and runs. He pursues her but is shot, so he seeks refuge at his friend's place. As they are fleeing, the friend reveals himself as the lady from before disguised. She runs and the chase is on again. She leads him first to a room graffitied with the insults like "cheat", "fraud", and "scumbag"; and then to an alley where the lady, the girlfriend, the hotel's staff, and the party people are waiting for him.
  • Maybe Ever After: The music video for "Chances" concludes with The Reveal that the protagonists' climatic Dance of Romance is only an Imagine Spot, and they still haven't met yet. The final shot is them sitting back to back in a waiting area, giving the music video an open ending.
  • Meet Cute: The music video of "Chances" builds up a typical boy meets girl story on a subway. It's actually a subversion as after they had their Dance of Romance and The Big Damn Kiss, The Reveal comes that it was only an Imagine Spot.
  • Meido: A number of them in the "Bigger" music video, with it being shot on a Cosplay Café in Japan and all.
  • Monster Mash: In the "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" video. And thanks to that, the song became a popular choice to play at Halloween parties. The monsters in question are Dracula (Howie), a mummy (Nick), a werewolf (Brian), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Kevin), and the Phantom (AJ).
  • Never Bareheaded: AJ is mostly seen wearing fedoras or skull caps.
  • Only Known by Initials: AJ, whose full name is Alexander James McLean.
  • Perky Goth: AJ's look has become more goth-inspired over the years. It can sometimes be a bit jarring to see him (with his sleeve tattoos, black nail polish, black eye shadow, and sometimes colorful hair) cheerfully singing and dancing to songs like "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Larger Than Life", or crooning ballads like "I Want It That Way".
  • Perpetual Frowner: While they are capable of being light-hearted and fun, such as the above page image, their video for "Just Want You to Know", and their Dance Party Ending cameo in This Is the End, the general perception of them is that they're quite stoic and serious, in contrast to their chart rivals NSYNC, who were seen as Fun Personified.
  • Power Walk: The boys are fond of doing this in their music videos.
  • Pretty Boy: NICK. It's the reason his popularity skyrocketed. Mix that with the Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold and Innocent Blue Eyes image he gave off, and you got the physical embodiment of the "baby brother" (technically, he is, as he considers the group to be more his family than his biological one) and being the crush of many tween/teen girls in the 90s-00s.
  • Projected Man: AJ's part in the "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" music video features a holographic version of the woman featured in most of the video.
  • Put on a Bus: Kevin left the band in 2006 in order to focus on living a more normal life with his family, though he eventually rejoined six years later.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: All the women that appeared in "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" have pale skin and jet-black hair. It works really well to the video's Deliberately Monochrome.
  • Rescue Romance: In the music video for "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", Nick and his estranged lover get back together after he rescues her from being run over by a bus (as a homage to a fan who died being run over by a bus on a way to one of the Boys' concerts).
  • Room Full of Crazy: The video for "The Call", where the band members are being stalked and offed one-by-one by a woman who appears to be the incarnation of guilt. During the chase, Kevin passes through a room that has the words "CHEAT", "LIAR", "TRAITOR", etc. written all over the walls and ceiling.
  • Scenery Porn: Most of their music videos highlight the place where it was shot at.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred:
    • Re-recorded one of the Trope Namer's hit songs, along with Elmo. See here.
    • They also appeared in the Arthur special "Arthur, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", which featured a Shot for Shot Remake of "I Want It That Way", complete with Muffy as the sad fangirl waving goodbye to the Boys at the end.
  • Self-Deprecation: Nick (and Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block) re-enact some of their old photoshoots.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt:
    • The infamous "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" music video.
    • While "Drowning" has an alternate music video that also features the Boys in the rain, it's more Played for Drama than the Fanservice of "Quit Playing Games".
    • The music video of "Straight Through My Heart", which is set in a nightclub, has the sprinkles pouring the Fanservice Extras.
    • Recently, during his guest appearance on Brazilian television show Legendários, Nick reenacted the "Quit Playing Games" example alongside host Marcos Mion. Unsurprisingly, the women in the audience went wild.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: The boys in the cover of "In a World Like This". Also during the music video for "Chances", along with the male protagonist played by Daniel Radcliffe.
  • Ship Tease: The music video for "Chances" sets up a Meet Cute moment between the male and female protagonists, concluding with a Dance of Romance and The Big Damn Kiss. Only it didn't really happen, though them meeting is still very possible given the video's open ending.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show:
    • The music videos of both "We've Got It Goin' On" and "Straight Through My Heart" show the boys performing in gigs.
    • The music video of "Shape of My Heart" shows the boys rehearsing for a stage play.
    • The music video of "The One" is a Clip Show of their different concerts.
  • Silly Love Songs: Their signature style.
  • Singer Namedrop:
    • From "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)":
    • From "We've Got It Goin' On":
      Jam on 'cause Backstreet's got it
      Come on now everybody
      We've got it goin' on for years
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing in the music video of "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" during the opening segment showing Brian is Dead to Begin With.
  • Solo Side Project: Each of the boys have released their own independent albums. Nick has released three and one collaborative with Jordan Knight, AJ and Brian have released two, while Kevin and Howie both released one.
  • Space Opera: The music video for "Larger Than Life".
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Just pick any of their music videos with dance moves. Go ahead.
  • Talky Bookends: "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" starts with the boys having to stay the night at a haunted house after their bus breaks down. The musical portion of the video is actually All Just a Dream, after which the boys wake up and decide to leave, but are scared by the sight of their bus driver as Frankenstein's monster.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Kevin's appeal. He's the tallest of the boys standing 6'1 (merely one inch taller than Nick), has dark hair, and considered the group's Hunk.
  • Technician Versus Performer:
    • AJ and Nick are the Performers, Brian, Howie, and Kevin were the Technicians.
    • The band are also the Technician (solid and rarely strayed from their Adult Contemporary style) to *NSYNC's Performer (elaborate performances and preference for experimenting with new styles).
  • Telephone Song: In "The Call", the narrator calls his girlfriend so she doesn't suspect he's cheated on her with a girl he just met in a club.
  • The Movie: In 2015, their documentary Show 'Em What You're Made Of was released, chronicling the 20+ years they've spent together as a band since 1993 as well as the development process of the In a World Like This album.
  • Three Minutes of Writhing: More like 1 Minute and 47 Seconds, but "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" could definitely be considered one of the few male examples of the trope. It starts with the boys sitting around on an abandoned basketball court, but after the second chorus comes a sudden downpour, and they all go from just singing to singing while writhing around in wet button-down shirts. Brian and Nick are the only ones not to have theirs open, while Howie is pretty much shirtless by the end of the video. As commented by Kevin in Show 'Em What You're Made Of, it made them look "like a bunch of beefcakes".
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Repeat offenders starting with Millennium.
  • Visual Pun: The music video of "Shape of My Heart", which is part of their Black & Blue album, is set in blue sepia... As in, black and blue.
  • Vocal Tag Team: All five of them have sung lead vocals.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Toni Cottura suddenly raps during the second verse of "Get Down". AJ McLean then continues to rap for a bit more.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics to "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "I Want It That Way" mostly consist of vaguely romantic or generic emotive phrases. Max Martin, who wrote both songs, admitted that he just wrote whatever he felt fit the emotion of the melody rather than anything that made coherent sense (and being a native Swede, English is not his first language). Brian has said in interviews that the record label representatives commented on this for at least "I Want It That Way" as well, and an alternate version of the song was recorded that had more coherent lyrics, but the group as a whole decided the original sounded better.
  • You Remind Me of X: Variant 1 ("You remind me of myself") is present in "Show 'Em (What You're Made Of)".
    You find the truth in a child's eyes
    When the only limit is the sky
    Living proof I see myself in you
  • Vocal Evolution: In more recent live performances, Brian's voice is often raspy and limited in range due to dysphonia and dystonia affecting his vocal cords.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The music video of "Straight Through My Heart" is to the Blade Trilogy.
  • Woman Scorned: The music video of "The Call" shows the group being stalked by a woman. Whether or not she's a Stalker with a Crush is never revealed.


Video Example(s):


"Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

In the "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" video. And thanks to that, the song became a popular choice to play at Halloween parties. The monsters in question are Dracula (Howie), a mummy (Nick), a werewolf (Brian), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Kevin), and the Phantom (AJ).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / MonsterMash

Media sources: