The Backstreet Boys brave all the elements in their next video, "Incomplete," from rain and wind to fire and ice. The group shot the clip in Lancaster and Zuma Beach, California, racing from one location to another to take advantage of the fading sunlight.
"The whole complaint people have about boy bands is that they're artificial and slick, so I made this purposely dirty and with no safety nets," director Joseph Kahn said. "There's no emulation in the video, which means the look we're going for was contingent on the sun ... a logistical timing nightmare."
In one sunset setup, they only had 15 minutes of light, he said, so the crew lied on the ground so their shadows wouldn't interfere.
Kahn said he wanted to create a real composition, where the images would feel more like iconography and the settings like symbolism. He calls it his "Wim Wenders collection," referring to the famed European director who helmed U2's "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" as well as movies like "Buena Vista Social Club" and "The Million Dollar Hotel."
"The approach was for me to get out of the way of the Backstreet Boys and their audience and simplify the video down to the bare bones so [that it would be] a love letter to their fans," he said. "And the elements are sort of embracing their performance, so it feels like emotions."
Kahn used natural elements, including fire, snow, wind and rain, to symbolize the group's contrasting personalities. He decided that A.J. McLean embodies the band's rock and roll sensibilities, with his "fiery light and Hollywood cool," so he framed McLean by the sun as he drives a classic car down the highway.
Nick Carter is "very volatile at times, beautiful to look at, but dangerous if you get too close," so he is represented by fire. In the video, Carter torches McLean's '68 GTO (the original idea was to torch a barn, but the local fire marshal wouldn't give approval).
Howie Dorough, the "slick guy in the group," according to Kahn, became rain. He sits under an old Joshua tree as a gust of wind picks up and the downpour starts.
Kevin Richardson, "the most mature and reserved" Backstreet Boy, is "colder," so he became snow. He's seated at a white piano in the midst of a smoldering forest as a flurry starts and smoke rises from the ground.
And Brian Littrell, who Kahn describes as "this big ball of energy, you can't stop him," became the crashing waves of the ocean. He stands with his legs in the water as thunderclouds assemble above him.
At the end of the video, the gang reunites to walk through the desert at sunset, framed in a near-silhouette as the sun flares off the lens.
"The boys felt every environment, they really went through that," Kahn said. "It was freezing in the morning: you're wearing parkas, it's bone-chilling. And then by the time the sun [comes] out, you're stripping down to T-shirts, and then it's freezing again, as cold as you can imagine. It's just them performing, with the song stripped down, in an environment to show who they really are."