PASADENA, California — The Backstreet Boys' return to record shelves this year will mark the start of two comeback efforts: that of the group, of course, and that of the producer who led the charge during the '90s pop explosion.
"We just got finished working with Max Martin again," an animated A.J. McLean said of the producer behind countless Backstreet, 'NSYNC and Britney Spears hits. "He kind of went into hiding for a little bit, took a little break from the pop world and had a baby. And we caught wind through our record company that there was a song he wrote that he thought would be cool for us to try.
"It's a little bit more of a rock edge," he continued, "but we went in and tried it and it turned out great. It's a great record, and it's good to be around Max again."
Like the Backstreet Boys themselves, Martin is blending the sound he became know for with the current hot styles. "Music has changed," Nick Carter explained. "So he's gotten back in, he's reinvented himself, and hopefully we can be the new product of what that is."
In the studio with Martin and other producers, the Boys are doing some reinventing of their own.
"It's got urban, it's got pop, it's got rock, it's got ... everything," Brian Littrell said of their new music. "We're just kind of mixing the pot up and seeing what comes out and trying to put a great record together, just good, positive music. ... It's a little different, but still the traditional Backstreet sound because you've got all five voices on it."
The Backstreet Boys are more than halfway finished with their still-untitled new album, which will also feature a collaboration with Boyz II Men produced by Walter Afanasieff (Destiny's Child, Mariah Carey) and a teaming with a cappella veterans Take 6.
"Howie [Dorough] wrote a song, and [Take 6] arranged it for us, and we performed a little bit of it tonight a cappella," Kevin Richardson said backstage at the recent Wango Tango Festival (see "William Hung Overshadows Backstreet Reunion, All-Star Lineup At Wango Tango").
The group recorded four songs with the Underdogs, a production team best known for work with Ruben Studdard and Stacie Orrico (see "Backstreet Boys Rekindling Fire In Studio After Three Years").
"The first records we did with them were very urban, what they normally do," Carter said. "And then we said, 'Why don't we just try to do something different?' We listened to, like, a Peter Gabriel record and we wrote, all of us collectively, wrote a song with them that was just, like, pushing the envelope. And we really got a chance to see how talented they are as producers and writers. They're good 'cause they're flexible."
Carter and his cohorts are aiming for a late summer release, followed by a fall tour.
"We're gonna try to kick off in September, October, maybe do Europe," Dorough said. "We've actually started talking about doing some shows over in Japan and China for the first time. Most likely the plan would be to come back to the States and kick off a world tour. Hopefully for a whole year."
"We just have to make the right record first, then we go from there," Littrell said.