AJ McLean Teases What to Expect From His Backstreet Boys Routine on 'DWTS' (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
Oh my god, they're back again! After months of being separated due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Backstreet Boys are getting back together (virtually) for a Dancing With the Stars performance you won't want to miss on Monday.
Ahead of the dance competition show's Top 13 night, ET spoke with AJ McLean and his pro partner, Cheryl Burke, via Zoom, where they shared what fans can expect from their Cha Cha set to "Larger Than Life." The two also teased how AJ's fellow BSB bandmates -- Nick Carter (who previously competed during season 21), Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson -- will also be incorporated into the routine.
"I am over the moon grateful to my four brothers for taking time out of their schedules," AJ, 42, told ET's Lauren Zima. "They've all been so supportive since opening night of the show ... rooting me on, giving me words of encouragement."
"I asked the guys, I'm like, 'This would mean the world to me. We're doing one of our songs. I'm dedicating this performance to us. It's kind of an homage to us. Would you guys be down to do it?'" he added. "They all immediately said, 'Whatever you need, buddy.' That's what family does. We all stick together."
AJ and Cheryl told ET that everyone will be "together" onstage through the use of virtual technology. Of how the full creative idea came to be, AJ said it all started with the song choice.
"The funny part to me was knowing what a Cha Cha is, or at least knowing what it's supposed to be, and doing it to a Backstreet Boys song, it's just like, what?" he joked. "But it works so well and this is my favorite routine so far. Like, it's so much fun."
Cheryl chimed in, adding, "Basically, [producers] gave me the song and said like, 'You're going to have him dance to a Backstreet Boys song,' and I was like, 'Fine.' So we talked about it and AJ's thing was he didn't want to do anything that Nick has already done, which is totally understandable. So I was like, 'OK, we'll figure this out.'"
To make it different from the "Larger Than Life" freestyle Nick performed with Sharna Burgess in 2015, AJ and Cheryl are pulling out all the stops with their choreography, costumes, set design, music and more.
"The music we're using, it's our current concert version, and then we just sped it up," AJ teased.
"I wanted to get some sort of virtual reality so it looks like the boys are in the ballroom with us," added Cheryl. "We've also worked with their graphics guy and the guy that does all the screens in the set design on that side in Germany. So we had different [people] from all around the world on a Zoom call."
Cheryl said that using green screens, they had to direct all the guys to dance full out to the song.
"This is our show choreography that we've been doing for years," AJ teased, of the dance moves his bandmates will be doing in the background. "We're doing basically a version of that. And we haven't been seen together in a performance level since the end of February, beginning of March, so it's been over six months."
"I have to say that we're sacrificing a little bit of the Cha Cha content for the performance," added Cheryl. "But we're paying homage to him and his boys being back together, so I honestly couldn't care less what the scores are. We're just going to go out there and we're just gonna have fun!"
AJ teased that this might be "another tearjerker," for him, following the emotional dance he dedicated to his wife, Rochelle, earlier this season.
"It's gonna be a whirlwind of emotions, because A, the fact that they're doing this to be supportive is amazing. B, this is 27 years together, almost 28. It's just [incredible]," he shared. "And who knows when we're going to get back on the big stage and start bringing music back to people. I just know that when that day comes, it's gonna be mad hysteria for every artist out there because people need music."
"Thank you to all the fans and to all of the people at home voting for me and Cheryl," he continued. "Please keep voting because we really want to stick around all the way to the end. To all the BSB fans, we love you. You guys have kept us going strong for almost 30 years, this is for you. Hats off to all of you and sit back and enjoy the ride. It's going to be one hell of a night!"
Top 13 Night of Dancing With the Stars kicks off Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. In the meantime, tune into Entertainment Tonight for more from AJ and Cheryl.