Backstreet Boys Talk Heartbreak & First New Music in 5 Years (Exclusive)
By Leena Tailor
Don’t go breaking Howie Dorough’s heart!
Nearly five years since their last album, In a World Like This, the Backstreet Boys have dropped their catchy new single, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” and to mark the long-awaited release, Dorough gets personal with ET about his earliest experience with heartbreak.
“I unfortunately remember it really well,” Dorough says during dance rehearsals for the band’s upcoming appearances. “I was 21 and dating my singing partner right as the group was starting to take off and it was tough on her knowing I was going to be gone a lot and there would be a bunch of ladies around. Out of fairness to her, we separated and it broke my heart.”
“It was the first time I felt what it was like to have that weird feeling in your stomach and those thoughts in your head that make you crazy … when you just can’t let go of that thought of somebody. It makes you want to cry and pour your heart out!" he adds.
While Dorough, 44, got through his sorrow and eventually found love with his gorgeous wife of 10 years, Leigh, the theme remains the center of countless pop songs, including many in the boy band’s 25-year catalog, which features hits like “Shape of My Heart,” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” “Back to Your Heart” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).”
In the case of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” the track was written by Los Angeles singer-songwriter Wrabel, who has toured with Gavin DeGraw and Andy Grammer, and Dorough says the song simply had the “hit factor” when it came to deciding on a single.
“We were very blessed with a lot of great songs, but this one was like, ‘Wow, this is an undeniable hit and if we don’t do it, somebody else is going to,’” Dorough says about choosing the song with bandmates Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Nick Carter. “It had that wow factor from the demo through to its final recording.”
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Released by RCA Records, the track was the second song they recorded for their forthcoming 10th studio album. The GRAMMY-nominated group toyed with different genres while making the record, contemplating whether to capitalize on the country success spawned by their collaborative track with Florida Georgia Line (“God, Your Mama, and Me”) or continue building on deejay connections they’ve developed since launching their Larger Than Life residency in the EDM hub of Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We’ve had a lot of love from the country world lately, so we definitely explored that and at one point even talked about doing a straight-up country record,” Dorough shares. “Not to say that isn’t still on the table and something we’ll consider down the line, but we kept coming back to the fact that our roots remain in the pop world. And, with all the nostalgia of everything right now, we know we’re essentially a pop band.”
“But at the same time, we’ve been exploring the EDM world and have done great collaborations with The Chainsmokers and gotten to know Steve Aoki and Zedd,” he continues. “Being out in Vegas with this residency has definitely lent us the opportunity to meet and collaborate with these producers and deejays, so that definitely played into the musical direction. I’m very proud that the record is a little bit of everything -- we’ve got our signature pop melodies and harmonies, and also dabbled into dance, country and R&B while staying true to ourselves.”
And, it’s not just their sound that the boys, who celebrated their 25th anniversary in April, are staying true to. The group has also released a rocking video for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” with killer choreography reminiscent of their game-changing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” video in 1997. Featuring slick moves, sexy ladies and colorful visuals, the video was directed by choreographer brothers Rich + Tone Talauega, who have worked with Madonna, Michael Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, and created choreography for Backstreet Boys’ past tours and record-breaking residency at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater.
“We’re at that age now where most people think we’re not moving and dancing anymore,” says Dorough, who has two sons, 9-year-old James and 5-year-old Holden. “When they come to our Vegas show, most people are blown away with how much movement we’re doing. Were in our mid-forties, but dancing as hard as we did in our twenties. Sure, the next day it hurts a bit more and we’re taking a bit more Advil! But we’re still moving it and shaking it, so this video really encompasses showing that side of us.”
While Dorough’s unsure when the album will drop, he says it should be before the year’s end. Until then, the guys have a string of appearances coming up, including KIIS FM’s Wango Tango on June 2 and Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series on July 13. They will also resume their Larger Than Life residency on Jul. 25.
“We’re going to finish up some dates in our Vegas residency in July, August, October, November and February, then the plan is to take this album and all of our greatest hits on a world tour,” says Dorough, who’s also working on a partly biographical musical, How We Do, with composer Tor Hyams and Broadway performer Lisa Rothauser. “We’re going to take this tour all around the world!”