BSB: The best vocal harmony group of the millennium | Sunday Observer

BSB: The best vocal harmony group of the millennium

14 February, 2021

Backstreet Boys aka BSB is an American vocal group, formed in Orlando, Florida in 1993. The group consists of Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson.

The group rose to fame with their debut international album, Backstreet Boys (1996). In the following year, they released their second international album Backstreet’s Back (1997) along with their self-titled U.S. debut album, Backstreet Boys (1997), which continued the group’s success worldwide. They rose to superstardom with their third studio album Millennium (1999) and its follow-up album, Black & Blue (2000).

They also released a greatest hits album, The Hits - Chapter One (2001), with their only single, Drowning. After a two-year hiatus, they regrouped and released a comeback album Never Gone (2005).

After the conclusion of the ‘Never Gone Tour’ in 2006, Richardson left the group to pursue other interests. The group then released two albums as a quartet: Unbreakable (2007) and This Is Us (2009).

In 2012, the group announced that Richardson had rejoined them permanently. In the following year, 2013, they celebrated their 20th anniversary and released their first independent album, In a World Like This (2013).

Their album DNA (2019) debuted at number one, more than two decades after the group formed, and 19 years after they last topped the charts in 2000. They also became the first boy band to top the U.S. album charts in three decades.

The Backstreet Boys have sold over 100 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling boy band of all time, and one of the world’s best-selling music artistes. They are the first group since Led Zeppelin to have their first ten albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200, and the only boy band to do so.

The group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 22, 2013. The group also announced their residency show, Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life in Las Vegas from March 2017 to April 2019.

The group also released their first documentary movie, titled Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of in January 2015.


The Backstreet Boys have always prided themselves as a vocal harmony group and not as a boy band. In order to fight the boy band stereotype and the backlash from New Kids on the Block’s lip-sync scandal in the beginning, they would sing a cappella every chance they could get.

The ad they answered in 1993 was for a singing group with ‘New Kids on the Block look with a Boyz II Men sound ‘and they aimed to have a white version of Boyz II Men.

“We were fans of New Kids, but were we really modelled after them? No. We looked at ourselves as Shai, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, the true vocal groups. That’s who we listened to and who we really wanted to be like,” Littrell stated in 2011. The Backstreet Boys often employ polyphonic harmony, which sets them apart from many other singing groups.

In choruses, Littrell, Carter, and McLean usually sing the melody with Dorough harmonising above the melody and Richardson covering the bass parts. During Richardson’s absence, McLean and Carter together covered his part in choruses while Dorough took his solo parts, although McLean sang Richardson’s verse in Drowning.

The Backstreet Boys’ musical style has evolved over the years. On their debut and second album, they sang a hybrid of R&B and dance club pop mixed with new jack balladry and hip-hop.

With Millennium and Black & Blue, they started to abandon R&B and shift more toward pop and pop rock, as demonstrated on songs like I Want It That Way, Shape of My Heart, Larger than Life and Not For Me.

The group drastically changed their style in 2005 with their comeback album Never Gone, which is an adult contemporary record featuring only live instruments, a departure from their previous pop sound that features a lot of synthesisers.

Compared to their previous albums, Never Gone is ‘more organic, more stripped-down, less harmonies, more instrumentation’.

Their first album without Richardson, Unbreakable, is similar to Never Gone. It leans toward adult contemporary and contemporary pop music and features interwoven choral harmonies, piano, strings, guitar, and drums, with a little bit of hip-hop and reggae elements on some tracks, such as One in A Million. With their seventh studio album, This Is Us, they went back to their original dance-pop beats combined with electropop.

It also contains a more R&B sound compared to Unbreakable. The group’s first independent album, In A World Like This, which is also their first album back with Richardson, is a mixture of modern pop, adult contemporary, and dance music, with a hint of singer-songwriter genre as demonstrated on Try, Madeleine, and Trust Me.