AJ McLean Craves Social Justice and Backstage Tuna Sandwiches on the Backstreet Boys Tour
Enough with the PB&J.
AJ McLean may be a member of one of the boy bands for whom the word ‘fangirling’ was invented, but when you meet him across the street from a falafel cart, he appears to be just your average dude. In one hand he holds the Starbucks seasonal solid red cup that’s causing merry mayhem from Pole to Pole while the other hand mends itself in a brace due to a mystery flare-up that occurred overnight.
That’s right; even Backstreet Boys have an Achilles heel.
McLean is blazing his way through a 48-hour New York City press tour to spread the good word of his latest music video for”Live Together”, a powerful visual plea for peace in the face of injustice that was sparked by headlines from his CNN app.
“I was just reading all of this stuff. It was all really negative about all of the young, black men being shot in the streets, anti-gay, everyone against equality, and online bullying,” he remembers from scrolling through the true American horror stories.
“It was one thing after another, and I was like, ‘Oh god. Somebody has to say something.'”
Incorporating stock footage from such headlines including the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, “Live Together” follows an innocent young girl who halts violent acts with the offering of a single delicate flower. “I used the little girl as the kind of hope that kids are like sponges,” he explains to Celebuzz, overcome with concern for the future of his 2-year-old daughter’s generation. “With all of this destruction going on around, kids just tend to keep focused on the good.”
“If our youth can now finally start to change things and push things in a more positive way, we can hopefully change the next generation, my daughter’s generation, to have a happier, healthier place to live.”
Now McClean only hopes that his next video will be up to par.
He describes his upcoming album The Anthem as a compilation of R&B, pop, a little bit of rock, and some acoustic tracks to top it all off. “It’s kind of all of the influences that I’ve had over the years and what makes me who I am,” he explains. It will join in the ranks among albums from the new wave of Backstreet Boys whose manicured hands hold the attention of Generations Y and Z.
“People put you on a pedestal in this business and you do have a voice,” he reminds Harry Styles & Co. “If you use your celebrity to speak out about world issues, racism, equality, about whatever, people will listen because they look up to artists. They are people’s inspiration, the next generation’s inspiration of music, of art.”
“Instead of going out and buying five, ten cars, go set up in Guam and help starving kids. Do something positive that you have the ability to do as a celebrity to give back.”
The Live Together Foundation, McLean’s charitable organization, puts his words into motion by providing assistance to local communities in need. When the story of a $35K robbery of musical instruments from a Pasadena high school came to his attention while filming “Live Together”, McLean asked for a small donation from his fans working as extras on-set to restore the school’s instruments. He matched the total contributions and got his hands dirty by putting in flooring and painting the ceiling to give the school’s music room an entire facelift on one condition: Keep the room clean.
He’s dusting off a music room of his own with certain Boys from a Backstreet as they prepare to record their ninth studio album at the beginning of 2016. He describes the new record as “more mature” and “sexier” in comparison to those from their younger years. “We’ve done the love song thing,” he says. “We’re all married, we’re all grown men, so it’s time that we push the envelope a little bit and bring that sex appeal back.”
With plans of another tour to follow the release of their album combined with the unearthing of Kanye West’s Kashi GOLEAN cereal tour demands, one must wonder what delicacies the Backstreet Boys require to achieve zen before hitting the stage. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Damn peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he laughs, lamenting about the rider staple that has stuck for over two decades. “I like tuna sandwiches. I finally got my way to get them on the rider. Howie [Dorough] has sadly been asking for chicken wings for years, but he never got it. Well, but once.”
“There used to be bottles of wine and vodka and beer, now it’s baby bottles, a juice maker, wheatgrass, everything organic. Everything’s changed.”
Room for even more bottles will be a necessity for father-to-be Nick Carter, whose wife is expecting a baby boy. “Nick’s gonna be an amazing father,” McLean says, with faith that Carter’s parenting skills will come naturally given tumultuous home environment of his own childhood. “I think he’s going to be the polar opposite of his parents because I know that he struggled with them. I think that’s going to help him be a better parent.”
It can be assumed that McLean is no stranger to games as a father to a 2-year-old Nick Carter fangirl. Thus, he was enthused to participate in “Tell Me Why(ee)”, a lightening round of interrogations based on that burning question from “I Want It That Way“.
TELL ME WHY: You can pull off wearing sunglasses inside when everyone else kinda looks like an d-bag.
AJ McLean: [Laughs.] I think it goes along with the bad boy image even though I’m a big pushover, and they’ve been my trademark since day one. When we shot our very first video for “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”, our manager at the time Johnny Wright looked at all five of us before the first shot and said, “Something’s missing.” He took his sunglasses off and put them on me and said, “That’s your thing. That’s your gimmick. Now it’s perfect.”
I’ve actually done damage to my eyes because I was wearing sunglasses at night. Plus, you bump into a lot of things, which is very embarrassing if you’re trying to be a bad boy. It’s not very bad boy when you’re walking into walls.
TELL ME WHY: All-white attire was such a music video staple for boy bands in the millennium.
AJM: White is clean and clean-cut, and that’s how boy bands are supposed to be; perfectly everything with abs and whatnot, and I think that white was a good representation of that image.
TELL ME WHY: Starbucks decided to keep it minimal this holiday season with hotly-debated solid red cups.
AJM: Well hopefully it’s for something charitable, which I’m assuming it’s for. But if not, holiday stuff comes out way before it’s supposed to. Like literally, there are Christmas decorations up in stores now and everybody forgets about Thanksgiving! It’s Halloween right to Christmas. Gobble, gobble! C’mon.
TELL ME WHY: Boy bands nowadays have so much more drama than those from your generation.
AJM: Social media. That’s it. Bottom line. There was no Twitter, no Instagram when we started. There wasn’t even internet when we started. There’s a video of us at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards when somebody says to Kevin [Richardson], “So Kevin. What do you think about this new thing called ‘The Internet’.” It’s kind of freaky that we were part of that generation. I wish I had invested in Google or Yahoo, but I didn’t. Sadly.
Download AJ’s powerful “Live Together” on Amazon and launch the gallery at the top of the page to view photos from the Backstreet Boys’ appearance at the Balmain x H&M runway show.