The Backstreet Boys are going country – but it’s not their first rodeo.
The “Everybody” singers aren’t exactly the first act that comes to mind as far as performers at the Academy of Country Music Awards are concerned, but the pop stars are taking the stage at Sunday’s ceremony with six-time ACM winners Florida Georgia Line to perform a “must-see medley”, including their single, “God, Your Mama, and Me” for the very first time live. But if you’re thinking that the best-selling boy band and country’s hottest duo is an odd collaboration, let us not forget that Backstreet’s first foray into country was actually 18 years ago with the one and only queen of country, Shania Twain.
Let’s travel back in time to 1999, when butterfly clips were rampant, body glitter was excessively used, and bunkers were being built for the Y2K apocalypse (that never came). The Backstreet Boys were riding high off the release of their Millennium record, which became the best-selling album of the year. Concurrently, Canadian hero Shania was similarly enjoying the triumph of her own record-breaking album, Come On Over. Needless to say, these two acts were at their prime.
So it makes total sense that when Shania filmed a TV concert special in Miami, Florida, she invited BSB to perform with her. In fact, she admitted she was such a big fan that she used their music to get hype before shows.
“Every night, before I go on stage, I rock my bus with their music as loud as I possibly can,” Shania said before introducing them. “I do that every night just to go on stage and do my concert, just to get me pumped.”
File under: Things That Do Impress Shania Much.
Shania (sporting a fab high pony) let the boys shine on their own to sing “All I Have To Give”, but they later returned for a duet of middle school dance classic, “From This Moment On”. The fivesome’s harmonies fit perfectly with Shania’s flawless voice, and since the track itself is a country pop tune to begin with, having two of the best acts in those respective genres became a match made in heaven. It was almost as if they should’ve recorded the song together in the first place. Fun fact: Shania originally wanted Elton John (another guest on the Live in Miami special) to lay down vocals, but she ultimately decided to go with country star Bryan White instead.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out a few things from this clip that are worth giving a second look. Right off the bat, Howie Dorough assists Shania downstage in a way that makes it look like they’re going to a prom where the theme is “A Night to Remember”.
Yes, it’s 1999 and BSB had a penchant for oversized suits (see: “All I Have To Give” music video), but still, A.J. McLean looks like he’s drowning in fabric and taking deep breaths not for the big, long notes, but rather to quite literally get some air from those lapels.
I’m just gonna need a relationship status update on this couple since they were really feeling this serenade from Shania and BSB. Are they married? Divorced? It’s complicated? Quit playin’ games with our hearts, mystery couple.
And here we have prime Nick Carter hair. He’s sporting the classic mushroom/bowl cut that influenced tween boys to bring Nick Carter pics to the barber shop as an example of what they wanted to emulate, subsequently making them 10 times cuter to tween girls simply because they kinda sorta (not really) looked like Nick Carter.
This dress. This flowing grey/blue turtleneck dress embellished with rhinestones is nothing without the matching detached sleeves. And if you didn’t notice, ribbon loops on her pinkies connect to the sheer fabric that create veritable wings fit for a flight over the Miami skyline. Meanwhile, Kevin Richardson stands patiently (and somewhat reverently?) waiting for Shania to finish her dramatic ending. Opposite him, her prom date Howie is eagerly applauding at how well he did. It is everything.
But the duet with Shania seemed inevitable if we just looked at the facts – country runs in the boys’ blood. Yes, they were formed in Orlando, Florida, but Nick, Howie and A.J. all grew up in the Southern state, while cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin are natives of Kentucky. This is the type of music they grew up with. On top of that, the boy band has always explored with different genres over the course of their 24 years in the music business. Overall, their genre may be pop, but listen closely and influences of R&B, dance, rock, and yes, even country, can be heard throughout their discography.
“The thing about it is, no matter what type of song it is – when the five of our voices come together, it’s the Backstreet Boys,” Kevin recently told Billboard.com of their sound. “Whether it’s a country song, an uptempo, a ballad… we want to make music that we’re proud of, that we believe in, that we can relate to, and that’s what we’ve always tried to do. We’ve tried not to chase after a certain sound that might be popular at the time. We try to do us, whatever it is in that moment, whatever moment we’re in when we’re making that record. And our catalog of our music throughout the years has kept us in the game and sustained us, and we’re very grateful for that.”
Which leads us back to their collaboration with FGL on Sunday – the song the guys are singing is off Florida Georgia Line’s number one album Dig Your Roots, which pays homage to the artists and songs that have inspired them. Ever since the duo revealed they have always been fans of the group (BSB was the first concert Brian Kelley ever went to and the first CD Tyler Hubbard ever owned), the seven guys became fast friends and they brought that relationship straight into the recording studio.
“It turned out to be a smash and we couldn’t be happier, they’ve been a huge inspiration to us and vice versa,” A.J. told People of their partnership. “Hopefully we can do a lot more with these guys.”
In fact, they’ve already signed up for more – fans who enjoy their performance on the ACMs can catch FGL and BSB, along with rapper Nelly and country star Chris Lane, for three arena dates on the duo’s Smooth Tour in Minneapolis, Boston and Chicago. Bad news is that the latter two are already sold out, so there’s clearly a demand for country/pop mashups. If the Backstreet Boys are looking to extend their country collaboration, Shania is incidentally planning a comeback this year, so it wouldn’t be entirely out of line to hope for a reunion, would it? Oversized suits and winged gowns optional.
The 52nd Annual ACM Awards will air live on Sunday, April 2nd, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on CBS.