Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

Album: Backstreet's Back (1997)
Charted: 3 4

Songfacts®:

  • Written by Swedish hitmakers Max Martin and Denniz Pop, this dance-pop track has the Backstreet Boys announcing their triumphant return and commanding everyone to rock their bodies in celebration. But where exactly is the boy band returning from?

    Backstreet Boys (titled Backstreet's Back for the international release) was the Florida fivesome's first album in the US, where listeners weren't aware of the group's initial success in Europe with their enormously popular self-titled international debut. Their anonymity in America was exactly why Jive Records president Barry Weiss didn't want to release the tune as a single and initially kept it off the US version of the album altogether. The band argued the title could refer to their return home to the States, but Weiss didn't budge until the song - which was the first single from the international release - started gaining steam on Canadian radio and nearby US stations. He added the song to the US album after a million units had already been produced. It was released as the fourth single.
  • When director Joseph Kahn was approached to do the music video, he was told the Backstreet Boys were like a "white Jodeci," referring to the '90s R&B quartet known for their hit "Come And Talk To Me." But when Kahn, whose resumé was stacked with R&B and hip-hop acts, met with BSB and saw their smooth dance moves, he thought they were more like "little Michael Jacksons." With MJ's famous "Thriller" video in mind, which had the singer leading a choreographed dance with zombies, he developed a similar concept for the Backstreet Boys.

    In the video, the boy band's tour bus breaks down near a spooky mansion, where they're forced to spend a harrowing night. The haunted manor has a transformative effect on the boys, changing Brian Littrell into a werewolf; AJ McLean into Erik, The Phantom Of The Opera recluse; Kevin Richardson into the two-faced Dr. Jekyll & Hyde; Howie D into Dracula; and Nick Carter into a mummy. They converge in the ballroom and bust out "Thriller"-esque moves with a group of dancers. At the end, they're relieved to discover the whole experience was just a nightmare - that is until their driver turns out to be a monster.
  • Jive Records refused to fund the million-dollar video on the grounds that MTV wouldn't go for the concept. The band put up their own money and, once the six-minute clip blew up, they fought the label to reimburse them.
  • For Kahn, it was important for the video to be racially diverse, which was a particular challenge in Los Angeles, where music was "incredibly segregated" five years after the city's race riots. "I went, 'We need to multi-racially cast this: Kevin's going to dance with a black girl and there's going to be an Asian girl and Hispanic girl. I need to mix this up and make sure this is the world that I want to see on screen,'" he told Billboard. "The beautiful thing was that I don't think I ever discussed it with the Backstreet Boys. It was like they didn't even think about it. Kevin danced away with a black girl and nobody blinked." At the time, it was hard to track down diverse dancers who were well-versed in hip-hop moves, but Kahn eventually recruited ex-Fly Girls from In Living Color.
  • The bus driver in the video was played by Antonio Fargas, known for his role as Huggy Bear the informant on the '70s cop show Starsky & Hutch. The Backstreet Boys were big fans of the series and were excited to have Fargas on board. In 2017, 20 years after he appeared in the video, Fargas told Billboard he was still being recognized as the bus driver.
  • By 2001, the album sold a whopping 14 million copies in the US alone, earning a 14x Multi-Platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
  • This won for Best Group Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards.
  • Carl Sturken, a prolific songwriter who co-wrote 'N Sync's "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You," learned an important lesson about the cyclical nature of music trends when the Backstreet Boys broke through in the US. Sturken told Songfacts he heard BSB's single "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" in England and, while he liked the song, he didn't think the group would take off in the States, where boy bands were a thing of the past. He thought the same thing when "Backstreet's Back" dropped.

    "Backstreet Boys came out with 'Quit Playing Games' and then they came out with 'Backstreet's Back,' which was in the same vein. It sounds like old Teddy Riley. I laughed because I said, 'Now you're coming out with that same crap I told you three years ago was outdated.' But it's like the broken clock that's right every 12 hours. The young kids who were into Backstreet Boys did not remember New Kids On The Block," he recalled.

    "And New Kids On The Block were just doing retreads of New Edition, because they were the white New Edition and managed by the same people. So here they were coming with this lame retread stuff that now sounded new to people. That was another really good lesson to learn."

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