backstreet boys | The only boy band that lasts

In October 1996, the Backstreet Boys released their first official album and in Quebec their success was born. Who would have thought back then that BSBs would still be filling 25 years later – and for the 19th time?e Time ! – the Bell Center? A look back at the phenomenon with Sonia Benezra and two veterans of the music industry who accompanied the BSBs in their early days.

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Emily Cote

Emily Cote
The press

Backstreet Boys’ Howie surprised Sonia Benezra for her birthday on the show last September. live from the universe. He sang to her Stop playing with my heart). “I felt like a teenager,” she says. It was sweet of him to get on a plane just to sing a song. »

Sonia Benezra has interviewed the Backstreet Boys many times. In New York, in Paris and even at home in Florida.

The first time she met them boy bandHowever, she had to convince her bosses at TQS. “The group was unknown. They are good, approachable boys and they come from humble backgrounds, she says. I remember taking them shopping at Parasuco. We had closed the store for them. Their eyes sparkled when they saw the leather coats and they didn’t dare touch them. »


Sonia Benezra and the members of the Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys have always been grateful to Quebec, the cradle of their worldwide success.

Stéphane Drolet, now a Sony (then BGM) representative, is considered by his peers to be the sixth member of the Backstreet Boys in Quebec. He was at the top of the Backstreet Boys mania.

He recalls that in the fall of 1995, commercial radio stations in Quebec were the first in North America to play BSB’s first single. We’ve got it going.

In February 1996, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Brian Littrel and Kevin Richardson visited Montreal for the first time. The program included a visit to MusiquePlus during the broadcast Get out, a performance at the Dôme and another at the famous fuzzy bar in Laval.

On a Saturday, the BSBs were scheduled to perform at the Place Côte-Vertu shopping mall. After her fiery performance, the autograph session had to be canceled for security reasons. While we were hardly expecting 400 people, the crowd exceeded 5000 heads!

From her first visit one could sense her undeniable talent, work ethic, attention and respect for her fans.

Stéphane Drolet, then representative of BGM

In August 1996, the Backstreet Boys performed their first official show in Quebec. It was at the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu International Balloon Festival and Noir Silence delivered the first part. Number of people present: 60,000!

The group couldn’t do a sound test, Stéphane Drolet recalls, because the security team felt too many people had arrived at the festival site in advance.


The Backstreet Boys in concert at the Molson Center in 2001

“It was on that day in a hotel in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu that the then-President of Jive Records and the management of BMG Music Canada switched their international sales strategy to pre-album Canadian release. »

Estimated date: October 9, 1996.

A few weeks earlier, the BSBs were back in Quebec for another promotional tour and sold-out shows at the Auditorium de Verdun and the Colisée de Québec.

Leisa Lee – who now has her own PR company and orchestrated Howie’s visit live from the universe – was in the crowd at the Verdun auditorium. At the time, she was working for the influential show producer DKD (Donald K. Donald). She remembers her former boss telling her, “These guys are going to be superstars. »

Leisa Lee wasn’t as convinced as he was. “Trust me,” Donald K. Donald told him. I’ve seen the teenagers clinging to Corey Hart. »

“Donald had good instincts and he was right,” says Leisa Lee.

That Backstreet Boys mania

In December 1996, DKD planned an arena tour in Chicoutimi, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Hull and Montreal.

The Backstreet Boys went gold and it’s Stéphane [Drolet] who gave it to them. They were stars here while walking around like strangers in Orlando, their hometown.

Leisa Lee who worked with the BSBs

Thus, the BSB conquered Quebec ahead of the United States, marking the era of boy bandsjust before Nick Lachey’s 98 Degrees and Justin Timberlake’s NSYNC.

Stéphane Drolet and Leisa Lee accompanied the BSBs on their many visits to Quebec for two years. “We took them to the movies or McDonald’s,” she says. They were kind and generous. I never heard her complain. »

PHOTO REMI LEMEE, 09/18/2001

The Backstreet Boys at MusiquePlus Studios in 2001.

When the group visited MusiquePlus, they had to close rue Sainte-Catherine. “The volume of screams and so much crying in decibels, we had never seen that. Especially since we got out of grunge, says Leisa Lee. At that time there were no youth groups. »


The Backstreet Boys visiting MusiquePlus Studios in 2001.

Everywhere the BSB went it was madness and we dare not imagine what it would have been like on social media. “The award goes to a fan found in an air duct leading to the floor of the BSB bedrooms,” explains Stéphane Drolet.

“Good Melodies”

The BSB’s debut album contained many pop hits, including down and I will never break your heart. The quintet had worked with the then-unknown Swede Max Martin, who now ranks third among songwriters, to whom we owe the most number 1 positions in the charts. billboard (after Paul McCartney and John Lennon).

Max Martin always remained a close collaborator with the BSBs, letting them play the famous choruses of on the radio As long as you love me, that’s how I want it and shape of my heart.

The BSBs have sold 130 million career albums. “Their melodies are super good. They go straight to the heart,” says Sonia Benezra, who praises the talent of the dancer and singer of Nick the rebel, Brian the approachable, AJ the tormented, Kevin the serious and Howie the shy. .

“They are hard workers,” confirms Stéphane Drolet.

a 19e Show at the Bell Center

Leisa Lee particularly remembers the BSB shows that took place on January 5th and 6th, 1998 at the Molson Centre. “It was at the beginning of the ice storm. »

The press was there. Other notable visits? 2005 for the release of the album never gone, where the BSBs made a comeback after years of absence and personal hardship. Also worth mentioning is the 2011 tour with New Kids On The Block.

  • The Backstreet Boys at the Bell Center in 2008


    The Backstreet Boys at the Bell Center in 2008

  • Still at the Bell Centre, this time in 2010


    Still at the Bell Centre, this time in 2010

  • Over the years, the crowd stays there.  Pictured is the audience at the Bell Center in 2019.


    Over the years, the crowd stays there. Pictured is the audience at the Bell Center in 2019.


Saturday they give no less than their 19th birthdaye Show at the Bell Center as part of their 9the Album, DNS. You should also know that a Christmas CD is planned for autumn.

The BODs turn out to be the only ones boy band have withstood the test of time. Leisa Lee recalls her two-year residency in Las Vegas from 2017-2019 and the record-breaking crowd at the Festival d’été de Québec five years ago.

The secret of their success? “They grew up together. They are like brothers who protect each other and embody the idea that anything is possible, Sonia Benezra replies. In Quebec, and we experienced it with Céline, we like artists who start from scratch and end up conquering the planet. »

In 2021, Sonia Benezra asked the BSBs if they could send a video to a young woman from Matane who would receive medical attention two days later while dying. Howie, AJ and Kevin took the call immediately.

“Making us feel special: that’s the magic of the Backstreet Boys,” concludes Sonia Benezra.

At the Bell Center on September 3rd. Also at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa on April 1ah September and September 2nd at the Videotron Center in Quebec City.

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