Street boys |  The only boy band that lasts

Street boys | The only boy band that lasts

In October 1996, the Backstreet Boys released their first official album, and it was in Quebec that their success was born. Back then, who would have thought that the BSBs would still be packed 25 years later, and during the 19me weather ! – the Bell Center? A retrospective look at the phenomenon with Sonia Benezra and two veterans of the music industry who accompanied the BSB in its beginnings.

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Emily Costa

Emily Costa

Backstreet Boys’ Howie surprised Sonia Benezra for her birthday on the show last September. Live off the universe. he sang to him Stop playing with my heart). “I felt like a teenager,” she says. It was sweet of her 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 he met the boy bandHowever, he had to convince his bosses at TQS. “The group was not known. They were good guys, approachable and came from modest backgrounds, she says. I remember taking them shopping at Parasuco. We had closed the store. Her eyes sparkled at the sight of the leather coats and she didn’t dare touch them. »


Sonia Benezra and the members of the Backstreet Boys

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

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

In the fall of 1995, he recalls, Quebec commercial radio stations were the first in North America to play BSB’s first single, we got it going.

It was in February 1996 that AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Brian Littrel and Kevin Richardson visited Montreal for the first time. On the show, there was a visit to MusiquePlus during the broadcast Get out of here, one performance at the Dôme and another at the famous Fuzzy bar in Laval.

One Saturday, the BSBs would perform at the Place Côte-Vertu shopping center. After his fierce performance, the autograph session had to be canceled for security reasons. While we were expecting just shy of 400 people, the crowd exceeded 5,000 heads!

From his first visit, his undeniable talent, work ethic, attention and respect towards his fans could be perceived.

Stéphane Drolet, BGM representative at the time

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

The group was unable to do a sound check, recalls Stéphane Drolet, because the security team felt that too many people had arrived at the festival site in advance.


The Backstreet Boys in concert at the Molson Center in 2001

“It was in a hotel in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu that day that the president of Jive Records and the top management of BMG Music Canada at the time changed their international sales strategy before the album’s release in Canada. »

Expected date: October 9, 1996.

A few weeks earlier, the BSBs returned to 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 public relations firm and orchestrated Howie’s visit to live from the universe – was in the crowd at the Verdun Auditorium. At the time he was working for the influential entertainment producer DKD (Donald K. Donald). He still remembers his old boss telling him, “These guys are going to be superstars. »

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

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

the Backstreet Boys mania

In December 1996, DKD scheduled a stadium tour in Chicoutimi, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Hull, and Montreal.

The Backstreet Boys received a gold record and it’s Stéphane [Drolet] who gave it to them Here they were stars while in Orlando, their hometown, they walked around like strangers.

Leisa Lee, who worked with the BSB

This is how the BSB conquered Quebec before the United States and ushered in the era of boy bandsright before Nick Lachey’s 98 Degrees and Justin Timberlake’s NSYNC.

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

PHOTO REMI LEMÉE, 2001-09-18

The Backstreet Boys at MusiquePlus studios in 2001.

When the group visited MusiquePlus, they had to close rue Sainte-Catherine. “The decibel level of the screaming and so much crying, we had never seen that. Especially since we were coming out of grunge, says Leisa Lee. At that time, there were no groups for teenagers. »


The Backstreet Boys visiting MusiquePlus studios in 2001.

Wherever the BSB went it was crazy, and we dare not imagine what it would have been like with social media. “The prize is for a fan found in an air duct that reaches the floor of the rooms of the BSB”, illustrates Stéphane Drolet.

“Good Tunes”

BSB’s debut album included many pop hits, including Go down Y i will never break your heart. The quintet had worked with the Swedish Max Martin, then unknown, but who today ranks third among singer-songwriters to whom we owe the greatest number of number 1s on the charts. Billboard (after Paul McCartney and John Lennon).

Max Martin has always been a close associate of the BSB and allowed them to play on the radio with the famous choruses of As long as you love me, I want it that way Y Shape of my Heart.

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

“They are very hard-working”, confirms Stéphane Drolet.

a 19me show at the bell center

Leisa Lee remembers the first BSB show on January 6, 1998 at the Molson Centre. “It was at the beginning of the ice storm. »

Press It was there. Other notable visits? In 2005 for the release of the album. never gone, where the BSBs were returning after years of absence and personal difficulties. Also worth mentioning is the tour in 2011 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

  • Throughout the years, the crowd remains there.  In the photo, the Bell Center audience in 2019.


    Throughout the years, the crowd remains there. In the photo, the Bell Center audience in 2019.


On Saturday they will give nothing less than their 19me show at the Bell Center as part of their 9me album, DNA. You should also know that a Christmas album is planned for the fall.

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

The secret of your success? “They grew up together. They are like brothers who protect each other and embody the idea that everything is possible, answers Sonia Benezra. In Quebec, and we experienced it with Céline, we like artists who start from nothing and end up conquering the planet. »

In 2021, Sonia Benezra asked the BSB if they could send a video to a young woman from Matane who was to receive medical assistance only to die two days later. Howie, AJ and Kevin answered the call immediately.

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

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

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