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AS WRITTEN IN The Toronto Star Thursday, January 1st 1998

Toy Boys:
"We're not professing to be a great band playing instruments -- we know our limitations."

Boys bigger here than at home

By Jennie Punter
Special To The Star

Flying in the face of pundit's predictions, frothy pre-teen pop has made a huge comeback -- some of it played by actual teens (Hanson), but most of it dished out by grown women (Spice Girls) and men (Backstreet Boys -- though, to be fair, two out of five Boys are still teens).

Based in Florida, the Backstreet Boys are still relatively unknown at home and are just now beginning to make noise on the U.S. charts with their innocuous dance pop. But in the rest of the world, including Canada and particularly Quebec, BSB have racked up plenty of gold and platinum albums.

In Canada, their self-titled debut album has sold close to a million copies and their new album, the imaginatively titled Backstreet's Back, is more than five times platinum.

While the Spice Girls' cookie seems to be crumbling from over-exposure, the Boys' comparatively show overnight success is still on the upswing. Around a year ago BSB played the Warehouse, packed to the rafters with screaming pre-teens (both female and male) and P.W.E. (Parnets With Earplugs). A few months later they returned to Maple Leaf Gardens and this Saturday they play Toronto's biggest venue, the Skydome.

Still, Ontario is not as Boy-crazy as Quebec, where BSB play two shows in Quebec City and, gulp, five in Montreal.

"They wanted us to play more but we had to set a limit," laughs Howie Dorough, 23, who along with Nick Carter, 16, A.J. McLean, 18, Kevin Richardson, 25, and Brian Litrell, 21, is trying to move beyond the familiar "sing a little song, do a little dance" heartthrob schtick they've been doing since 1995.

"I play a little acoustic guitar, Brian plays acoustic and bongos, A.J. plays bass and Kevin plays keyboards," Dorough reports. "We're not proffessing to be a great band playing instruments -- we know our limitations.

"We're singers first and foremost, but we want to broaden our horizons."

The band set its sights on Europe a couple of years ago when their first single, "We've Got It Goin' On," broke overseas and, like dominoes, the countries fell one by one for the Boys' charms.

"At that time, America wasn't ready for a group like us," Dorough says. "Rap was still pretty hard and grunge was still big.

"But America is our home, so we're willing to do the extra work this time around."

And willing to put up with hysterical but adoring fans. "I don't think you can get completely used to that," Dorough muses. "So many times we've walked into an airport, expecting no one will be there, but there always is.

"I think we handle it well, because we've had it right from the start," he adds. "When we first got together, when we were still trying to get a record deal, we toured around America visiting high schools, promoting things like SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving).

"After every show, people would come up to ask for autographs and would chase our bus."

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