Today we bring you a #throwbackthursday of the 90’s variety – the iconic Backstreet Boys’ video for “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”!
Filmed and debuted in the summer of 1997, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” marked the third U.S. single from the Backstreet Boys (BSB). While the song itself is enough to get any nineties kid singing along at the top of their lungs, the video could very well have been many’s first foray into the Universal Monsters universe.
The six-minute-long video begins with the Backstreet Boys’ tour bus having broken down and the group ‘conveniently’ finding themselves at a ghoulish-looking castle in the middle of nowhere. Their bus driver (played by Antonio Fargas) insists the group spend the night there while he goes to look for help. The boys reluctantly settle into the castle and fall into a troubled sleep, entering a dream sequence that makes up the musical part of the video. As the song plays, each band member appears as an iconic Universal Monster – Brian Littrell as The Wolfman, Howie D. (Dorough) as Dracula, Nick Carter as The Mummy, AJ McLean as the Phantom of the Opera, and Kevin Richardson as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The five of them bare fangs, howl, and dance around the castle, proclaiming that Backstreet’s back, alright!
What’s most interesting about the video is that the idea to employ Universal Monsters came from the Backstreet Boys themselves. As revealed in their ‘All Access’ video from 1998, the concept came to them while traveling. The group was thinking of music videos they had loved and brainstorming ways to incorporate horror, a castle, and each band member as a distinct character into their next vid. Those three criteria – with what seems like Nick Carter’s insistence – coalesced into bringing out the full monster roster.
Despite the obvious nod to Michael Jackson’s enormously successful “Thriller” video – the first of its kind to blend cinematic horror with a pop soundtrack – BSB’s record label didn’t believe in the concept or the budget that came along with it. “Everyone was like, “What do they mean, they want to dress up in costumes? Can you imagine when this sh*t goes to MTV? They’re gonna f*ckin’ laugh us out of the building!” said David McPherson, former A&R exec at Jive Records, in an Spring 2000 interview with Entertainment Weekly. In order for the show to go on, BSB were forced to put up their own money to shoot the video, with the prolific music video director Joseph Khan behind the camera.
Covering the guys in body paint, scars, and wolf hair was definitely a risk. After all, the key to many a boy band’s success was in the marriage of killer vocals and dance moves coupled with handsome faces and the ability to make pre-teens swoon. In ‘All Access,’ Nick even expressed wanting to go further with the concept by playing Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon, a role that originally required wearing a mask. With makeup direction from Joseph Schultz (who worked on early ‘90s horror films like Candyman and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth), the boys not only remain recognizable beneath the makeup but also bring the Universal Monsters to life with a distinct 90s flair.
In spite of the initial criticisms of the video’s concept, the Backstreet Boys’ gamble paid off. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” was beloved by MTV and went on to win the 1998 VMA for Best Group Video, proving that monsters can make it in the mainstream. And now, nearly twenty years later, with Backstreet back for their Vegas residency starting March 1, 2017, perhaps BSB could bring the monsters back as well.