On August 11, 1997, the world was forever changed when the Backstreet Boys released their first U.S. album, Backstreet's Back. Though technically their second studio album, Backstreet's Back acted as their major U.S. debut and firmly secured their place in pop history. But, it almost didn't happen, at least not the way we know it did. There's one obscure Backstreet Boys fact that would have changed everything: Howie Dorough (aka 'Howie D') was originally the lead singer of the group.
As one of the founding members of BSB — he and AJ McLean were the original duo — Howie put together the iconic boy band fully expecting to sing lead. As history has shown us, things didn't quite work out the way he planned. Once Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell filled out the band, the dynamic shifted, and something was revealed in the group's 2015 documentary Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of. "At the time, I was a little bit jealous of the situation — that I didn't have the opportunity to be the singer that I was before I started [in] the group," Howie said in an interview with Popcrush. "I had to really take a step back and say, 'This is about being in a group. It's no longer the I, it's the we."
Fans of the Backstreet Boys will agree that over the years, the band became more focused on AJ, Brian, and Nick as leads, with Kevin and Howie rounding out the sound. Sure, they had their fans, and the occasional solo, but they had significantly less time in the spotlight. Looking back, Howie has said that he thinks his voice just didn't gel as well with the pop sound the label and producers wanted the band to have. "The sound that I brought to the group was not exactly the Max Martin sound that we were going in, so I had to take a little bit more of a step back," Howie told Collider. (Max Martin is, of course, the writer responsible for all of your favorite BSB hits, including "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "As Long As You Love Me.")
The dynamic changed again over the years. As the Backstreet Boys gained worldwide fame and adoration, fans demanded to hear more of Howie and Kevin. And on the group's third album, Millennium, Howie took the lead on the track "Spanish Eyes," while both he and Kevin were awarded more solos. Years later, when Kevin took a break from the band, Howie got to sing his solos, like that last verse of "I Want It That Way," as well.
Now, 20 years after Backstreet's Back, it's impossible to imagine the group being any different than it was. Even just trying to picture "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" with Howie singing Brian's parts feels wrong. But, it's also impossible to imagine the Backstreet Boys without Howie. Take it from somebody who saw the Backstreet Boys on tour before Kevin rejoined the group: without all five guys, it's just not the same.