A.J. McLean is taking a break from his usual song-and-dance routine to confront a more serious challenge: dealing with his own depression and alcohol problems.
The dark-haired, sideburn-sporting Backstreet Boy with a penchant for wearing sunglasses and bandanas surprised fans after approaching his bandmates to say he would enter an undisclosed rehabilitation center for 30 days for the treatment of chronic depression and alcohol abuse. The other Boys announced Monday they would put their concert tour on hold while McLean was in treatment.
The five — Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and McLean — have now rescheduled their July tour dates in the United States and Canada, and plan to resume the Black and Blue tour Aug. 7.
His bandmates expressed concern, rather than frustration or anger with McLean.
"He's been burning the candle at both ends and partying quite a bit to escape it," Richardson said, according to The Associated Press. "His alcoholism is — it's pretty bad. And we're worried about him."
A statement on the band's Web site says McLean's condition was partly generated by the recent loss of his grandmother, and he has experienced anxiety attacks and consumed an excessive amount of alcohol.
Breaking the News to Their Fans
The singing heartthrobs, known for their choreographed videos and romantic ballads, decided not to hide McLean's problem from the young fans who snap up their recordings.
The handsome singers broke the news on MTV's Total Request Live, the video countdown show where they typically introduce new songs and have earned devoted admirers.
"We didn't want to lie about it. We didn't want to push it under the rug," Richardson said. "We want to be honest with our fans. He's getting help. He's going to be better."
"When you're trying to help someone who has a serious illness, they have to help themselves first before they can really receive help. They've gotta really want it," Littrell added.
"He came to us [Sunday] for the first time. I heard him say, 'Guys, I have a problem and I need to get help.' We figured this was the best for him. It's all about him being healthy."
Florida Teens Become World Phenomenon
The Backstreet Boys have been scoring hits since the late 1990s, when they began to find an audience well beyond their Florida origins. Their current album, Black and Blue, has sold 8 million copies since its release in November.
McLean was the first to sign on for the group, says producer Lou Pearlman, who helped the five entertainers become known as the Backstreet Boys. "He's the original guy who started with the group," Pearlman told ABC Radio. He no longer works with the band but maintains a friendhip with his former musical protégés.
"[McLean's] just a great guy, he's a loving guy, very caring person," said Pearlman. "I think that finally he decided to do what he felt he needed to do and that's great. I admire him and I think that that's fantastic that he's finally taking care of a situation he felt he needed to deal with."
This is the second setback for the band's tour in just a week. Before McLean's disclosure, they announced they would postpone this week's sold-out concerts at Boston's FleetCenter after Carter injured his hands on Saturday.
There may be delays, but the blond Carter wants fans to know the Backstreet Boys will soon be back on track. "I don't think there is an end to this group until one of us dies," he said.