No Backstreet Help for Richie

The Backstreet Boys have backed out of a deal with '80s hitmaker Lionel Richie.

The boy band recorded the song "Cinderella" with Richie. But while the tune will most certainly be on Richie's next album, Renaissance — due in stores March 20 on Island/Def Jam — the Boys will be nowhere in sight. Or sound.

What happened? Chalk it up to music-industry politics, and a fear on the part of the Backstreet camp that "Cinderella" would wind up competing with whatever single the group happened to be working from its own Black & Blue album. "I suggested, 'You put it on your album and I'll put it on my album, and we got it,'" Richie says. "I think the single is so strong with them on it, just amazing. We custom-tailored it for the Backstreet Boys. But everyone felt it would be suicide for their record."

Richie, however, hasn't given up on the recording one day seeing the light of day. "I said, 'OK, we'll use it for later on, when I do a TV special or something,'" the "All Night Long" singer says. "I'm not worried; I think as time goes on, you will hear this record, with Backstreet on it, before it's all over. It's just a matter of how do we politically work it out. But the good news that happened from that record is my 6-year-old son came to me and said, 'Dad, you're famous.' I said, 'Why would you say that?' and he said, 'You know the Backstreet Boys.'"

Richie says he may have another reunion up his sleeve, however — with his old band, the Commodores. Most of the original lineup attended his mother's recent funeral in Tuskegee, Ala., which Richie says stoked some interest in playing music together.

"Somewhere on my tour, I'm going to find an opportunity to get them out," he says. "Maybe instead of doing Commodores songs in the middle of my show, I'll just get the Commodores onstage. And I have a strange feeling that if I ever get to the point where the lights hit them in the face, I may have trouble getting them off the stage."