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|Patrick Edaburn, editor|
Having met with great success in the first phase of the new In Concert series, the Disney Company decided to continue and expand the program.
The first thing they needed to do was find the performers for the next series of concerts. It wasn't a very difficult search as the explosion of pop music had brought about a wide assortment of groups, all with very loyal fans. One of the most popular was the Backstreet Boys. Indeed, the original plan had been for BSB to perform in the first concert special, but they were not available.
Having seen the success of the N Sync show, BSB was now not only available, they were eager to perform, and it didn't take long for the details to be hammered out.
The Backstreet Boys Story
The Backstreet Boys had been one of the first major pop groups to hit the musical scene, coming out of Orlando in the mid 1990's. Like N Sync, they began in Europe, and had to experience the disconnect of being world famous and yet unknown in the US
They sold over eleven million records worldwide, had four Top Ten singles, and sold out concert venues around the world. They won award after award in Europe and Asia, but remained pretty much an unknown group in the US market.
It wasn't until 1997 that America heard its first Backstreet Boys album -- two years after the rest of the world -- and the band launched a tour in an effort to conquer their own country.
Like N Sync, the band got their start in Orlando, Florida, in the early 1990s, and like N Sync Disney played a role in the start. The presence of Walt Disney World acted to make Orlando a rich resource for musical talent as performers came to where the work was. This meant that a large number of talent auditions, music shows and the like also occurred in Orlando.
Three young performers named A. J. McLean (born 1/9/78), Howie Dorough (born 8/22/73) and Nick Carter (born 1/28/80) started running into each other at these auditions. As they got to know each other they decided to form a group, but felt they needed were two more voices to add range and depth to their sound. Through a friend they discovered Kevin Richardson (born 10/3/71), who was singing in a show at Disney World. Richardson brought in his cousin, Brian Littrell (born 2/20/75), who was living in Kentucky.
The group was named Backstreet Boys, after Orlando's Backstreet Market, a popular hang out for the city's teens. The foundation for this new group was a man named Lou Pearlman. Lou had made a fortune in customizing airplanes and had seen the money to be made in pop music, so he decided to put together a group. He found BSB, and it seemed to be a perfect marriage, a group in need of support and a financer in need of a group.
They began by performing wherever they could, covering groups like Boyz II Men and other R&B style groups. They got their first break when Pearlman brought in veteran management team Johnny and Donna Wright.
They developed a strategy to help the Backstreet Boys perfect their showmanship and musicianship while raising visibility among potential fans. They booked them at junior high and high schools as well as at theme parks. Then the group moved up to opening for performers with a "family" audience, expanding beyond the teen base. Unfortunately the musical scene was not with them. The early 90's were known for punk and Seattle based grunge, not soft pop.
Finally in 1994 they were signed to Jive Records, one of the major companies in the music market. Their first single called "We've Got It Goin' On," first released in 1995, did not live up to expectations in the United States, but it swept the charts throughout Europe. The "boy group" craze already had a foothold in Europe, providing Backstreet Boys with a ready made audience. They brought a unique something extra -- they were American, and that was exciting for the fans.
Yet success eluded them in the US market, foreign fans would wait outside the apartment house where the Backstreet Boys lived hoping for autographs while the neighbors were unable to comprehend why anyone would care about these unknown people.
But the music scene was beginning to shift in the right direction so in early 1997, the group returned to Orlando, where they began collaborating on putting together a new CD for US release.
Released August 12, 1997, the self-titled album included all the international hits plus new songs. The debut album struck the U.S. like an avalanche, sweeping off record store shelves and setting new records of success.
Since the release of their 1997 debut album, they have been redefining the meaning of pop music success, the US debut CD has been in the Billboard album chart's Top Twenty since it's release.
Internationally, the album has received gold and platinum awards in 45 countries with more than 28 million albums sold worldwide. Media success has also followed with appearances on talk shows around the world.
It was at this point that problems began to emerge. Just as N Sync would later become unhappy with the management of Lou Pearlman, the BSB also found themselves upset over the fact that they had sold tens of millions of records and had received almost nothing in exchange. A lawsuit was filed which eventually led to a parting of the ways between BSB and Pearlman, though he retains a portion of the income.
With Pearlman out of the way, the path was clear for the release of the second US album, entitled Millennium. Released in May of 1999 it set a new record for one week sales of 1.1 million (a record to later be broken by N Sync).
Disney Goes to New York
It was at this point that the Disney company came calling. They had wanted to do a BSB concert earlier and now were ready to push forward. But they wanted to do something a little different. By now they had done several shows at Walt Disney World and had plans for Disneyland shows as well. Holiday concerts had been planned to feature the Disney Cruise Line. They wanted to expand the nature of the concert series beyond the parks.
The decision was thus made to head to New York City, and one of the oldest and most respect theaters in the city, the New Amsterdam (which by a strange coincidence was owned by Disney).
Originally built in 1903, The New Amsterdam is best known as the home of the Ziegfeld Follies and has long been considered the crown jewel of Broadway's theaters. Designed by architects Henry Herts and Hugh Tallent, the New Amsterdam had the first major Art Noveau interior in the United States.
In 1979, the New Amsterdam was designated a New York City Landmark and in 1984 sold to the 42nd Street Development Project. In 1995, The Walt Disney Company signed a lease with 42nd Street Development Project to restore and operate the house as a Broadway theatre.
The development, design and restoration was initiated and managed throughout by Walt Disney Imagineering. In May 1997, the theater was re-opened with Alan Menken and Tim Rice's "King David'' and is the home of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "The Lion King.''
The concert was recorded May 11, 1999 at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City, and featured songs off of the new album (which was released one week later).
The concert was a smashing success, although it did lack as much of a Disney flavor as the N Sync performance. Instead of being in a Disney park the boys were shown touring NYC. Nonetheless, the show had the desired effect for Disney executives, bringing in huge numbers of viewers time and time again.
However, considering the lack of as clear a Disney tie in for this performance, it seems likely that they will stick with Disney park venues for the future shows.
Britney Spears and Joey McIntire
Having succeeded with the BSB concert the executives at the Disney channel were eager for yet another concert production. They decided to return to the magic of Walt Disney world and chose a rising star and a returning veteran. The rising star was Britney Spears, the veteran was Joey McIntire, who had met with success as part of New Kids on The Block during the 1980's.
Britney Spears: A new star on the horizon
Britney Spears began performing at an early age, and when she was 8, she auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club. At the time she was too young for the show but an agent in New York City got her bit roles in commercials, theatre and films, while Britney spent the next three years studying dance and music.
When she tuned 11, Britney was old enough to earn a spot on the Mickey Mouse Club and starred on the popular show for two years, relocating with her family to Orlando.
Among her cast mates was Justin Timberlake of N Sync, and as a result she's had to deal with rumors of a Justin-Britney romance. They have generally denied the rumors, although periodically reports appear stating they have confirmed the romance.
After her stint on TV, Britney returned home but she still had dreams of making it in the music industry, so Britney went back to New York in 1996 and began to make the rounds of record labels. She sang accapella for executives at Jive Records who saw and heard right away that in the teenager from Kentwood, LA, there were the makings of a star. Britney was signed soon after her audition and began work thereafter on what would become her debut album.
By early 1998, Spears' first album for Jive was complete. In the fall of 1998, three months before the release of her debut, ·Baby, One More Time, Britney set off on a promotional trek through the malls of America, much like Tiffany had done a decade before her. Her "month in the malls" routine consisted of four songs, with two backup dancers, along with promotional copies of her music.
October 1998 saw the release of Spears' first single, the title track from her album, written by Max Martin. The warm reception to the single no doubt helped Britney land a spot opening for 'N Sync, which she did through January 1999.
The biggest day of young Britney's career thus far is likely Jan. 12, 1999 ÷ the day ·Baby, One More Time finally hit store shelves. After the final tallies were in, the former Mouseketeer discovered that her debut had landed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts, with her buddies 'N Sync coming in at No. 2. Not a bad showing for a 17-year-old. Not long after, Britney became the youngest artist in Soundscan history to have a certified RIAA 12x platinum album. It included four hit singles and made Britney into a major musical star.
In 1999 alone she was nominated for two Grammys and also swept the MTV Europe Awards winning Best Female, Best Pop, Best Breakthrough Artist and Best song.
In a recent interview with MTV, Britney made it clear that she was the one who wanted to get involved in the entertainment world; though she had the full support of her parents once she did, it was entirely her decision. And after breaking away from her small town, in which disapproving tongues would occasionally wag because of her move to New York at such a young age, Britney discovered she'd become a role model of sorts, with other young townswomen following in her creative footsteps.
The next year promises to be a busy one for Britney. In addition to a busy schedule promoting her new album, she's planning a return to the small screen as a guest star on Dawson's Creek. And if it's true, as she told MTV, that she admires Madonna's ability to reinvent her public persona, then don't look for Britney to be another one-hit wonder.
Joey McIntire: An old veteran returns to the scene
Joey first found success in the 80's super group New Kids in the Block. They were formed in 1984 by Mary Alford and Maurice Starr, the person who discovered New Edition. Following his loss of New Edition in a bitter legal fight, Maurice decided to form another all-singing-all-dancing group.
Some 500 guys auditioned to join NKOTB. The first recruit was Donald E. Wahlberg from Dorchester, Massachusetts. In Donnie Mary and Maurice saw the perfect recruit. He was a rapper, a singer and a break-dance, all the ingredients to make him a good all- round entertainer. Jordan Knight appealed to Maurice Starr because he was a great singer as well as a dancer. With his looks, charm and falsetto voice Jordan would become the most popular and well-known member of New Kids On The Block.
Daniel Wood was known for known for his dedication, self- discipline and stubbornness which would help see him through the negative patches in his musical career. Jonathan Knight (Jordan's older brother) was considered an unlikely choice because he seemed more interested in gardening than music. He was also very shy. His well-trained voice, through his years of participation in choir singing, appealed to Maurice Starr.
Joe actually wasn't among the original selections, but in 1985 a member was dismissed and a replacement for him was found in Joseph Mulrey McIntyre. In Joe Starr saw cuteness (he was only 12 years old when he joined), a good singer, dancer and entertainer.
His own inner strength would see Joe through the initial rejection that he would experience by the other other guys, who resented him replacing their friend Jamie Kelley.
In 1986 the group was given the name New Kids On The Block and signed up with Columbia Records. Their first album, self-entitled "New Kids On The Block", bombed. However, Columbia had enough faith in them to allow them to sign NKOTB up for a second album, "Hangin' Tough".
In 1988 when Tiffany did her first major tour, she chose New Kids On The Block as her opening act. While touring with her the New Kids enjoyed their first top 10 hit with the track "Please Don't Go Girl". They went on to enjoy success after success throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. They became the first 'teen' group in history to achieve four top ten hits from one album in the U.S..
However, their success was to have a heavy price in terms of long tours and heavy work. Within a few years of their success they were tired of the mess and in 1994 they agreed to split up on amicable terms.
After the group members went their separate ways in 1994, Joe's interest turned to acting. He took classes in New York and landed the lead role in a film version of the musical "The Fantasticks."
The film has yet to be released in theatres or to television or home video. Then for the first time, Joe began writing music. He had a difficult time finding a record company to work with, so in 1998, Joe simply created his own production company and released a CD on a web site which he wrote entirely himself.
It was truly a grass roots approach that caught the attention of the big labels when the CD sold out in weeks and two live performances in Boston sold out. Later that year, he signed a deal with Columbia Records and "Stay The Same" became a Top 10 hit.
Joey tried to use his new success in as positive a manner as possible, basing his music on his own deep Christian faith and his desire to encourage his fans. The response has been huge as a whole new generation of teens join their older brethren in being fans of Joey's music.
Joey and Britney head to Orlando
It didn't take much convincing for Disney to put together the concert, as it featured two of the hottest solo acts of 1999. The show was filmed in September 1999 at Disney World's new attraction, the "Rock 'N Roller Coaster."
The concert featured not only performances by Spears and McIntyre; the show will also have interview segments with each artist, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the theme park with the two artists. It was broadcast in October 1999 to high ratings.
As it happens, this was not Spears only performance for Disney. She appeared in several Disney concert specials along with BSB, N Sync and others. The synergy for these concerts were excellent as the performers gained wide media exposure to potential fans while Disney was able to connect to a demographic (teens) with some of the largest disposable incomes.
It seemed clear that this was to be a growing focus for Disney.
I know that this column is a tad different than many of the others. It's connection to Disney may seem a bit looser than most.
But the purpose of this site is to keep us all up to date on everything Disney. In the coming years I suspect that this segment of Disney will grow to immense proportions.
In addition, I hope that these columns will be helpful in introducing these groups.
Part of the Disney magic is family, and I would like to think that these columns will help to guide parents and their children in yet another family activity.
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