They're now more Backstreet Men than Boys, but they remain larger than life for some. In New York to promote their new album Unbreakable
, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell and AJ McLean (Kevin Richardson left the band last year) were greeted by more than 1,000 fans, some who had camped out for two days. A decade after their first U.S. hit, 1997's "Quit Playin' Games (With My Heart)," sent them on the way to selling 75 million albums, their continued success, says Littrell, 32, "is because of our fans' loyalty."
That loyalty has seen the band through McLean's 2001 stint in rehab, Carter's personal turmoil (his parents' divorce, his relationship with Paris Hilton
) and Richardson's departure (see box). With new wrinkles and less hair, being in a boy band in their late 20s and 30s "definitely feels a little bit different," says Dorough, 34. As Carter, 27, puts it: "Maybe things started off a little boy band-ish, but after a while you shed that."
As they reminisce over old photos, the guys laugh about overeager fans, bad food on the road and tour buses that rocked. "The camaraderie and the relationships," says McLean, 29, "I wouldn't change anything that we've ever done, ever."