Reunited after four years, they don't have any illusions that they'll be able to dominate the pop scene as they did when boy bands ruled the world — and they were the kings.
"We know that we're gonna have to pay our dues again and we know that we're going to have to start from scratch because everything has changed," said A.J. McLean, the heavily tattooed, shades-wearing member of the group. "We're not looking to be the group that we were in '99 and 2000."
The Backstreet Boys had a special message for their fans when they chatted with CBSNews.com's Janie Ho.
Just a few years ago, the Backstreet Boys burst out of Orlando, Fla. to become a pop phenomenon. Their three albums sold a total of more than 35 million copies and ushered in a new teen music craze, buoyed by their soulful harmonies, synchronized dance steps, clean-cut good looks and teen-fanzine charm.
But then, "Behind The Music"-style troubles plagued the quintet — McLean's substance abuse problems led him to rehab, and infighting, management changes and other problems beset the group. Meanwhile, hip-hop supplanted teen pop from atop the charts, and boy bands became as uncool as New Kids on the Block.
So in 2001, the disillusioned fivesome went their separate ways.
"We lost perspective pretty much," said Kevin Richardson, the eldest of the "boys" at 33. "If we hadn't walked away from the business and each other, we might have self-destructed because we needed some time away from each other."
Now, fully recharged, the Backstreet Boys have returned this week to release "Never Gone," their first full studio album since the 8 million-selling "Black & Blue" in 2000. While they're not expecting an automatic ride to the top of the charts, they think they still have a shot at reaching the No. 1 spot with a more adult, edgier sound that tilts more toward rock than pop.
"We feel as strongly about this record as we did when `Millennium' came out," Brian Littrell, 30, said of their blockbuster 1999 album that went on to sell more than 13 million copies.
"We know where we're at, and we know where we fit," said Nick Carter, the youngest of the group at 25. "And I love the fact that we're underdogs again."
And acting like underdogs, the Backstreet Boys have left nothing to chance in mounting a comeback. Earlier this year, the group tested the waters for their new material by embarking on a club tour — a marked departure for a group that on their last tour played stadium dates.