AJ McLean Became Friends With Drake Years After the Backstreet Boys Helped the Rapper Score a Dance With His Dream Girl

The Backstreet Boys have some celebrity fans — Drake among them. The musicians did a live version of “I Want It That Way” at a Drake concert in 2022. Here’s how this rapper met the Backstreet Boys and why one song is particularly meaningful to him.

The Backstreet Boys performed ‘I Want It That Way’ with Drake

Backstreet Boys performing during first edition of Tecate Emblema 2022
Backstreet Boys performing during first edition of Tecate Emblema 2022 | Medios y Media/Getty Images

Drake wants it that way. Aside from being the chart-topping musician behind “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance,” and “Passionfruit,” this rapper is a fan of the Backstreet Boys — a boy band comprised of Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson.

Drake even brought the Backstreet Boys out during his 2022 Toronto concert, with the group performing “I Want It That Way.” Drake lent his voice and a few dance moves to this early 2000s hit. The song even held special significance for this solo artist, as described by members of the boy band.

How did Drake and the Backstreet Boys become friends?

McLean appeared as a guest on the Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast, detailing his experience with the boy band. That includes the story of how he became friends with Drake and which member of the Backstreet Boys befriended the rapper first.

“That was Kevin because his family and him went out, they asked the hotel, what’s the best Italian restaurant in all of Toronto,” McLean began. “And I don’t know what it’s called, but they went there, and apparently, it’s Drake’s favorite place in the entire city. He was there. Apparently, from what Kevin said, he approached Kevin.”

McLean shared the story of how Drake had a crush on a girl. At a bar mitzvah, “I Want It That Way” came on, and the then-16-year-old Drake asked her to dance. She said yes, and it became “a moment” for him.

“They exchange numbers, and he asked if he could perform with us,” McLean continued. “So Kevin was like, of course, then that turned into, ’ok. I just want to introduce the song.’ And then once he did introduce the song, we kept him on stage… he was by far the most sweetest, humbled, just genuinely good human.”

Drake has several celebrity friends outside of his relationship with the Backstreet Boys. That includes BTS, Billie Eilish, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z. On the 2022 release Honestly, Nevermind, Drake featured 21 Savage on “Jimmy Cooks.” Since its debut, this track has earned over 120 million Spotify plays.

Fans reacted to the Drake/Backstreet Boys stage performance

It seems like a weird crossover. Still, Drake and Backstreet Boys fans shared their excitement at this live performance. One Reddit user wrote, “good for Drake, and seeing the excerpt about how meaningful the song was to him was pretty heartwarming.”

“I’m just over here imagining and hoping for drake bringing the Backstreet Boys back to the top of the charts,” another wrote. “Drake featuring the Backstreet Boys or vice versa would break the charts.”

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