‘Dancing With the Stars’: AJ McLean’s Elimination Wasn’t His Fault

Backstreet Boy AJ McLean and his partner Cheryl Burke fought valiantly on season 29 of Dancing With the StarsMany fans were sad to see McLean go during “Icons Night” due to a misstep in his Vienesse Waltz. But according to McLean and his partner, his elimination wasn’t totally his fault. Find out why McLean feels he was eliminated from DWTS Season 29. 

Cheryl Burke and AJ McLean
Cheryl Burke & AJ McLean During ‘Icons Night’ | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

AJ McLean is out of the running for the Mirror Ball 

McLean signed up to do Dancing With the Stars for his wife and two children. Unfortunately, during “Icons Night,” McLean lost his footing during his first dance. 

Burke and McLean danced the Viennese Waltz to Queen’s “Somebody To Love,” then returned to dance a Jive. McLean and Burke won the dance-off, but it wasn’t enough to save them from the seven Carrie Ann Inaba gave them for their waltz. 

Burke and McLean were in the bottom two, and in the end, the judges chose to save Johnny Weir and his partner Britt Stewart. They will dance in the semi-finals of season 29 next week. 

AJ McLean takes responsibility for his missteps on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Burke and McLean are the hosts of the Pretty Messed Up podcast. After Monday night’s elimination, the two talked about the mistakes McLean made in the choreography. As they pointed out, his missteps were in the introduction of the dance — something they decided to add to amplify the performance. Outside of the intro mistakes, the content required for a Viennese Waltz was all there. 

“We finished freaking strong,” McLean said during the “How Messed Up Was That?” episode of the podcast.

Both Burke and McLean have felt some confusion surrounding the judging this season. Burke has been on the show since season 2 and has noticed drastic changes in the show’s judging format. 

Cheryl Burke says ‘Dancing With the Stars’ isn’t the same without Len Goodman

Burke is a classically trained ballroom dancer. She never went to a performing arts school, so she doesn’t have as much experience with jazz or ballet as some of the other pros on the show. Recently, Burke has felt that lack of experience is what prevents her from succeeding. 

“Within the ballroom world and within the show and how the show was — at least for the first decade — it was about ballroom,” Burke said. “With that comes technique and different curriculums — like we cannot break hold in the quickstep [or] tango. We have to be in the correct frame. We have to do certain steps.” 

Now, the judges seem to have loosened their basis of their scoring system. Burke feels a majority of that change has come out of Len Goodman not being a judge. As head judge, Goodman was known for calling out technical mistakes within a dance, regardless of who the competitor was. With Derek Hough in Goodman’s place, Burke feels like the show skews a little unfairly. 

Cheryl Burke can’t keep up with ‘DWTS’ changing the rules 

Burke and McLean talked at length about how the judging has changed on the show in recent years. 

“I wonder if I look at other people’s quicksteps, [the judging is] very different,” Burke said. “[Other couples] break hold, and then they come back. I had no idea — when did the rules change? Basically, we’re getting penalized by staying in hold and not creating as much energy, but then people are getting praised for breaking hold.” 

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Burke said Hough is doing a good job as a judge, but she still feels something is unfair without Goodman around. McLean’s mistakes were in the beginning of the dance, which he called “the extra sauce on the taco.” Both he and Burke felt like the judges analyzed his intro too closely instead of the Vienesse Waltz content. 

“You did mess up,” Burke admitted. “[But] they should have given you a nine. Carrie Ann [Inaba’s] seven put the nail in the coffin.” 

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke didn’t warm up on ‘Icons Night’ and lost their connection

In addition to the judges being what Burke and McLean felt was harsh on a portion of the dance that didn’t matter, a few other factors played into McLean’s downfall Monday night. 

“Some of our pre-show things we didn’t do, which really get that physical connection,” Burke explained during the podcast. Burke and McLean did do their pre-show prayer, but they didn’t warm up as extensively as they had in weeks past.

Having not warmed up, Burke admitted she and McLean weren’t 100% connected during their performance. Ultimately, that lack of connection and the judges’ scores are what put Team Pretty Messed Up out of the running for the Mirror Ball.