It’s been five years since Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter jived his way to the “Dancing with the Stars” finale with partner Sharna Burgess, but the two slipped into second place after Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough nabbed the mirrorball trophy. Now, Carter’s bandmate, AJ McLean, is ready to tango his way to ballroom glory and make both the Backstreet Boys and his fellow boy banders proud. So, what does McLean have that Carter didn’t, which might help him win the show? And, which unexpected Backstreet Boys track is he envisioning bringing to life spectacularly in the ballroom? We grilled the 42-year-old musician…

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“Everybody” is expecting you to dance to a Backstreet Boys song at some point, but aside from the usual suspects like “Larger Than Life” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” – what’s a deep-cut or lesser-known track you’d love to use on the show?

That’s easy – “Siberia.” That song’s still in my top three favourite Backstreet Boys records that we’ve ever recorded. It should have been a single! I think that could be an absolutely beautiful waltz. There’s something about it that’s just so haunting. I’ve already envisioned it – if my partner and I were dressed in all-white and it was well-lit, it could be very captivating.

What Backstreet Boys move, apart from the signature “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” choreography, do you want to bring to the ballroom?

A little nod to the hat routine from “All I Have to Give” would be really fun. Even if it’s not “All I Have to Give” that we’re dancing to, a little hat flick or something like that which true, diehard fans would recognize.

What’s one quality you have that Nick doesn’t, which might help you go that one step further to a win?

Well, since I shaved my head, I don’t have any wind resistance. So, I can gracefully move a little faster across the dance floor!

Is that why you shaved your head?

Yeah! Well, no – not to be aerodynamic. Everyone knows I had hair [transplant] surgery before I got married, and since the “DNA World Tour” started, I haven’t had time to get another surgery. For the “DNA” show, I’m wearing a hat the entire time, so it’s easy to get away with not feeling 100% comfortable with my hair. Then the pandemic started and I still haven’t been able to get [further] surgeries, so I was like, “You know what? You shaved your hair before. Just shave it.” I asked my partner [wife, Rochelle DeAnna McLean] and she was like, “Hell yeah, that’s super-badass!” So, here it is in all in its glory – totally shaved.

Looks great! Back to Nick for a sec – he posted a video congratulating you on joining “DWTS” and mentioning you taught him his first dance move as a Backstreet Boy. What’s the story behind that?

I’m the OG Backstreet Boy and was in the founding father phase with Lou [Pearlman.] When we held the initial audition for the Backstreet Boys, you had to come with a song prepared and two 8-counts of choreography to show you could dance. Some guys only brought a song, so I choreographed two 8-counts for whoever was unprepared. Nick turned up with a song, but didn’t have any dance prepared, so I taught him two 8-counts … and he killed it!

Backstreet Boys aside, what song from your awesome solo catalogue would you dance to on the show?

“Sincerely Yours” could be interesting and have a powerful message, and “London” could be a fun one.

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Love “London!” Speaking of, what’s happening with your solo music?

I’m currently working on a brand new solo record. Country is no longer my direction – we’re back to R&B, funk and soul, and so far, the stuff I’ve been recording is going to blow your mind. I cannot wait for the world to hear it.

So, we won’t ever get to hear your country album?

Well, I never finished it because COVID happened and things slowed down. We might put a couple of songs out here and there. We’ll see.

When can we expect the new record?

I’m hoping as soon as I possibly can. I’m still in the studio, but you’re definitely not going to have to wait as long as you guys have been for the other record. I’m definitely trying to get this thing moving.

You’ve mentioned which Backstreet Boys or solo tracks you’d love to dance to on DWTS.” If you were to surprise everyone by throwing in an *NSYNC track, which one would you choose?

“Dirty Pop” would be fun and since that’s pretty quick, I’d probably do the jive or quickstep. Or, “Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy)” could be a nice waltz – possibly a rumba.

Two *NSYNCers – Joey Fatone and Lance Bass – as well as several other boy banders have competed in “DWTS”/ but none have taken home the mirrorball trophy since 98 Degrees’ Drew Lachey way back in season two. Have you heard from your fellow boy banders and what have they said?

I’ve talked to Joey Fatone a little bit about the process and I’ve obviously reached out to Nick. Nick’s been nothing but supportive. He’s like my mentor through this process, which is nice. I haven’t talked to anybody else. I know Joey Mac [New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntrye, who placed third in season one.] I’ve thought about reaching out to Drew and asking, “Hey man, how was the whole process?” Hopefully all those guys will get all their friends and family to vote for a fellow boy bander – fingers crossed!”