Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean and his wife Rochelle are proudly standing by the musician’s provocative music video for his new single “Smoke.”
The 44-year-old year musician released the new song, from his upcoming solo album Sex and Bodies, on Friday. However, after premiering the risqué video on Variety a day earlier, fans had mixed reactions, with some questioning whether Rochelle had given her approval. Directed by Rene Elizondo, the visuals were inspired by Robert Palmer and George Michael and show AJ dancing with partially-nude models.
“I played the video for my wife and she said, ‘This sh**is sexy,’” AJ said, speaking to us during a day off from the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour in Indianapolis.
“Granted, that’s my wife and she’s biased, but she’s also very honest with me. She would tell me, ‘Babe, this is not gonna work. This is too much,’ if she thought that was the case. She thinks it’s incredible.”
While many fans praised the video and loved the “Prince vibes”, others voiced dismay that AJ had shown it to his daughters, Ava, nine, and Lyric, five. “Why in the world would anyone be ok showing their young daughters this video?!” wrote one social media user.
“I played it for my daughters and they were just like, ‘There’s a lot of butt!’” the ATCK musician told us. “That’s all they said. But they understand that it was done tastefully. The female body, to me, is beautiful and this wasn’t done exploitatively.”
“When the models came in, the production assistant said, ‘I have an awkward question. The girls want to know if they have to be naked or do anything sexual with you,’ and I was like, ‘Dear God, no. This is not a porno! They’ll be in lingerie.’ Then I said, ‘Let me go tell them because this is my video and I want to put everyone at ease.’ I wanted this to be sexy, classy and push the envelope, but leave something to the imagination and I think we did a great job.”
Following the outcry from some viewers, Rochelle took to social media on Friday to echo AJ’s sentiments.
“For those concerned. The girls have seen the new music video. Women’s bodies are beautiful,” she tweeted. “We teach our girls to love and respect their bodies. They also understand that expressing yourself as an artist is creative license as long as it’s in an age appropriate way. No shame.”
Rochelle went on to encourage freedom and acceptance.
“This is also a gentle reminder that not all families are the same,” she wrote. “What may be accepted in some households may not be accepted in yours. Let’s not judge and allow people the freedom to be who they want to be. Sending love and acceptance 🤍.”
For those concerned. The girls have seen the new music video. Women’s bodies are beautiful. We teach our girls to love and respect their bodies. They also understand that expressing yourself as an artist is creative license as long as it’s in an age appropriate way. No shame
— Rochelle McLean (@rochelle_deanna) July 15, 2022
The couple have constantly promoted acceptance and equality in their home and in their daughters’ lives. AJ previously dressed in drag and starred alongside transgender models to help support the LGBTQ community in the video for his 2021 track, “Love Song Love.” AJ has also continued to defy traditional gender expectations and boundaries, whether it’s by releasing his own nail polish line, Ava Dean Beauty, enjoying tea parties with his girls or wearing vintage Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana outfits designed for women in the “Smoke” video.
“We’re a colour-blind, gender-blind household and my daughters are open-minded,” he previously told InStyle. “People ask if it confuses them that I wear skirts to the beach, but they don’t think anything of it. They let me be me and never ask, ‘Dad, what are you doing?’ They’ve inspired me more to be myself.”
And just like their famous father, Ava and Lyric appear to have inherited the musician’s love for the limelight. While the two are active in the dance world, they recently had a greater taste of the spotlight while joining AJ on stage at the iconic Hollywood Bowl in California.
The Backstreet Boys were on the Los Angeles stop of their DNA World Tour – which returns to Canada in August – when AJ, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson and Nick Carter brought their children on stage to help perform the sweet DNA album track “No Place.”
“They loved it,” AJ said about the adorable moment, which made headlines around the globe. “It was Nick’s idea, so I can’t take credit for it. Nick really wanted us to have our kids up there. [Brian Littrell’s son] Baylee had a show that night, so he wasn’t able to be there, but everyone else had their kids up there and it was great.”
“There’s a priceless photo that [photographer] Justin took of [Dorough’s son] James looking at his dad with googly eyes. Looking at him like a fan!” continued AJ, who will tentatively release “Electric,” the second single from Sex and Bodies in September. “It’s the cutest. Our kids love what their dads do and they’re old enough now to understand it. My girls had a blast, but I think they also blocked out the fact that there were something like 15,000 people out there. They were just looking at me, like, ‘What do I do?’ It was awesome!”