In a year when all things Backstreet have come to a halt, many things AJ have now been ramping up. There is a lot of talk recently about AJ McLean and his new song, “Love Song Love.”
And I want to talk about that too, but let’s take a step back for a minute.
One thing I have learned about AJ in the last few years is that he has a heart of gold. He may have been given that “bad boy” label, but when it comes to his heart and soul, nothing could be further from the truth. This man is the kindest, gentlest, most loving person and it shows in all he does. Not to mention his talent. This man can sing a phone book and sound like an angel.
Recently it seems AJ has found a way to truly express himself and share more about who he is in a beautiful and unapologetic way. A review of AJ’s catalogue of solo music really illuminates the journey he has taken from R&B/Soul radio-ready songs, to music intended to communicate a clear message of what he loves and values.
Let’s talk about the “Have it All” album, which was truly a work of art. This album was only released officially in Asia in 2010. Some of the songs had some heartfelt messages like ‘Sincerely Yours’, which AJ has shared was inspired by his relationship (or lack thereof) with his biological father.
Others were just downright fun like ‘Teenage Wildlife’ (and this video had us either dancing along, rolling on the floor laughing, or completely confused).
And then there were songs like ‘London’ and ‘What If’ which just showed off AJ’s incredible vocal ability.
Seriously, London remains one of my all-time favorite songs, ever. Period. Although this album was HOT and it gave us our first taste of solo AJ (if you factor out that Johnny NoName stint years before), AJ’s music really became about the message a few years after.
Fast forward to 2015. Some of you might remember a song AJ put out as a single called ‘Live Together’.
This song is all about living in harmony. The line “I’ve seen so much hate and breathing; We should take a break from hating; And Lord you know we need to be saved” gives us all we need to know about the message AJ was trying to communicate. AJ has talked a lot about how hard it is for him to see the hate and sadness in the world. We’ve all seen that instead of lifting each other up, we sometimes push each other down to get ahead. AJ has made a point to be vocal about the importance of accepting everyone for who they are, lifting up one another, and pushing hate and anger out of his own world so that he can live a happy and peaceful life. This song and the message behind it so clearly illustrate what he was chasing (and hopefully found!) and how much he wishes others would be able to find in their own lives.
In 2018 and 2019, AJ dabbled in country music. He put out arguably one of his best songs ever with Night Visions in 2018 which in my opinion, should have shot to number 1.
The song was lyrically genius and heartfelt, and the accompanying video, which AJ co-directed with his best friend and partner, the genius Rene Elizondo, Jr, had gorgeous cinematography and was stunningly beautiful. The video was like a mini-movie and the story was heart wrenching.
Although this song is definitely my favorite from AJ’s country days, the songs which stick out the most as far as the message he was sending at the time were ‘Boy and a Man’ and ‘Give You Away’.
These songs scream ‘family man’, which we know is a role AJ wears proudly.
‘Boy and a Man’ has such a sweet loving message which gets at the core of AJ’s relationship with his remarkable wife Rochelle, and her cameo in the music video is everything. Seeing these two together, AJ singing a song about promising to never quit being the best he can be for her, is such a beautiful and honest look at them.
AJ’s love for his daughters and pride in being a father was showcased on another song, ‘Give You Away’, which is about a dad coming to the realization that one day, he will have to give his daughter away to a new partner. Seeing him sing this one live the few times he did gives me all the feels. His heart is truly into it and into the message that he adores and loves his girls more than life. Family man AJ is such a good look on him.
In 2020, AJ released a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain’.
This song itself doesn’t really communicate harmony or family man like the previous few. However, AJ was very clear in interviews that he wanted to put this song out as a way to celebrate females and all that women bring to this world. He raved about Rihanna and the power she has as a female artist. He shared that he wanted to lift up and celebrate women and that he felt this was one way to do that. And his voice does not sound half bad singing this track.
Cut to now. AJ released his newest song, Love Song Love, which is a fun, upbeat, danceable track.
The video is so much fun and watching it just makes me want to get up and dance. But the best part of the song? The message. No doubt. The song itself screams “Love Everybody”, but AJ has taken to sharing that he wants this song to be an anthem of support for the LGBTQ community and specifically calls out the need to support and lift up the trans community. The video features transgender models Carmen Carrera and Nahla Wyld dancing alongside AJ and just throwing their own little party. The fun they are having just bleeds off the screen and the video is a true celebration of all people. Accompanying this release, AJ has also been handing over the reins to his Instagram account, using his platform to lift up individuals who are part of the trans community. Every Thursday AJ has done an Instagram takeover, showcasing talented artists within the LGBTQ community. He has clearly been looking for ways to contribute to bettering our community by increasing acceptance of all people and awareness of many topics. I have always loved and adored AJ for his talent, but I have recently come to love and adore AJ for his heart. And its things like this, celebrating diversity, lifting up others, using his platform to share and bring awareness, that really define this wonderful man.
AJ has shared that he has a couple EPs and an album coming out within the next year or so. If history is any indication, it might be awhile longer than that before we get these promised albums. Whenever they do come, and whatever the case, we can be sure that the songs he releases are going to clearly communicate a message of love, acceptance, peace, and harmony. And we can’t wait to hear what AJ has to say!