When it comes to AJ McLean, one thing is for sure; he is authentic, edgy, fun, fearless, expressive, and game-changing, all rolled into one. And, that’s made loud and clear in his brand new single, “Love Song Love.”
Co-written by Mitch Allen, Jesse Saint John, and John Paulson and produced by Allen, the upbeat, dance-worthy bop finds McLean, sympathizing with folks who are longing to have the kind of storybook romance that keeps them awake all night.“You know the feeling, and you wanna feel it / You know what your missing and you want that love,” McLean sings the song, which he says he was drawn to the first time he heard it.
Shot inside a life-size Hollywood dollhouse, the music video for “Love Song Love,” meanwhile, celebrates spreading love and positivity, and accepting everyone as they are – which is their one true self. McLean dances around in various pink-decorated rooms while offering up his androgynous sense of fashion wearing skin-tight outfits, glitter, and lace.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the video is that it highlights McLean’s support for the LGBTQ+ community. For the clip, McLean made it a point to shine a light on two transgender women, Nahla Wyld and Carmen Carrera, who play lead roles for the video. Together, the models can be seen enjoying themselves, dancing around, and smiling before celebrating their good-friend McLean with cake!
“The message that I want to convey is a message of love, loving your neighbor, loving yourself, and, you know, showing my support, especially for the LGTBQ+ community, which I have for years, and, you know, this was the perfect opportunity for me to really let the transgender community shine,” McLean told Music Mayhem of the accompanying clip and his efforts to continue the fight for equality.
“Love Song Love” is a taste of what fans can expect to hear from McLean in the future as he continues to embark on his solo career. Fans can find “Love Song Love” on McLean’s forthcoming EP, due out at a later this year.
McLean caught up with Music Mayhem to talk about his new music, being an ally to the LGTBQ+ community, fatherhood, Backstreet Boys, and more. Continue reading to learn more about what McLean’s been up to below!
Let’s start off by chatting about your current solo debut single, “Love Song Love.” Can you tell us a little bit about that song and how it came about?
Sure. So, the song was written and produced by a very dear friend of mine, name’s Mitch Allen. There was a few more writers on the song that I’m not completely familiar with, but yeah, I got in the studio to start the process of making this solo project, and while I was in there, Mitch played me this song, and I was just blown away, and I loved the message, and I just thought it was such an uplifting and happy song. And it just made me think of, you know, just people in general wanting that perfect, that perfect love, you know, that kind of storybook love, or as the song says, that Love Song Love. And, you know, when I played it for my directing partner, who I’ve now directed about five music videos with, Rene Elizondo, including the last Backstreet Boys single for the video for Chances… I played it for him, and he was just like, over the moon about it, he was like, oh my God, dude, check this place out. And he sends me photos of this amazing location in Hollywood called The Doll House, which literally looks like Barbie’s Dream House on the inside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much pink in one location in my life, and I was like, oh my God, this is perfect.
Then, we took it one step further, and I said to him, we need to cast two transgender women in this video because the message that I want to convey is a message of love, loving your neighbor, loving yourself, and, you know, showing my support, especially for the LGTBQ community, which I have for years, and, you know, this was the perfect opportunity for me to really let the transgender community shine. And, I mean, just how everything turned out, I couldn’t be happier. The song just lifts people up, and, you know, I’ve played it for quite a few friends—some that are diehard metal fans, some that are pop fans, and every single person, as they’re listening, they just can’t stop smiling, and that makes me happy. It just makes you feel good. So I’m excited. I’m super, super excited.
Well, as you mentioned, you’ve been a long-time advocate of the LGTBQ+ community, on both not only your solo career, but also as a member of Backstreet Boys as well. What does it mean to you to be able to use your platform to be able to shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community?
Well, you know, yes. First of all, you know, the current times that we live in, you know, things are slowly getting better in some areas, others are staying the same, and unfortunately, others are getting worse. You know, I think one of the big things for me, especially with the LGBTQ+ community that’s always been an issue in my eyes, is fear of not understanding, a lot of people out there, you know, being judgmental, not being accepting of others, and you know, most of the time, if someone’s being judgmental of someone else for their race or their sexual preference, I feel in my opinion that that’s fear-based, because they don’t understand what’s going on in that person’s life, in that person’s mind, in that person’s body, that it scares them. And instead of just not saying anything at all, they just say negative things, and they deflect. And I think those people need to start looking inward, and actually look at themselves in the mirror and ask, maybe there’s something going on with me, that’s why I’m acting the way I’m acting.
And so that’s the first part of change that I think needs to happen. But yes, I’ve been a huge advocate since I was about 7 years old. I grew up doing musical theater, so I was surrounded by quite a big gay and lesbian community in musical theater. My very first acting teacher was actually gay, and I saw her with her partner almost every Saturday that we would do our show, and I never looked at it as anything different. I never even asked my mom, you know, why are two women together? It just looked like two people that were happy, and I just accepted it. And that’s how I’ve always been, and that’s how I will always be. You know, to the point that, gosh, I wanna say five years ago, and I hope I’m right, and if I’m wrong, my two best friends are gonna correct me, but I went so far as to get ordained to personally marry two of my best gay friends. You know, because that meant something special to me, that I could do that for them, and to be a huge part of their life, as they’ve been in mine. And you know, look, to me, everybody is the same, and everybody has their own path, you know? People don’t choose to be gay, you’re born this way. If a little boy growing up knows inside that he’s a little girl, he knows that, she knows that. And that’s up to no one else but that individual. So there’s no reason why anybody else around should not accept that. And I know it’s, you know, difficult for some families and parents, but as a father myself, the easiest thing that you can do for a child that may be wanting to transition is just be supportive. You don’t have to completely understand. Just be there for them, be supportive, and love them no matter what.
So, going back to the music video, your sense of style and the fashion within the video is incredible, and I’m getting all types of different vibes from fashion icons like Boy George to current day’s Harry Styles. Like what was your biggest fashion inspiration moving into that, and will that transition into your solo career as a whole, or was it just for that video?
Yes, it will transition into my solo career as a whole. You know, I have always for years been very comfortable with my sexuality, been very comfortable with trying new things, especially when it comes to fashion. I went as far as, you know, wearing a dress at my wedding, a custom-made corset, six- inch Louboutins, which I rocked on the dance floor, by the way, I’m very proud to say. (laughing) You know, a lot of women at my wife and I’s wedding were very jealous that I was able to dance in those heels, and they were struggling with theirs.
You know, but, yeah, thank you for saying those comparisons because I’m a massive Boy George fan, and I’m a huge Harry Styles fan, and you know, I’m just, I’m comfortable in my own skin, today more than ever. And I love to be free and to express myself in all sorts of ways. I mean, I’ve been wearing nail polish and makeup, God, for the last 25 years. I literally wear makeup every day. I get up in the morning, take my shower, wash my face, and I put makeup on for the day. And, you know, I’ve been doing that for so long, and I have no shame in saying that. I’m just really comfortable with my sexuality, with who I am and I, for me it’s also kind of showing support in all walks of life, it’s just because you love yourself and you’re comfortable with who you are. It doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter how you wear it, as long as you’re happy, you do you. You know?
And you’ll definitely see a lot more of style with me moving forward. If you want to call it androgynous, if you want to call it, whatever you want to call it, it’s just me expressing myself, and yeah, I’m really excited. I’ve even talked to my wife about maybe dabbling in, you know, wigs, and, you know, having some fun, so who knows? You know? It’s definitely gonna be a lot more freedom for me.
Well, on the topic of fashion, if you were ever invited to the MET Gala, which is coming up here in September, what would be your ideal outfit for that event? Would you go all out?
Whoa… Aw, man. Uh, I would go, oh man, I would be, yeah, I would go all out, as much… because that’s the thing about the Met Gala, you know. Less is not more, more is more. You know, so, man, I would just, I would go all out, uh, lots of sparkle, lots of shine, lots of glitter, probably a dress, I don’t know, maybe half dress, half slacks, I don’t know. Whatever designer I could possibly get with to do that… Oh my gosh, I mean, my wife and I talk about it all the time. And you know, at some point, that’s gonna be the ultimate date night for me. My wife is not the biggest fan of doing the red carpet things and this, that and the other. She’s a little shy, but she has told me that’s the one place she would gladly go and rock out, so, oh man, I would just… that would be the most amazing night. So, hopefully, I will get an invite soon. Oh my gosh, I can’t wait. I’m just gonna put that out there. Gotta make it happen.
Definitely, that would be amazing. So you said that your song, “Love Song Love,” will actually appear on an upcoming EP, which will then be followed by another EP, and then an album. What can fans expect from these upcoming EPs, and will all of them share the same overall theme of spreading the message of love, or will they each have different themes about each one?
Yes, you know, the long and short is yes. There will be, you know, love, happiness, relationships, you know, sexiness, fun. It’s just gonna be fun. I mean, all of the songs that I’ve recorded thus far are definitely fun. The first EP I would say is definitely leaning more towards a pop R&B vibe, and the second EP leaning a little more towards 80s pop R&B and funk, but yet the two worlds still can really mash up well together. And for the final album, both the EPs can be combined, and I’ll probably add two extra songs, which will make it a 12-song LP. Both EPs will have five songs. I’m already in talks right now with what the second single will be and video treatment ideas, and you know, the ball is continuously moving forward, and I’m excited. I mean the music that I’ve done thus far is incredible. I’ve been very fortunate to both write, as well as have songs submitted from some very talented writers and producers, some that I’ve never worked with before. And I recently did a duet with another artist I’m keeping under wraps, but it’s going to be incredible, incredible. So, yeah, I mean, I’m excited. People are in for a very fun summer.
Sounds like a great time. So you’ve embarked on your solo career for quite some time now, releasing not only country music, pop music and more. However, in a recent interview, you actually said that this song is the official launch of your solo project, and now you’re gonna go all in. Do you finally feel like you’ve found your true calling in music, like your true self within your music?
Absolutely, I do. You know, I think the country thing, which by the way was such an amazing experience, a lot of that I think stems from the success of the Backstreet Boys single with FGL. I got really inspired. Nashville is such an inspiring place in general. To me, it’s the music mecca, and now, even more, a lot of pop writers are moving to Nashville, R&B writers are moving to Nashville, and it’s just the epicenter of just great music. So I just got this, you know, this kind of bug up my butt to, just inspired to want to just take a stab at it. And, you know, who’s to say, if there was no pandemic, if that would have continued. But to be honest with myself today, even if there were no pandemic, it just never really 150% felt authentic to me.
Because, and look, I am a massive fan of country music, and country music has changed so much over the years, it’s become more contemporary. You’re getting a lot of mismatched artists together now, which I think is fantastic, but it just never really felt like I was being my true authentic self. You know, because when I worked on the country stuff, I always wanted to push the envelope. And I was told from my team in the country world, yeah, let’s try to keep it as close to traditional as possible, and that was kind of stifling me, you know, a little bit, because I want to have the freedom to experiment, and in the country world, you don’t necessarily get that freedom, unless maybe you’re already established, and you can go outside the box, you know. But I was a young blood newcomer, I can’t come out swinging, you know? But in the pop and R&B world, I’ve been doing that for 28 years.
So it’s nothing new except what I’m doing now is really, really always what I’ve wanted to do, you know, and I’ve talked about it for years with my previous manager, with my current manager, and my amazing team behind me. You know, this just feels genuine, it feels right. Even my bandmates are like, oh thank God, you’re going back to this. This is what we want to hear from you, bro, and they’re being very supportive, so I’m excited, I’m really excited.
BSB is about to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band. Do you guys have any special plans to celebrate the occasion?
It’s so nuts. We are going to have a little dinner tonight to commemorate that as a group with our team and basically talk about the future of Backstreet Boys. But yeah, 30 is right around the corner, it’s insane but what an absolute dream come true, what an absolute blessing. It’s all because of our fans, the best fans in the world that have kept us going strong and it’s because of our brotherhood. I’m excited and yeah, this is going to be a really, really great 2021.
So aside from your EP and the nail polish brand, and your golf clothing line, and more. What else is coming up for you?
Again, the release of the first EP and second EP, as well as I do have a couple of side projects in the tech world, which people will be seeing coming soon, and yeah. I mean, just really enjoying this entire process of just growing and really, truly being myself and being a father and being a husband, and it’s been really nice to be home with my kids. My kids have been very happy that Daddy’s home for this length of time. I’m excited, there’s so many more things coming for me. Everybody will definitely know very soon. I’m excited.
Well, thanks so much for chatting with me today! We love your new single, and look forward to more new music.
As do I. I really appreciate it. Thank you!