Two years ago, the Backstreet Boys were kings of the teen-pop heap. But everything changed last November when the members of the Florida factory-manufactured boy band decided to become "men" and released Black & Blue
, a tougher, updated version of its radio-ready sound -- or so went the plan. Judging from the relatively lackluster sales of the album (8 million copies, compared to 10-plus million from its predecessor, Millennium
), the boys-to-men transformation has taken a beating from fans. Funny thing is, despite the image makeover, the music is still pretty much the same dreary teen pop, played and performed with an artificial perfection that hints at positioning for market dominance. It's hard to maintain a tough-guy stance when you're singing sappy odes to your mother. If hometown rivals 'N Sync hadn't upped the ante with last year's first-week debut sales of 2.4 million, Black & Blue
's relatively small numbers (1.6 million opening week) wouldn't look so diminutive. But, fact is, these are the Backstreet Boys, and handing over their teen-pop crowns to 'N Sync hurt. As a result, this tour is having trouble moving tickets, let alone selling out venues. Last year, the boys planned their current tour for stadiums (like the ones 'N Sync filled earlier this summer); this season, they've been knocked back down to arenas. Word is, the tour -- which was initially postponed so A.J. McLean could undergo rehab for alcoholism, depression, and anxiety -- was downscaled so that the fab five could be closer to its fans. But rumors of an imminent breakup (or once the tour ends, at least) have been surfacing for months, and post-BSB projects are reportedly already in the works. So this is your chance to remember the good times and forever mourn the day the boys became men.