In his 28 years with the Backstreet Boys and on his own, AJ McLean has pushed the boundaries of style and gender. Now, in another bold move, the 43-year-old musician dresses in drag while dancing around a dollhouse to celebrate the transgender community in the video for his new solo single, “Love Song Love.”
Directed by René Elizondo and featuring a life-size Hollywood dollhouse dripping in pink, McLean appears alongside transgender models Nahla Wyld and Carmen Carrera, partying it up amid flowers and feather boas.
Premiering on Variety, the video is part of the longtime LGBTQ+ ally’s efforts to promote discussion and awareness of the fight for equality. His support comes amid a wave of proposed anti-transgender legislation in the U.S.
“Now, more than ever, my trans and non-binary fans’ rights and very existence are being attacked in politics and in the streets,” he says. “What’s happening is unacceptable. I’m an ally and this song, to me, screams ‘love no matter what.’ It’s about loving and respecting one another.”
McLean notes that the current climate serves as a reminder of how much work lies ahead, despite the progress that’s been made towards equality.
“The transgender community has been getting pushback for years,” he tells Variety. “Things are starting to change and with the new administration, there’s more open-mindedness, which is how it should’ve always been because it really doesn’t matter if you were born a boy, but have always been a girl. But there’s a long way to go.”
Having faced backlash in the past for painting his nails and being photographed in drag, McLean says that such prejudice “can be so detrimental,” adding: “Luckily, this generation’s using their platforms to speak out about negativity, judgment, racism and hostile acts towards minorities and the trans community. It gives me hope for my kids’ generation.”
“Love Song Love” was written by Mitch Allan (whose previous credits include Backstreet Boys, Demi Lovato and Kelly Clarkson) Jesse Saint John and John Paulson, produced by Allan and mixed/mastered by Mitch Kenny. The single comes from the first of two EPs McLean plans to release this year. He teases a solo album and tour will follow in 2022.
He has also commenced weekly social media takeovers, handing his Instagram to members of the transgender and non-binary communities.
Together with friend Josh Naranjo, McLean has also co-founded nail polish line, Ava Dean Beauty, which he hopes will further defy gender stereotyping.
Meanwhile, he’s continuing his podcast, “Pretty Messed Up,” and reveals the Backstreet Boys will commence recording their first Christmas album with producer Tommy Brown (Ariana Grande) in May.
“We want to make a timeless album that will live on like Mariah Carey’s song and we’ve talked about working on new music beyond that,” says McLean, adding the group’s DNA World Tour dates remain up-in-the-air amid the pandemic. “Tommy’s a freakin’ genius, so hopefully we’ll develop a great relationship and do more music with him.”