Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold: 40 Dark Secrets From The World’s Top Boy Bands

By Makungu H

When you think about boy bands, it might conjure up visions of tight pants, crisp dance moves, and boyish good looks. Boy bands can inspire a sort of nostalgia. How many of us can remember playing that NSYNC CD until it started skipping from all the scratches on the back?

Jamming out to the catchy songs coming from Walkman cassette players is an experience that people from all over the world share.

The boy band phase did eventually fade into obscurity, but it has since made a huge comeback. The rise of Korean boy bands has been swift and has completely taken over the world. As fun and light-hearted as boy bands seem, however, there are some dark and unknown secrets that lurk just underneath the shiny veneer that boy bands try to sell.

So, let’s explore some of these boy band secrets that you might have never heard of.

Snow on set

One seemingly innocuous day on set changed Backstreet Boy member A.J Mclean’s life forever. While filming the music video for one of the band’s hit songs, The Call, someone offered the young singer a substance that would soon plunge him into a full-blown addiction.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

A.J tried to hide his addiction from the rest of the band, but they soon caught on. He has spoken about the time his boy band members poured icy water on him during one of his many blackouts. It seems that he is now finally on the road to sobriety.

Hidden in the closet

These days, it seems unfathomable that someone would have to keep their sexuality a secret. Unfortunately, 20 years ago, the world was a lot less accepting. This was especially true if you were a boy band member whose main audience was screaming teenage girls.

Image Credit: Everett Collection / shutterstock

That was the plight of Lance Bass, a member of NSYNC. For years, Bass had to hide this part of himself from the fans. He eventually came out of the closet in 2006. Luckily, Bass’ story has a happy ending. He now has a lovely husband and some cute kids.

Dodgy dealings

Throw a pebble in Hollywood, and you are bound to hit a greedy agent. More than a few young musicians have found themselves bound by contracts that were incredibly prejudicial. By the time the artists find out that they are being scammed, it is far too late.


Lou Pearlman took advantage of the Backstreet Boys’ ambition and youth. The band had no idea that the $300k they had made was just a fraction of the $50 million that they had actually made. It turns out their manager, whom they called Big Poppa, had some sticky fingers.

More dodgy dealings

Just as the members of the Backstreet Boys were starting to catch on to the scam that Pearlman was running, he started a new band. This new band would go on to explode in popularity and be huge competition for Backstreet. That new band was NSYNC.

Image Credit: @ParkerAngel / twitter

Justin Timberlake’s hair wasn’t the only dodgy thing about NSYNC. While they were riding the wave of their immense success, they were only getting paid $35 an hour. Meanwhile, Pearlman was lining his pockets with tens of millions of the band’s money.

In the shadows

While sneaky little Pearlman was busy building NSYNC, one of his biggest concerns was keeping Backstreet from finding out about this new band. He, apparently, did not want to upset them. Perhaps he thought they’d finally leave him in the dust.

Image Credit: Kathy Hutchins / shutterstock

NSYNC members were banned from stepping foot into the record label, lest the Backstreet Boys see them. Pearlman went as far as hiding the band in company reports. In the official records, NSYNC was known as “B5”. Pretty sneaky, right?

The many victims of Pearlman

NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were but a few of the victims of Lou Pearlman. Other, lesser known, bands have also come out to talk about their experiences with Big Poppa. One of those bands was LFO, a group formed by Pearlman.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

Rich Cronin, the frontman of LFO, has alleged that the manager stole millions of dollars from the band members. Unfortunately for LFO, they never pursued legal action against their thieving manager. Two of the three members have now passed away without ever receiving justice.

Bye Bye Bye, Big Poppa

Pearlman’s new golden boys, NSYNC, were not spared from his seediness. At the height of their careers, when they were selling-out concert venues and topping the charts, the boys were only earning $10k. Not bad for the regular person – but strange for these superstars.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

Lance was the first to suspect that something was amiss. And boy, was he right. Pearlman had put a stipulation in their contract that entitled him to a crazy 90% of the band’s earnings. Pearlman may not have any scruples, but he has bucketloads of audacity. They finally said Bye Bye Bye to Big Poppa.

Pervy Pearlman

As if the story of Pearlman could not get any worse, the dodgy manager has also been accused of getting too handsy with some of his artists. Rich Cronin claimed that Pearlman even asked him to touch parts of Pearlman’s body.

Image Credit: S_bukley / shutterstock

The manager has also been accused of giving uncomfortable massages to some of his artists, sending inappropriate text messages, and instructing the band members to take their shirts off. Yikes! This guy does not seem to have any redeeming qualities.

Another creepy manager

In addition to all the money-hungry managers in Hollywood, there are just as many creepy ones. Worryingly, a lot of these creeps manage young artists who are new to fame and very vulnerable. That was the experience of Raz-B, a member of the RnB group B2K.

Image Credit: Eugene Powers / shutterstock

In the early 2000s, B2K was experiencing astounding success. However, behind the scenes, Raz-B was allegedly the victim of abuse at the hands of his own cousin and the band manager, Chris Stokes. Raz-B has used his alleged experiences to be a voice for other victims of sexual abuse.

Curious Rings

The Jonas Brothers hit major success when they landed a show on the Disney Channel. Over the years, they grew from child stars to serious musicians who were selling out concert venues all over the world. But soon, rumors of the brothers being involved in a creepy cult started circulating.

Image Credit: Everett Collection / shutterstock

Why were these Disney stars connected to a cult? Because they wore rings. The brothers wore Chastity rings (perhaps influenced by their father, an ordained minister). They were forced to reveal the reason for the sacred rings after a reporter accused them of being in a cult. Quite the accusation.

The singer and the heiress

One wonders if, before all of the fame, Backstreet member Nick Carter could have ever guessed that he would end up dating an heiress to a hotel empire. Paris Hilton met Carter through her bodyguard at the time. Their relationship was short-lived but rife with issues.

Image credit: DFree / shutterstock

On top of allegations of cheating, some accused Carter of abusing Hilton after she was spotted with a swollen lip and bruises. According to Carter, Hilton’s party-girl lifestyle led him to a dark period in his life which he just barely escaped.

Awful accusations

The pop sensation One Direction burst onto the scene with a Bieber-esque fever. The young British boys won the hearts of teenage girls everywhere. Fans were, thus, understandably disappointed when they found out that one of their beloved 1D members was accused of being homophobic.

Image Credit: Mr Pics / shutterstock

During a concert, Liam Payne said that none of the girls in the crowd could relate to finding a dream girl. Fans took offense to the statement because he assumed that all of his fans were heterosexual. That one offhand comment has since been a huge pain for Payne.

See you later, Backstreet

Kevin Richardson is one of the oldest members of the Backstreet Boys. As a veteran member, it was quite a shock when he decided to leave the group in 2006. His sudden departure sent the rest of the group into a flurry as they tried to fill the large hole that he had left.

Image Credit: Everett Collection / shutterstock

Luckily for Backstreet, Kevin was just on a hiatus to focus on his family. He made his return to the band in 2012.  His return was met with a warm welcome from fans. After all, what is Backstreet without all of the Boys?

Out of the blue

Another boy band member that had a sudden departure is Lee Ryan, one of the members of the popular British band Blue. His absence sparked rumors that his disappearance may have been linked to some of his past nefarious actions.

Image Credit: Syfuel – / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

It was eventually revealed that his absence was due to a cyst in his throat. It was a pretty scary time for Lee since his money-making vocals were at risk. Thankfully, the cyst was removed without a hitch, and he was back to serenading his fans in no time.

So many secrets

It would seem that hiding health issues that could threaten your vocals is common practice among these boy band members. Brian Littrell is another star that kept mum about his vocal troubles. He found out he had muscle tension dysphonia, which affects the voice box.

Image Credit: Kathy Hutchins / shutterstock

In Brian’s case, however, he kept his diagnosis a secret from his band members as well. It was only six years later that the rest of the band found out about Brian’s condition. If there’s one thing the Backstreet Boys are good at, other than making hits, it’s keeping secrets.

Young, wild, and free

Lee Ryan was notorious for drawing attention to himself and not the good kind of attention. As the youngest member of the band, he gained a reputation for being the “young crazy one,” and he certainly lived up to that reputation.

Image Credit: Lee_Ryan_2011.jpg: Christoph Henrichs from Germany derivative work: RanZag (talk) -Lee_Ryan_2011.jpg / wiki commons / CC BY 2.0

Eventually, his crazy, carefree lifestyle led to crippling alcoholism. Lee admits that he didn’t realize how bad his addiction was until one of his bandmates, Duncan James, urged him to go to rehab. A couple of rehab visits later and Lee is still battling against his addiction.

K-Pop controversy

The image of the quintessential boy band has changed since the early 2000s. Social media has made the planet much smaller, and we now have access to cultures and music that were previously beyond reach. And thus, the rise of K-pop boybands.

Image Credit: Republic of Korea from Seoul, Republic of Korea – Big Bang wins MTV EMA award / wikicommons / CC BY-SA 2.0

K-pop boy band members are expected to have pristine reputations, which is why it came as a shock when Seungri from the band Big Bang was accused of charges such as embezzlement and the distribution of illegally filmed content. Quite the scandal!

Body issue blues

While Western boy band members aren’t held to the same incredibly high standards as K-pop boy band members, being famous can come with a great deal of pressure. 1D member, Zayn Malik, fell victim to this pressure, and that resulted in some pretty serious body issues.

Image Credit: Zayn / ig

In his autobiography, the singer revealed that he would go days without eating. This was due to the desire for control rather than weight concerns. He continues to struggle with the anxiety that comes with fame. It seems that being famous isn’t all rainbows.

Artistic freedom

The music business is all about money. As much as true artistry matters, the goal of most record companies is to make as much money from their artists as possible. That means making music that appeals to consumers. But sometimes, the most marketable content conflicts with the artistry of the musician.

Image Credit: . Zayn / ig

That was the plight of Zayn Malik. His preference for making RnB music didn’t suit the record label’s desire to pump out as much pop music as possible. After years of doing the label’s bidding, Malik walked away from the band to carve out his own identity in the industry.

Family feud

Substance abuse can be truly devastating to both the addict and the loved ones around them. Death due to substance abuse issues is even more traumatic for family members. Sadly, for Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, he joined the unfortunate club of people who have lost someone to substance abuse.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

Nick’s sister, Leslie Carter, died from an overdose in 2012. The tragedy of her passing was worsened by the fact that the family blamed Nick for her death. The family was in such turmoil that Nick was not present at the funeral. Nobody wins when the family feuds.

More tragedy for the Carters

Having one sibling suffer from substance abuse issues is awful enough, but having two addicts in the family is absolutely heartbreaking. The early 2000s were a period of extreme success for Aaron Carter and his brother Nick. Unfortunately, addiction would soon cause a rift between the brothers.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

As Aaron’s mental and substance issues worsened, the rift between the brothers widened. Aaron’s issues came to a head in November of 2022 when he was tragically found dead in a bathtub. Despite all of their problems, the pain of losing another sibling must have been horrendous.

Runs in the family

Leslie and Aaron Carter were not the only Carter family members that had struggles with substance abuse. Their big brother, Nick, also fell into the dark pit that is addiction. At his worst, Nick would drink a bottle of vodka a night.

Image Credit: Debby Wong / shutterstock

Nick did not escape his addiction unscathed. He attributes his frequent bouts of depression to years of alcohol abuse. The pressures of fame certainly wreaked havoc on the Carter family. As they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Fighting like brothers

Nick Carter’s feud with his brother, Aaron, wasn’t the only fractured relationship in his life. Nick and his fellow Backstreet Boy band member, Brian Littrell, also had their fair share of disagreements. What started off as a close brother-like friendship soon turned into yet another tumultuous relationship in Nick’s life.

Image Credit: Everett Collection / shutterstock

The tension between the two members came to a boiling point during the filming of the Backstreet Boys’ documentary, “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of.” The pair aired all of the issues which had gone unresolved for years. Thankfully, they seem to have worked through all of their problems.


Band tensions were the least of Brian Littrell’s problems when he found out that he would need to undergo open-heart surgery to fix a heart defect that he had had since birth. Scheduling the operation, though, turned out to be a lot more difficult than initially expected.

Image Credit: Everett Collection / shutterstock

The band was just hitting its peak at the time, and the Boys barely had time for sleep, let alone surgery. Brian ended up postponing his surgery twice so that it would fit with their tour schedule. If that is not dedication, then we don’t know what is.

More heart issues

It seems the Backstreet Boys couldn’t catch a break when it came to health issues. Only a few years after Brian Littrell underwent open heart surgery, member Nick Carter was also diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition known as cardiomyopathy.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

It is believed that the heart condition was made worse by Nick’s long-time battle with substance abuse. For a long time, Nick kept his health issues to himself, even keeping his issues hidden from his bandmates. That is quite the secret to keeping from those closest to you.

Three is a crowd

Since boy band members spend almost every waking hour with each other whilst on tour, tensions are bound to arise. However, surely being related makes it easier to get along, right? Well, for The Jonas Brothers, being related did not exempt them from having the usual band issues.

Image Credit: Rena Schild / shutterstock

When Kevin left the band, the remaining two brothers continued to perform Jonas Brothers’ hits. This caused a huge upset, and the band eventually split in 2013. Thankfully, they reunited in 2019 and continue to make catchy tunes for their fans.

More like strangers

Fans of One Direction often like to imagine the boys as one big friend group, living their dreams and having fun doing it. The truth is that the band didn’t really click in the beginning. In fact, Zayn Malik even considered leaving the band almost as soon as it was created.

Image Credit: . Mr Pics / shutterstock

The group started when the boys applied for X Factor. They applied as solo artists but were later formed into a band. Given their unusual beginnings, it is quite understandable that they might not be instant besties. They did a great job making us believe they were, though!

Solo act

Severing business relationships can be quite tricky. That is why the Backstreet Boys were confused when their management company, The Firm, agreed to let them leave without putting up much of a fight. It turns out that the company had an ace up its sleeve.

Image Credit: DFree / shutterstock

The band would come to find out that The Firm was about to release a solo album with Nick Carter. Due to this album, Nick refused to leave the company with the rest of his band. As you can imagine, Nick was not very popular with the others after this.

All’s fair in love and music

In addition to leaving their management company, The Backstreet Boys also cut ties with their record label. They attributed this split to issues such as the breach of contract and unfair competition. These issues stemmed, once again, from Nick’s controversial solo album.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

The band claimed that the label stymied their ability to go on tour or release new music because they kept Nick busy with work for his solo album. Eventually, the band had enough and sued the label for a whopping $75 million. Hell hath no fury as a musician scorned.

The price of fame

This list of boy band secrets has revealed the many victims of the music industry. Liam Payne is just another example of the damage that can come from being thrust into the limelight, especially at a young age. For Liam, the pressures of fame were almost fatal.

Image Credit: Andrea Raffin / shutterstock

Almost overnight, Liam’s life turned into grueling tours and extremely long workdays. The tough schedule and lack of control over his life led to some serious mental health issues, which made the singer contemplate taking his life. Thankfully, he managed to overcome these issues, and he now advocates for mental health.

Fighting temptations

As we have already discussed, fame can lead to some serious substance abuse issues. However, these illegal substances are not the only temptations in Hollywood. Some boy band members have found themselves overindulging in temptations of a more intimate nature.

Image Credit: View author information / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 it

Members of Blue, Lee Ryan and Duncan James, have both admitted to taking full advantage of the many opportunities that have been presented to them by female fans looking to date their favorite celebrity. Sometimes this landed the boys in some hot water.

Bad PR

The boys from the band Blue are not the only ones that sometimes get too friendly with fans. Kwangjin from the K-Pop band N. Flying got himself into tonnes of trouble when it was revealed that he had a habit of dating fans.

Image Credit: @NFlyingofficial / twitter

Dating a fan might not seem so bad, but Kwangjin was also accused of sexual harassment. The scandal of being accused of sexual harassment, coupled with rumors that he had a habit of saying bad things about his bandmates, ultimately led to the untimely death of his career.

Tough crowd

One would think that a crowd would be pleased to have a performance from the biggest boy band in the world. Unfortunately, the crowd that the Backstreet Boys performed for at the Y100 Radio foam party was looking for a different type of entertainment.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

It turns out that the crowd was made up of about 2000 men who would rather have scantily-clad women on stage than listen to love songs sung by five dudes. The Backstreet Boys were promptly booed off the stage. It must have been quite a humbling experience for these superstars.

Tragedy strikes

As one can imagine, strong bonds can be built between the band and the crew when they travel with each other for months at a time. The band and crew can start to feel less like co-workers and more like family. Losing one of these family members can be devasting.

Image Credit: www.thefashionball.com

The Backstreet Boys experienced this kind of devasting loss. Daniel John Lee, a crew member for the Backstreet Boys, tragically lost his life during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He had also toured with acts like Neil Diamond and Janet Jackson. A tragic end to a life well lived.

Big Kid Problems

Before the world knew of Backstreet, there was New Kids on the Block. This boy band is said to have inspired acts like Backstreet and NSYNC. Even given their iconic status in the music industry, the NKOTB also had their fair share of issues.

Image Credit: Debby Wong / shutterstock

The member who struggled the most with being in the limelight was Jonathan Knight. Jonathan eventually left the group due to severe panic attacks. These panic attacks may have been caused by the fact that he had to hide his sexual orientation. Luckily, he is now newly married and happy.

Feeling the Blues

Duncan James from Blue is yet another boy band member who had to hide his true identity from the world. Duncan eventually spiraled into a depression that he needed help climbing out of. However, his hidden sexual orientation wasn’t the only thing that could have caused his depression.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

At the time, the band had decided to split. He also found out that his ex-girlfriend was pregnant with his child. That much stress could be overwhelming for even the best of us. Thankfully, he found his way to a healthier place and accepted his sexual orientation.

Caught in the Webbe of mental illness

Yet another member of Blue that dealt with mental health issues was Simon Webbe. The pressures of fame weren’t the only thing that led to Simon’s mental health struggles. In 2019, Simon also sadly lost his brother, Straon, to suicide.

Image Credit: Avis De Miranda / shutterstock

All of these factors led to the singer experiencing periods of severe depression and self-loathing. Simon seems to have overcome some of his mental health struggles. He is now committed to raising awareness for mental health and encourages his fans to “be brave and talk.” A worthy message!

Issues for the Kids

Jonathan Knight was not the only member of New Kids on the Block to struggle with his mental health issues. The group was under a lot of pressure and a scandal about the band lip-syncing their performances certainly didn’t help.

Image Credit: DFree / shutterstock

However, it was the unfortunate event that occurred at one of their concerts that may have really taken a toll on the band. Multiple fans were injured during a stampede at one of their concerts in 1992. One young girl even lost her life.

Fleeting fame

At one point, the members of Blue were reaping the rewards of their success, earning about $450k in just one month. Some might have had more money than sense because, by the time the band split, most of them had to file for bankruptcy.

Image Credit:Antony_Costa.jpg: Christoph Henrichs from Germany derivative work: RanZag (talk) -Antony_Costa.jpg / wiki commons / CC BY 2.0

Antony Costa might have had the worst money issues. A combination of bad financial planning and an extravagant lifestyle meant that, at one point, he was living off of just $80 a week. Quite the change for someone who had once experienced all of the trappings of Hollywood.

Risky bets

As megastars, the Backstreet Boys could often be found on one plane or another, zooming from one concert to the next. All of this travel might start to get a bit monotonous. That may have been why AJ decided to have some fun on one plane ride.

Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / shutterstock

The rest of the band was comfortably enjoying the ride when the plane made a sudden drop. They later found out that the captain had lost a bet to AJ and, consequently, had let AJ commandeer the plane for a little bit. It must have been one hell of a bet.