Backstreet’s Back

The Backstreet Boys are paying very close attention to Japan with the release of the group’s latest album, Unbreakable, which went on sale October 24th, about a week before it was released in the U.S.

The four members came to Japan earlier in the fall to do promotion to coincide with the release of the first single, "Inconsolable," and it seemed to pay off.

The song quickly rose to the top of the Oricon singles chart for international acts and eventually beat out Avril Lavigne’s "Girlfriend," which had owned that spot for most of the year.

The announcement that the boy band would play Tokyo Dome in January kept its profile high right through the release of the album. The concert date has since been moved back to February, but an additional show was added.

The Backstreet Boys didn’t really make an impact in Japan until the group’s third album in 1999, Millennium, which has sold more than 800,000 copies here.

Their last album, Never Gone, shifted only about 550,000 copies. Following worldwide trends, the drop has more to do with a decrease in album purchases than it does with any popularity loss for the group.

But Lavigne’s latest album has sold extremely well in Japan and the two acts share the same record company here, BMG Japan, which unlike in the rest of the world is not affiliated with the local version of Sony Music.

BMG Japan is basically using the same pre-release saturation policy for the Boys that it used for Lavigne, whose fan base in Japan is slightly younger than the Boys’.

The problem now is that BMG Japan has two other high-profile releases coming up that may blunt Unbreakable’s momentum, namely the new albums by Britney Spears and Alicia Keys.

Japanese fans are known for their loyalty, but they can be fickle as well.