David Abolafia

The Music of Orlando

David Abolafia

From bubblegum pop to thrash metal, Orlando has produced artists across the sonic spectrum. Unlike other cities with a natural music “scene,” Orlando’s diverse musical landscape can be attributed to a population made up of families who relocated from somewhere else, and the influence of a steady stream of vacationers and tourists. As a result, Orlando’s mixtape likely includes something for everyone. Here are some of the artists that can be found on the top of the town’s playlist:

  • Backstreet Boys – The biggest-selling boy band in history, and the one that kick-started the teen pop craze of the late 1990s. Surprisingly, even with the various solo projects of its members, the group has remained together for more than 20 years. Formed in Orlando in 1993, the band was the brainchild of producer Lou Pearlman, who put an ad in the Orlando Sentinel, seeking members for a vocal group. While hundreds of young men auditioned (in Kissimmee), five were eventually chosen, including native sons Howie Dorough and A.J. McLean. Pearlman named the band after Orlando’s Backstreet Market, an outdoor flea market near International Drive. To date, the Backstreet Boys have released 10 albums and have had six Top 10 singles on the Billboard charts, including “Shape of My Heart” and “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart).”
  • Matchbox Twenty – Formed in Orlando in 1995, the quartet achieved international fame with their debut album, “Yourself or Someone Like You,” which was certified 12x Platinum and spawned the singles “Push,” “3 A.M.,” “Real World” and “Back 2 Good.” Over the next two decades, the band went through a couple of personnel changes, and a long hiatus – during which lead singer/songwriter Rob Thomas embarked on a successful solo career – but ultimately has released four studio albums and scored a #1 single in 2000 with “Bent.”
  • NSYNC – The genesis of this group was a 1995 conversation between Lou Pearlman and Chris Kirkpatrick, a singer who didn’t make the cut for the Backstreet Boys. When Kirkpatrick got the go-ahead to start recruiting members, he first contacted his friend Joey Fatone, whom he had met while working at Universal Studios. Justin Timberlake – who had been on “The Mickey Mouse Club” – was brought into the fold based on an audition tape, and he recommended his friend and “Mickey Mouse” castmate JC Chasez. The group originally included Jason Galasso, but he dropped out right before the group signed with Pearlman’s Trans Continental label. Upon a recommendation from Timberlake’s vocal coach, 16-year-old Lance Bass was brought in as the group’s fifth and final member. Pearlman set the boys up in a house in Orlando where they could rehearse, learning dance routines and vocal parts. Between 1998 and 2002, the group released four albums (including a Christmas collection), and had six Top Ten singles (including the #1 hit “It’s Gonna Be Me”). They officially disbanded in 2002, with its members pursuing different directions, including solo careers (Timberlake, Chasez), reality show appearances (Fatone, Bass) and cartoon voice work (Kirkpatrick).
  • Mandy Moore – Moore grew up in the suburbs of Orlando, where she was interested in music and theater. In her tween years, she began performing the national anthem at Orlando-based sporting events, thus raising her profile in a town populated by music executives and producers. She signed with Epic Records in 1999 and released her debut album, “So Real,” that same year. While continuing to record, she made the foray into films, with a splash as mean girl Lana in “The Princess Diaries,” before going on to star in “A Walk to Remember.” She has continued to work in both worlds, putting out half a dozen albums, lending her voice to the hit animated film “Tangled” and co-starring in the TV dramedy “Red Band Society.”
  • Alter Bridge – Formed in Orlando in 2004 by three former members of Creed (Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips), plus singer-guitarist Myles Kennedy. Known for their acclaimed live shows, the band plays a melodic style of post-grunge influenced heavy metal, which has grown more progressive and experimental over the years. Given the band’s pedigree, it’s not surprised that all four of its albums have reached the Top 20 on the Billboard 200, while a number of their singles have charted on the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. Their song “Metalingus” was used as the entrance theme for former WWE superstar Edge, and an edited version of “Open Your Eyes” was featured in the videogame Madden NFL 2005. They have also had songs on the soundtracks for the films “Elektra” and “Fantastic Four.”

Alter Bridge Trivia

Although the band is associated with Orlando, none of the members hail from the city. However, Scott Stapp, who had been the lead singer of Creed – from which Alter Bridge evolved – was born there, and while attending prep school, met future bandmate Mark Tremonti.


  • Death – As its name suggests, this band – built around the musicianship and vision of vocalist-guitarist Chuck Schuldiner – was a pioneer in the genre of “death metal” (as well as grindcore). While the savagely raw aggression contained in Death’s first three albums proved crucial to spearheading the first generation of death metal bands, the astounding musicianship and increasingly sophisticated songwriting found on their later-day efforts surely influenced even more groups to explore the limits of extreme metal’s most progressive outposts. Formed near Orlando in 1984, the band (originally called Mantas) allowed Schuldiner – who was still in high school – to strive to create the most excessive heavy metal sounds imaginable. Over the years (and seven studio albums), Death went through numerous personnel changes, with Schuldiner – considered by many to be the father of death metal – the only constant. In 2001, Death’s record label released two live albums of the band’s music to help raise money for Schuldiner, who was battling brain cancer. Despite the outpouring of tributes and support from the metal community (including Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Grohl and members of Anthrax), Schuldiner passed away on December 13, 2001, at the age of 34.
  • O-Town – Late to the party and short lived, O-Town was the titular “band” formed on the TV show “Making the Band” in 2000. Spearheaded by producer Lou Pearlman, the manufactured group – named after Orlando itself, Pearlman’s base of operations – had a legion of fans before they ever released a single. By the time they released their first album (a modest hit), interest in teen pop was waning. Their second album struggled to go gold and their label ultimately dropped them. A third studio album appeared more than 10 years later, on an independent label, but it failed to generate a fraction of the interest they had upon their formation.

To discover the music of Orlando, or to find the rhythms of another of our many travel destinations that are all worth singing about, give us a call at (888) 269-0182 Mon – Fri 9am to 5pm.

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