20 Years Later

So, I see on People.com that the Backstreet Boys are reuniting for the first time since 2006 and are recording an album to coincide with the 20th (!!) anniversary of their inception.

Let’s ignore, momentarily, how old this makes me feel and discuss the age old question:

What in the HELL is “I Want It That Way” about?  Released in May of 1999, it was a song I listened to on repeat driving around the back roads of New Hampshire in my Subaru, heartbroken over Ben.  I’m not kidding – I would routinely sleep over at Lisa’s, wake up at some ungodly hour, and go for a drive.  Even if I didn’t sleep there, I’d routinely take random drives just to be alone – often driving from say, Concord to Tilton, just to get gas.

It was a sad, lonely summer for me.  I didn’t want to do anything – and pretty much didn’t.  Instead of being excited to go to Miami for college, I was crying all the time over the relationship that wasn’t.  So, this album really brings me back to that summer and all the memories, for better and for worse.

What the hell was I talking about?  Oh right – the lyrics.  I could not have done a better job than LA Weekly did – you can read the blog in its entirety here, but below are some gems to think about (Ben Westhoff, whoever you are, you’re a genius):

“So, wait, the “that” that I say is different than the “that” that you say? You’re saying that I want it a different way? A way that is not preferable to you?

Then the chorus kicks in and this thing goes off the rails.

Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say,
“I want it that way”

None of the sentiments here seem to go with any of the other ones. Even worse, no further explanation is given for what “that” is.”

… and then…

“So, check this, it turns out that the popularized version of “I Want It That Way” was not the only version the Backstreet Boys recorded. There’s another version out there, one thatactually makes sense.

The key lyric:
No goodbyes (ain’t nothing but a heartache)
No more lies (ain’t nothing but a mistake)
That is why
I love it when I hear you say,
“I want it that way”

!! This is like discovering the rosetta stone of craptastic late ’90s boy band music!”

So basically the song was just never destined to make sense, as the blog later points out.  I mean, we know it’s about some sort of relationship – but what are they agreeing to disagree about?  Why are they two worlds apart?  Is it a long distance relationship?  And actually, because the song makes no sense, it was perfectly fitting that the accompanying music video – them singing in an airport hanger (?) in front of screaming fans before they board a private plane – also made no sense.

Also, can we talk about Nick’s hair?  Also part 2, he’s only 32!  That means he was 12 when the band assembled, which seems ridiculous.  Or maybe he was 13.  Either way.

The rest of the album (yes I bought it, bite me), however, does have some catchy little ditty’s that actually make sense.

My freshman year roommate, Kandyce, who was beyond awesome, also had the CD and we’d routinely listen to it all the time while studying.

My second favorite song on there was “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now,” and the lyrics are as straightforward as you can imagine.

Kandyce always referred to Nick Carter’s solo ballad “I Need You Tonight” as “Nick’s Penis Song” (a perfect descriptor).

This album brings me back to 1999 as I ended high school and 2000 as I finished my first year of college, none the wiser about life or the meaning of “I Want It That Way.”

I can close my eyes now and see myself walking around campus in Coral Gables in long sleeves and jeans, too self-conscious about my body to dress appropriately for the climate.  High 80s?  Pssh, didn’t matter.  Now I don’t care – with this past summer reaching the high 90s more often that not, people just had to deal with seeing my arm flab.

You’re probably thinking:  why is this bitch obsessed with an album that she associates with so many horrible memories?

Well, I can tell you that good and bad, the experiences I had that summer and my freshman year of college are all part of the wisdom I now have in my old age of 31 (yeah, right).

And before you ask – if given the choice, I would absolutely rather listen to this album on repeat until the end of time than another goddamn Taylor Swift song.


One thought on “20 Years Later”

  1. You & Kandyce were totally obsessed with that album freshman year at UM!! Do you remember when I would make Charles let us listen to that song in his car? We would sing it so loudly & he hated every second of it. I don’t care if it doesn’t.make sense, I still love that song & Howie :* Excellent post Reva!!

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