This post feels very timely and it’s why I chose this era to look at next. Cause if 2018 resembles anything, in terms of the Backstreet Boys fandom, it’s the Millennium era. Is it exactly the same? Definitely not. No two snowflakes are the same, and no two eras are identical. But the stars are aligning just right, right now. The same happened then. It’s pretty exciting for me as a fan, because back then I was twelve/thirteen at best and definitely not old enough to full appreciate everything that was happening at that time. As always guys, buckle in because I love to ramble on these album reflections posts of mine and there’s a lot to unpack with this one.
In terms of Millennium you have to understand that the music landscape was pretty diverse at that point. Top 40 was a mix of every genre you could possibly think of. You had the girl groups, the Latin pop explosion, the rock, the rock-pop, and of course the boyband domination. Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Limp Bizkit, Offspring, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera – all of these artists were being played through Top 40 stations. On top of this, when the Boys broke through the US it opened the flood gates for every other boyband to follow on through. Like NSYNC, 98 Degrees, 5ive, Westlife…it even lead to parody boyband 2Ge+her. You couldn’t get enough. They were fresh off the US debut album/Backstreet’s Back era and had cracked the states wide open. They were TRL darlings.
Hell, they were a massive reason why TRL got off the ground.
Now many people had brushed off many of these boybands to be just another trend. Flashes in the pan that wouldn’t last very long. In a way I sort of get it, though the idea pissed me off back then. The way these groups were being churned out, of course people thought they were just random money grabs from managers hoping to cash in on the teen pop wave. With this came a full underestimation of what the Backstreet Boys would pull out next. The industry felt they’d slip into a Sophomore Slump as it’s called where their album would fall flat and the world would move on.
That’s not what happened.
Instead, the iconic I Want It That Way was released in April of 1999. This song changed the game. If I had to pick a song that changed the destiny of what the Backstreet Boys were expected to become, this song was it. Not only was this song picked up on the obvious Top 40 format, but it soared through the Adult Contemporary charts. This wasn’t just striking a chord with teenagers anymore, this was hitting home with everyone. That’s why this song is considered the signature song for the Backstreet Boys. The song was incredibly massive and their biggest hit until Don’t Go Breaking My Heart came along nineteen years later.
The Boys were all over the place. The promotional appearances, the merchandise, if you didn’t know who the Backstreet Boys were, you had to have been in a coma during 1999 at that point. They had commercials advertising their album, they had contests going on with Sears that ended up poking fun at just how huge they’d become. At this point and time, they could literally do no wrong. This era and everything about it was perfection. It’s why it’s considered the golden era by many long time fans. Because they were at the top and they continued to keep rising even when we thought there was nowhere else to go.
After they launched I Want It That Way, the album was out. They were everywhere. Everywhere.
A few months later followed the equally epic single Larger Than Life which was the most expensive video they’ve ever done and one of the most expensive videos anyone has ever done. I say this not in a bad way, but to show that at that point and time, they could do whatever they wanted. This was back when Jive records not only still existed, but supported the group because they were still riding that perfect pop wave. They could’ve asked for the moon and I’m positive the label would’ve probably given it to them back then.
As for the album itself, you could argue that it’s the best they’ve ever done as of right now. (I have really high hopes for DNA if you can’t tell.) They’ll say something along the same lines. This album was pop perfection. I’m not just talking about the singles either. Don’t Want To Lose You Now, No One Else Comes Close, and Back To Your Heart are hidden diamonds that are timeless and still just as good as they were back then. Kevin in fact wrote Back To Your Heart for his now wife, Kristin. This album was personal in so many ways.
And it’s not just the ballads either that are so great. It’s Gotta Be You? I consider that one of their best underrated ear worms of the album. Fans still rage that Don’t Want You Back wasn’t picked to be the next single thanks to Nick voicing his opinion on The One.
Speaking of that, I guess you can debate on the single choices. They alternated in a good way I think. They started with a mid-tempo, next came a very upbeat song, followed by the heartbreaking classic that is Show Me The Meaning. Show Me The Meaning as a video and a song was yet another one that showcased not only their vocals, but their depth. They may not have written the song, but the video made sure to show exactly why it hit home with the Boys themselves. This song is one many (including myself) go to when bad things hit hard, or when you just need to feel like you’re not alone. The One, while I love – I do agree that Don’t Want You Back was a better choice. Even though I’d voted for It’s Gotta Be You on that TRL poll. But sometimes things happen the way they do for a reason and in the end The One gave us the snapshot music video that now serves as a time capsule of this era for the fandom.
And as long as this post has gotten, I still haven’t talked about the Millennium tour. This tour sold out within minutes of when tickets were put on sale. This wasn’t easy as it is now either. Most people still bought tickets in person, back where there were Ticketmaster stands in stores you could get them from. Anyone else remember that? The demand for them was absolutely insane and it was one of the biggest tours they’d ever done. They experimented, they tried new things. Their creativity knew no bounds not just in their music but in their performances as well.
In short – they were thriving.
At least career wise. Years later they’ve admitted both in interviews and in the documentary that none of them knew how to handle every dream they ever had coming true all at once. I don’t think anyone would know how to handle that. It isolated them in a sense, and began to test their bond as a group. Something that would show during the Black and Blue era far more. For now, everything seemed to be great and nothing could bring them down.
Looking back, I’m beyond happy none of them decided to go solo at this point. I know AJ did his charity Johnny No Name run, where he created a persona he could tour under and express himself creatively. But what I mean is that none of them attempted a solo album. Given the issues that we know today that they were having back then and the fact this was their peak? I worry that they may not have reformed after their solo efforts the way they do now. It might’ve destroyed the group and that would’ve been tragic – since one of my favorite things about BSB is their brotherhood that’s kept them together for some many years.
Millennium not only got awards, but it was also breaking records – specifically with sales. Yes NSYNC broke their first week sales a year later but Millennium stands as one of the top fifty best selling albums of all time to date. An honor none of their other nineties boybands competition managed to garner for themselves, including NSYNC. They were also nominated for multiple Grammys and the fact that they didn’t win is considered one of the biggest shubs in Grammy history. Mind you, this was being said by a group people thought wouldn’t last past their first album. Opinions changed with this album, views shifted. They’d proved themselves with this album, at least for awhile.
This was the era that won them respect in many ways. This was when the industry realized that they weren’t going away. And while people soon forgot that as the general public tends to do, no one forgot the hits of this era. If you start singing the bars to Larger Than Life, or Show Me The Meaning, even if they’re not fans they’ll know the song. This album is what made them become the household name they are today. And the thing is, I don’t think they were going for that when they recorded it. They were just putting out music they felt fit them. Music they thought was the best music they could put out there at that point and time. That’s why it resonates. That’s why this album still manages to stand the test of time almost twenty years later. This album is going to be remembered for decades to come as the album of 1999 and possibly the nineties as a whole.
What are the chances, they’d get to rise back up?
Maybe it really is two in a million, since it seems to be happening yet again.