Backstreet Boys - Millennium (1999, USA)
Favorite Tracks: I Want It Way, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, It's Gotta Be You, Don't Want You Back
1999 was a year for millennium themed conspiracies and releases. It was an easy enough concept to put together to lessen the paranoia of Y2K and end of the world babble. Of course, Backstreet Boys clearly took advantage of this year to release their second (or third, depending on the country) album. It was also a time for the group to reclaim their rightful place in teenagers' hearts as the number one pop boy group, since the American debut of rivals N'SYNC. Of course, there was a divide in the market and musical skills that both groups possessed over their competition, but this post isn't about their rivalry...it's a review! As a BSB fan, I could easily throwback to the resurgence of boy bands in America and review their American debut album, Backstreet's Back, but I chose to do their sophomore release for the definitive period of 1999 and the solidification of the group's career. So, let's get right on it!
As I said in my introduction, 1999 was the year of the end of the world conspiracies and futuristic concepts for pop culture. The second single and first track of the album, "Larger Than Life" pretty much reflected that image we had of the year 2000. The video featured robots, space, and plenty of 2000 CGI that Eiffel 65 would be envious of. The song was a great opener to this American sophomore album with its high energy and recognition of the group's quick rising fame. It also showcased a mature look in each member, most notably the youngest Nick Carter as well as their overall style. It was still playful and a bit dark with its Star Wars-esque space fights and leather apparel.
The first single release and second track of the album, "I Want It That Way", was the real introduction to the Backstreet Men. That shift from "hey, girl, let's hold hands by the lake" to "baby, I want a commitment". It might've been a strange choice to release a slow tempo song as a precursor to a new album, but it ended up being one of BSB's biggest hits from the album. It was also parodied by Blink 182, which is proof of how big it was. The song wasn't a complete ballad either, so it was natural for me to enjoy it. "I Want It That Way" properly showed off the group's vocal chemistry, harmonies, and gave some other members the spotlight like Kevin and Howie. The video was also sleek, mature, and looked very polished with its monochromatic color scheme. Also, including the fans at the end was endearing. Definitely a song that still warms the fangirl's heart with its charming lyrics and sweet melodies.
The third single and track "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" was a track I didn't quite appreciate and enjoy fully until I was a teenager. It was their necessary ballad to tie the two previous tracks together, both audibly and visually. Similar to the previous track, it featured acoustic guitar, line distribution for everyone, and, of course, beautiful vocal chemistry during the chorus. It was a successfully melancholy and heartwrenching song to listen to and experience through music video. Even now as an adult, I can tell I appreciate this song way more than I did when this album was released. The video also gives an effective gloomy and dreary color scheme that matches the tone of the song. Each member is dealing with their own separation issues whether romantic relationships, family, or life in general. It's well acted and has some beautiful imagery, despite some of the weird computer elements used in places. In short, if "I Want It That Way" didn't sell you on how amazing BSB's voices are, this will definitely drive it home in your mind.
"It's Gotta Be You" is all the cheese and fun of pop in this era. It's an energetic song with a catchy chorus, but I can't help but laugh every time Nick does the bridge leading to that catchy chorus. It just sounds so silly and strangely delivered and produced. I think they could've thought of something else, but it's not a terrible song in the least. "I Need You Tonight" is a piano ballad song sung by Nick. It's a song I remember my best friend loving, because Nick was her favorite and a song I always skipped, because it's a boring ballad and I don't care for Nick's voice that much, at least in this song. The song is quite cheesy and to be expected by a boy band, but yeah...there you go. "Don't Want You Back" was a hard hitting break up song that brought me back on board with this album. I really liked AJ's first verse in the song and how it ties back to "Everybody (Backstreet's Boy)". Listening to it now, I wonder if Nick went to the Britney Spears School of Singing. I swear I'm not a Nick hater, but sometimes his vocal choices weren't the best. Anyway, the song is mostly him and AJ with a sprinkle of the other members for the chorus, bridge, and ad-libs. It was a slightly different sound for the pop scene and I enjoy the contrast of the melodic vocals with this hard beat. "Don't Wanna Lose You Now" is another track I remember skipping. The beginning sounds like something N'SYNC would've done. It's another ballad to sandwich between the hard hitting sounds. I want to say that Nick is singing the first verse, which sounds fine. I don't know why he doesn't sound like that all the time. Anyway, it's your typical ballad to make the fangirls cry and say, "I'd never leave you [insert bias' name here]". Young or old, I still don't care for this song too much.
"The One" was their fourth single for the album. Watching this pseudo-music video might be the reason why I dislike live compilation music videos as official music videos. I mean it's nice to see snippets of live shows and backstage shenanigans, but it's not as exciting or a good representation of said song. As for the song, it's pretty standard and has a few sweet lines laced in this semi-catchy beat. This also reminds me of N'SYNC a little...the beat. Anyway, it's an alright song that wakes you up some, if you're not a ballad lover like myself.
Honestly, I'm going to breeze through these last few songs as I vaguely remember not giving them much attention back in the day. "Back to Your Heart" is another ballad with some nice little keyboard work. The chorus is soothing and sweet and I can instantly see all those fangirls crying in the audience as they perform this song on stage. Everyone sounds nice and the lyrics are pretty standard. All the right things to make your heart flutter with some good harmonies. "Spanish Eyes" is a surprising song that showcases Howie's vocals a little more than usual. Deny it all you want, but Brian, Nick, and AJ did the bulk of Backstreet's Back, so (in general) I was happy to hear more Howie and Kevin throughout the album. It's a sweet little song with acoustic guitar and romantic vocal harmonies. "No One Else Comes Close" is another ballad that sounds like some late 80s/early 90s R&B cover, which isn't terrible. I guess it does branch out their vocal abilities a little to show that they can handle R&B elements mixed with a sprinkle of pop. "The Perfect Fan" is like the Spice Girls' "Mama". It's a tear jerking song dedicated to the mothers. It's sweet and hits all the emotional points that need to be hit. The vocal execution is on point and has great potential to take it home with some choral vocals. I know this was definitely one of my mom's favorite tracks. Yes, my mom loved BSB about as much as I do.
Millennium was a mature and perfect progression from their American debut album, Backstreet's Back. It displayed growth and improvements in the group's vocal arrangements as well as some more variations in their music. The album successfully separated the men from the boys and made them stand out from their competition, both minor and major. It was also pretty enjoyable if the world was actually going to end or technology malfunctioned in 2000. For the most part, I was pleased to hear more of Kevin and Howie's vocals throughout the album and letting them show off their abilities in their own verses, not just a line here or there, back up, or group choruses. Listening to it in 2016, it probably sounds dated by the musical arrangement, but it doesn't sound too jarring as boy bands really haven't been a majorly huge thing since then. Yes, I am aware of One Direction, but there was barely any competition for them, even though I do like The Wanted way more. Also, it was nice to flashback to those days of boy band hysteria.