Backstreet Boys’ “timeless” hit “I Want It That Way” arrived 24 years ago

Diane Freed

Tell me why we’re still singing Backstreet Boys‘ “I Want It That Way” 24 years after its release? Because, like so many of their hits, it’s “timeless.”

On April 12, 1999, “I Want It That Way” was released as the first single from Backstreet’s album Millennium. While the song was never actually a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 — it peaked at #6 — it topped the charts in 25 other countries and became the group’s signature song.

The song, co-written by Max Martin and Andreas Carlsson, was also nominated for three Grammys and has been RIAA-certified triple Platinum in the U.S. alone. Its famous video is one of just a handful from the ’90s to have hit 1 billion views on YouTube.

And while even Carlsson and Backstreet’s Kevin Richardson have admitted that “I Want It That Way” doesn’t make much sense, it’s still iconic. The song and its video have been parodied numerous times, it’s been sampled by rappers, gone viral on TikTok, been the subject of debates on Twitter and has been heard in ads, movies and TV shows.

Later this month, Backstreet Boys will celebrate their 30th anniversary, and Howie says one reason he thinks they’ve lasted so long is because songs like “I Want It That Way” are so good.

He told ABC Audio last year, “Looking back at it, especially some of the stuff that we recorded in the early years, I feel like we got very blessed to have a team of writers and producers, including Max Martin, who’s the Svengali of music, I think, for the past three decades.”

“We just got some amazing hits that are, I think, timeless,” he adds. “Songs that still stand the test of time today if they played on the radio.”

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