A song that made you pull over the first time you heard it

Monday, August 15, 2011

I was 14, and it's probably one of the biggest songs of my adolescence. And I don't even like it. I'm talking about "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys.


As a huge Backstreet Boys fan back in the day, the suspense leading up to the premiere of the first song off of the much-anticipated sophomore U.S. Backstreet Boys album was almost too much to bear. I think I even dipped into a couple of the leaks that came across the internet (such a novel idea in 1999). Backstreet Boys fans will know that there is another version of "I Want It That Way" floating around in the ether -- or YouTube -- that actually makes sense.

Here it is:


Anyway, so in truth, I'd already heard the song. But not a quality version of it. So when it came on Z100 in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday while I was in the car with my father, I squealed. Probably even flapped my hands and arms. And then I made my father park the car so I could get a good listen.

The thing about this song that required my utmost attention was the fact that 2.5 to 3 years had passed since the group had really recorded any new music. And 19-year-old Nick Carter's voice had undergone a transformation from age 16 that made for a very puzzling "game" of listening to the song the first few times. (This has only happened one other time in my life, and that was for the NKOTBSB song "Don't Turn Out The Lights" -- go figure.)

When we climbed back into the car a couple hours later, the song came up again on Z100's playlist. And again and again, as it were, for months to come until it would become ingrained into a generation's collective memory.

Hearing it live -- hearing any of my favorite artists' songs live on the radio (a rare occurrence these days) -- was much more delicious to me than listening to it on my Walkman or my CD player. Because I was sharing the moment with thousands upon thousands of others. It's always sent chills down my spine. And "I Want It That Way" especially, because it was a song everyone seemed to buy into. I was so enamored of the Boys then, and we were sitting on the edge between the Backstreet Boys being the biggest thing and when they became decidedly uncool.

(Which reminds me of an oddly touching MySpace blog entry Nick Carter wrote in 2008, acknowledging that it hasn't always been easy to be a BSB fan.)

I have the same gripe today as I did then about Z100 -- it plays the same 15 songs on repeat each day. But I had the advantage of being the catered-to audience then. Things have changed since 1999 ... For one, the blind, unconditional love has faded and I have come to realize that this incredibly lauded pop song makes virtually no sense. It's pretty bad. And as a Backstreet Boys fan, I'm embarrassed that this is the song they will forever be remembered for.

But what can you do ... We were all young and stupid at one point.

Other songs I have remained in the car (but not pulled over) to listen to:
"Crush," David Archuleta
"If You Go Away," NKOTB

I Want It That Way Crush If You Go Away

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