1999, Music

Millennium (1999) by Backstreet Boys

I hated the Backstreet Boys as a teenager – they representative everything I thought was wrong with modern music because they didn’t write their own music, they didn’t play any instruments, they produced music that seemed like pablum, they were successful in part because of their looks, and they seemed to have no agency because they were manufactured by the industry. (Not that I could have quite articulated that last claim when I was 17.) Many of those things are still true or partially true, but time has mellowed me towards this kind of music in part, perhaps, because I am no longer inundated with their singles. (But this really still does feel to me like musical pandering, in many ways. I mean, just think about this record’s title. It has nothing to do with anything except trying to make them seem relevant.)

The first time I listened to this I thought I might have detected a slight improvement in songwriting from Backstreet’s Boys but the more I listened to the record the more I thought I must have just lowered my expectations. There are multiple fan service songs here, which I think of like the Boy Band equivalent of Gene Simmons singing about how he’s going to fuck all his fans – these are a little more subtle in terms of the sexual aspect, but no less fawning. There are also songs about their mothers, which is not what I was expecting. I think maybe what I was detecting as an increase in quality was really an increase in earnestness, or something like that, which is not the same thing. (The fact that some of the songs are co-written by some members likely has something to do with this.)

The record sounds just as slick as the other of theirs I’ve heard, only this time it’s perhaps a little more modern sounding. (Though that one where there’s a keyboard which sounds like a talk box hasn’t dated well at all.) But this record feels heavier on the slow jams, which are even less appealing to me than their up tempo tracks, and this feels particularly true on the back half of the record. So even though it’s short for a ’90s record, it really lags near the end, which is different than their debut (from my memory).

Still, it’s professionally made and the weak link of the group isn’t very noticeable this time out. (Either he is better or they hide him better.) It does what it sets out to do, even if teenage me would have thought that was evil. I’d say that, if you think this is one of the worst albums ever made, you need to listen to more music, specifically more boy band music. The New Kids on the Block make the Backstreet Boys sound like Bach.


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