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Backstreet Boys' 'Millennium' album cover |© JIVE Records
Backstreet Boys' 'Millennium' album cover |© JIVE Records
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How The Backstreet Boys' Greatest Song Almost Never Existed

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 17 October 2016
The words might as well be branded on all of us.

You are my fire. The one desire. Believe when I say, ‘I want it that way.’

Whether you were a ’90s baby or a grown adult in the final year before the turn of the century, Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” was the jam of 1999. To this day, whenever this track comes on at your preferred bar that makes you believe college is never over, you still know every single word and note.

But what if the song never existed, at least not in the way we know it? What if the song was called “No Goodbyes,” and Brian Littrell’s opening confession went:

I’m yours completely. I feel so deeply. You’re my first thought everyday. And I want it that way.

This alternate reality exists, and if it weren’t for the efforts of the world’s greatest boy band (sorry, not sorry), it would have been our reality.

The Huffington Post recently spoke with BSB with the sole purpose of uncovering the story behind the nonsensical lyrics of “I Want It That Way.” The story goes that when Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin first moved over to the U.S. to craft hits with BSB, Britney Spears, and NSYNC, his comprehension of the English language was quite lacking. This explains why the track’s lyrics are beguiling and contradicting throughout — “I never want to hear you say, ‘I want it that way.'” Umm, what? — but it doesn’t tell us why the song was given the green light.

Nick Carter told Huffington Post that while the group accepted the lyrics from the start, the president of their then-label, JIVE Records, wanted the lyrics changed. So, “No Goodbyes” was arranged and recorded, but when the band listened back, they didn’t like what they heard.

The first few listens of “No Goodbyes” are arduous, the alternate lyrics fiercely combating with the phrases that have existed as part of your very being for the past 17 years. Your brain melted into a pool of dissonant mush, you have no choice but to reject this musical atrocity. Thankfully, BSB “had enough power at that time,” as Carter put it, to veto the remake and deliver the original single. As Kevin Richardson summed up the situation, “Yeah, it just didn’t feel as good, so sometimes you just got to go with what feels right.”

You can read the full interview over at Huffington Post, and make sure to listen to the proper version of “I Want It That Way” to remind yourself that everything is okay, even if it doesn’t exactly make sense.