Home Read Classic Album Review: Backstreet Boys | Millennium

Classic Album Review: Backstreet Boys | Millennium

The biggest challenge to reviewing an album like this is writing something that won’t provoke a mountain of venomous hate mail from ticked-off teenyboppers.

This came out in 1999 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


You want to know why music critics cringe at the thought of a new Backstreet Boys album? It’s not because we hate their perfectly coiffed mugs or their professionally crafted pop ditties: It’s because we know if we say anything bad about them, we’ll never hear the end of it.

It’s true. The biggest challenge to reviewing a CD like Millennium isn’t providing insightful commentary or thoughtful analysis. No, the real trick is writing something that won’t provoke a mountain of venomous hate mail from ticked-off teenyboppers. (You think I’m kidding? Ha! I still get mail from offended Europeans over a negative Kelly Family review nearly a year ago.)

Surprisingly, most of the letters are pretty similar — they start with something like, “Dear Big Dumbhead,” and go on to tell me why I’m an idiot for not worshiping BSB. Interestingly enough, the same points come up again and again:

1) “You’re wrong about The Backstreet Boys. They are the greatest band in the world. And the cutest!!”

Hey, if you think BSB is the greatest, then they are — to you. And you’re certainly not alone in thinking that, if the frenzy over Millennium is any sign. As for their looks, well, you’ll get no argument here. Going by Millennium’s cover photo and glossy booklet — which features two individual shots of each member and two group shots — there’s no denying they’re dreamy (although, to be honest, I’m starting to wonder a bit about A.J.’s new Latino pimp facial hair and Midnight Cowboy getup).

2) “The Backstreet Boys are really talented. They write their own music and play their own instruments.”

Well, not really. At least not on Millennium. According to the liner notes, only Kevin plays on the album — and only on one song. And only he and Brian have any songwriting credits; the rest of the Boys only get brownie-points recognition for things like “additional vocal arrangements.”

3) “Their music is really original.”

This is kind of like that NBC slogan — “If you missed it the first time, it’s new to you.” In general, Millennium has two kinds of songs: Funky hip-hop and soulful ballads. The funkier fare like Larger Than Life and Don’t Want You Back certainly qualify as infectious pop. They’re also cribbed pretty straight from a variety of sources, including ’80s funkateers like Cameo — listen to your parents’ copy of Word Up if you don’t believe me. But it’s the ballads that rule here; they outnumber rockers about two-to-one. All the songs are about one thing — you, girl. How much they want you, how much they love you, how much they need you. (Except for Brian’s song about his mom being his ultimate fan, which is just kind of creepy and weird, if you ask me.)

4) “The Backstreet Boys are nice, wholesome role models.”

Well, let’s put it this way: In Larger Than Life, when BSB sing “Looking at the crowd and I see your body sway / Wishin’ I could thank you in a different way,” I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about an autograph, if you catch my drift.

5) “You just hate bands like the Backstreet Boys because you’re old, mean and ugly.”

Well, I certainly am old, mean and ugly, but I like plenty of pop bands — like, say, Ricky Martin. He’s the greatest … and the cutest!!