20 Albums 20 Years Later

While Winning Our Hearts, The Backstreet Boys Changed Radio And Who Had Permission To Like Boy Bands

The Backstreet Boys' self-titled debut album turns 20 this year.

20 Albums 20 Years Later remembers and explores the music that touched us back then and still resonates today. Join A Plus as we take another listen to albums released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions not only to the charts but to our lives.

By 1997, the entertainment industry was no stranger to boy bands, but we'll take a leap and say no one was prepared for the talent that was about to step onto the scene. Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, A.J. Mclean, Howie Dorough, and Kevin Richardson were five young men with different styles, different vocal abilities, and one big goal: to entertain and make a lasting impression. Twenty years later it's safe to say they did — and still are.

The United States got formally introduced to the Backstreet Boys ahead of their self-titled debut album by the single "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)." The song, which was widely considered by teens as the heartbreak song of the year, helped them became well-known very quickly — possibly thanks to a music video featuring them soaked by rainwater and semi-shirtless. Regardless, the tune rocketed to the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as the summer came to a close. In fact, years later, the guys performed the same song on Total Request Live's final episode.

“Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”

With catchy dance songs like "Hey, Mr. DJ (Keep Playin' This Song)," "Get Down (You're the One for Me)," and "We've Got It Goin' On" — which had been released internationally a few years earlier — the group proved that they weren't as "soft" as some might have thought, demonstrating in the latter's video that they could dance, much like the boy bands who preceded them.

“We’ve Got It Goin’ On”

Still, BSB seemed aware of their bread-and-butter: the mushy love songs that teens and some adults around the world felt were being sung directly to them by their favorite member. No matter how much of a bad boy one guy might be, or not matter how innocent or shy your BSB crush seemed, you could be confident he'd deliver "All I Have to Give" and would declare "I'll Never Break Your Heart" convincingly — and you'd believe it.

“All I Have to Give”

“I’ll Never Break Your Heart”

But a track that sort of fits between the millennium teen pop party music and the ballads is one of their signature songs, "As Long As You Love Me," which had teenagers swooning — and made them all the more popular. Cue the music video — one of their most iconic — which features some of their best choreography in the folding chair dance that continued to be featured in many performances for years to come. (As a bonus, model Leighanne Wallace, who appeared in the clip, became Mrs. Brian Littrell in 2000.)

“As Long As You Love Me”

But if you're truly going to have a signature song, make sure your band name is in the title. That's what happened with "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," a song that was not originally included on the European version of the debut album from 1996, but is arguably one of their most well-known tracks. Almost Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for the '90s, the monster-filled music video was nearly replicated at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, where they also snagged the Best Group Video trophy.

“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”

Though initially seen as "The Spice Boys" in the wake of The Spice Girls' success, Backstreet Boys did much to change the pop music landscape, thanks to the help of Max Martin, a hit songwriter who still pens pop gems today. Along with bringing happier music to the radio in a post-grunge era, the album earned them a nomination for the Best New Artist Grammy and a win for Group Album of the Year at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards. It also helped usher in a sound that was catered to by MTV's TRL and would find BSB facing competition the following year from a few guys called NSYNC — who, combined, broke barriers as to who had permission to love boy bands, regardless of their gender, race, or other demographics. But much like past peers New Kids on the Block would prove later, BSB had staying power … and never truly went away. After all, in 2017, they've already appeared on Florida Georgia Line's "God, Your Mama, and Me" and performed with them at the 52nd ACM Awards, as well as started a Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood, and Nick Carter appears on ABC's Boy Band. That also doesn't take into consideration the number of albums they've put out as a group and individuals in between Backstreet Boys and now. But we still have fond memories of the 14-times platinum, No. 4-peaking album, and even listening to it now, we still catch glimpses of the greatness that was to come.

Backstreet Boys is available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Spotify.

Cover image: Jive Records

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