On April 12, 1999, Backstreet Boys released their massive hit “I Want It That Way” and proved they could make it without their shady manager Lou Pearlman pulling the strings.
After breaking away from Pearlman, who had created Backstreet Boys and then cheated them out of millions, BSB had something to prove.
And did they ever with the release of the hyperballad “I Want It That Way.” Billboard called it the single greatest boy-band song of all time, beating out the Jackson 5 (“I Want You Back,” no. 2) and the Beatles (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” no. 3).
“I Want It That Way” was the lead off single from Backstreet Boys’ record Millennium which was their first number 1 full-length album and one of the biggest selling albums ever.
Millennium featured a string of BSB classics including, “Larger than life,” and “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely.”
At the turn of the century Backstreet Boys were not only the biggest boyband on the planet they were the biggest boy band of all time.
When BSB made a 2-hour appearance on MTV’s Total Request Live they completely shutdown Times Square.
Golden Era of Pop Music
As I explain in Ep. 38 of History of the 90s, it was the golden era of pop music when Backstreet Boys and NSYNC were selling records by the caseload and thanks in part to their success the number of CDs sold annually in the United States increased from 207 million in 1990 to 937 million in 2000.
So insane was the record selling business that in 1999 a new category of bestseller was created, the “diamond” record, referring to albums or singles that sold 10 million copies or more.
People always point to this as the most lucrative time for boy bands, but it was the most lucrative time for music writ large. CDs were going for $20 to $25 and because we were out of the cassingle era if you wanted something you heard on the radio you had to shell out $20 for each boyband you liked.
But this golden era wouldn’t last for long. Just as Millennium was shattering sales records, a teenage hacker in a suburban Massachusetts bedroom quietly posted the revolutionary file-sharing service Napster on the internet, spelling the end for the traditional music industry.
For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s” available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca