This was written by Max Martin and Andreas Carlsson, Swedish producers who have also written hits for 'N Sync, Britney Spears, and Celine Dion.
This was the first single from The Backstreet Boys' third album, Millennium. It was the fastest selling album ever, until 'N Sync released No Strings Attached later that year.
The band did not think this should be the first single because it sounded too much like their last album. Their record company convinced them otherwise. The result was the biggest selling Backstreet record in UK (and their only #1 hit there). The song also peaked at #6 in the US.
This song proves the importance of melody when writing a hit. The lyrics don't make much sense, but contain lots of simple rhymes that support the music:
You are, my fire
The one, desire
Ain't nothin' but a heartache
Ain't nothin' but a mistake
There's really not much story, although our hero seems concerned about his relationship. Co-writer Andreas Carlsson explains: "When Max came up with the original idea for the song, it already had the line 'you are my fire, the one desire.' We tried a million different variations on the second verse, and finally we had to go back to what was sounding so great, 'you are my fire, the one desire.' And then we changed it to 'am I your fire, your one desire', which made absolutely no sense in combination with the chorus - but everybody loved it!"
The fact that the song doesn't make much sense can be pinned on Max Martin being a Swede and not writing in his first language. "His English has gotten much better, but at the time…" BSB member Kevin Richardson admitted to LA Weekly in 2011.
This was used for the soundtrack of the 1999 film Drive Me Crazy.
Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called "eBay," where he sings about constantly buying bizarre and unneeded items on eBay. His purchases include "a used pink bathrobe," "a Smurf TV tray," "Alf alarm clock" and "a Kleenex used by Dr. Dre."
This was voted the best boyband single since 1998 in a 2013 survey conducted by UK's Amazepop
magazine. The American five-piece's hit tune topped the poll above One Direction's " What Makes You Beautiful
" in second place and 'N Sync's " Bye Bye Bye
" in third.
Vanilla Fudge covered this on their album Then And Now
. Fudge drummer Carmine Appice explained in a Songfacts interview
: "That song is a great song. Whenever I used to hear that song, I used to hear Vanilla Fudge harmony behind it with the spooky kind of organ. The lyrics didn't dictate that song as much as the mood. That was another one, we said, 'Let's just put in a great arrangement and make it really sound Fudge. Put some emotional vocals in there and stuff.'"
Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James covered this for a Chipotle commercial
. Howard and James' vocals soundtrack an animated clip for the Mexican restaurant chain, which tells the love story between young Ivan and Evie who have competing juice stands.
The record label brought in veteran producer Mutt Lange to rework the tune so it would make more sense, but the group liked the original version better. "It made sense, but it didn't sound as good!" Kevin Richardson told Entertainment Weekly. Lange's alternate version, with lyrics like "I love it when I hear you say, I want it that way," was shelved, but it received occasional airplay when it was leaked to Napster.
This garnered three nominations at the 2000 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Santana took prizes in the first two categories for "Smooth
" and the third for "Maria Maria
They performed this on Saturday Night Live in 1999, in an episode hosted by Sarah Michelle Gellar.
This was used on the pilot episode of Heroes in 2006.
Max Martin, who would craft many of the group's hits, sang in a metal band before moving on to songwriting and producing, but his experience as a vocalist is key to his vision as a hitmaker. "From day one, the one thing that I've had the most use of in this profession is my background as a singer," he tells the Swedish newspaper Di Weekend
. "To be able to sing and demonstrate your vision when you record a demo has been crucial."
In his memoir Live To Win
, Andreas Carlsson writes, "For a long time, Martin was actually the Backstreet Boys' sixth member. He sounded more like Backstreet than they did themselves, or it was they who sounded like Max Martin."
Chance The Rapper added some flavor to this song in a 2019 Super Bowl commercial
for Doritos "Flamin' Hot Nacho" flavor. In the spot, he goes into reverie as he pictures himself reworking the song in his own style, with the Backstreet Boys joining him as they share choreography.
The five Backstreet Boys came together virtually to sing this from their homes as part of the March 29, 2020 "Living Room Concert For America." Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey and Tim McGraw were some of the other stars who performed under quarantine at the benefit to offer encouragement during the coronavirus outbreak and raise money for support.