I Want It That Way

Album: Millennium (1999)
Charted: 1 6
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • 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.
  • This was used in a 2019 Geico commercial where an Antarctic researcher sings it on a karaoke machine, driving one of his co-workers into the cold.
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Comments: 26

  • Eduardo Hdz. from MexicoThe only similarity between The Beatles and the Backstreet Boys is that both were a huge phenomenon at certain time in music industry, but there are much more differences than similarities. The Beatles played instruments and were composers of every song they recorded, while the Backstreet Boys sang and danced to songs composed by other persons. I enjoy both groups, they had great tunes well performed. The fact that an artist doesn't play an instrument on stage doesn't decrease his value as performer. Take Michael Jackson for instance; he didn't need an instrument to become legendary, he got his voice and body to perform. Backstreet Boys proved more than once they could sing live. They used to sing acapella everytime they were asked for.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlHoly crap! I still remember when I was obsessed with these guys! HA! This is great! TELL ME WHY?!:) lol
  • Leon from Dokkum, Netherlandsthere's a great cover of this by the band Dynamite Boy, on the " Punk goes Crunk" album :)
  • Joe from El Paso, TxYou really begin to like this song when youre in love...
  • Dalinda from Cresskill, NjThanks for posting Carmine's comment. He plays in the Vanilla Fudge with my uncle.I love BSB. They can sing as good as the greatest 1970's bands even though the BSB are not 1970's. Can all of us BSB fans ask Kevin to rejoin the band 'koz the BSB is'nt the same without all the original guys.My lady has a crush on all of them.AJ is cool,Brian is super-cool,Kevin of course and all the original BSB guys are the best of todays music.I can't beleive Carmine is a big fan of BSB just like I am. Hey Carmine,say hello to Mark,Tim and Vince for me...you're the best,too!!
  • Rahul from Chennai, Indiaone of the best boy band songs...i dont really like boybands though....
  • Rebecca from Houston, TxThe person who said they hope BSB are more legendary than the Beatles is from Sout Africa. Perhaps the Beatles are not as well known there. Obviously BSB will most likely NOT be more lengdary.
  • Bob from Baltimore, Mdi cant believe people compare bsb to the beatles. bsb are a bunch of pussies with no talent. they don't write their own songs, they don't play instruments, they don't even sing their songs. they lip sync. they are a joke and will always be remembered as such. If you compare them to the beatles you have no write to post anything about music.
  • Jena from UnknownThis song has also been covered by Jackass, Dynamite Boy, and Allister.

    So many people think these lyrics don't make sense, but that's because they don't know the mindset of the song writer.

    The singer is singing about someone he loves and longs for, but cannot call her or visit her because of his pride.
    ..Some people run from their past, even if it means shutting out people they once knew.
    They might be hiding the person they have become, and don't want their past lover from discovering the life they now lead. Alot has changed in the singer's life since he knew her, and knows that if they were to reunite, things would not be the same. So, he pushes her away(not physically), and won't let her get close.
    He's singing this to himself, like a prayer, or it can be interpreted as a dialogue between the two.
    The lyrics on this site are wrong, so this might confuse people. It's "BUT we are two worlds apart..."

    Here's an explanation(not of the full song):

    --first lines are self explanatory, he loves her, and doesn't want that to change. She'll always be in his heart.

    -"Tell me why?
    ain't nothing but a heartache,
    Tell me why?
    ain't nothing but a mistake,
    tell me why?
    I never want to hear you say,
    I want it that way"
    --The singer never told his love how much he cared for her, and is regretting it. He doesn't want to imagine her being glad that they aren't together(he doesn't want to hear her say that she doesn't love him)

    -"Am I your fire, your one desire?
    guess I know it's too late,
    but I want it that way"
    --Goes back to how years have passed, and he's thinking about her, and wondering if she ever felt the same way as he does still. But he's running from his past, and cannot bring himself to call her. He's ashamed of his life, and couldn't bear to let her know who he is now.

    -"Now I can see that we've fallen apart,
    from the way that it used to be, yeah"
    --Maybe they were teenagers at the same school, or maybe they lived in the same apartment complex. They both had good lives, but now he's a complete mess, drunk, drug addict, broke, no job, etc... She's probably somewhere out there with kids, a husband who doesn't love her, etc... and it's just not the way it was.

    -"Tell me why?
    ain't nothing but a heartache,
    ain't nothing but a mistake,
    tell me why?
    I never want to hear you say, (hear you say, yeah)
    I want it that way
    cos I want it that way"
    --So, he loves her, wants to be with her, but can't, because he's ashamed of himself, and a life with her would never come true. But, he does not want to think that she wants her life the way it is, without him.


    Ok, that explanation sucked, and I had WAY too much time on my hands today, but I tried(repetitive?). I'm sure it still doesn't make sense, and it didn't to me for seven years, but now I get it. Hope this helps.
  • Myss from Arvada, CoWhy are people getting offended by BSB being compared to the Beatles? They were both pop and were huge sucesses. The Beatles are obviously better, and have more musical credit than the Boys ever will, but get over it. I think this is definitely the best BSB song EVER. It's just....everything about it oozes out "pop" but also "maturity" to it. That it sounds gosh darned good. Though it doesn't make sense. And good to see that no one has explained yet what it's about. LOL Something about a breakup I think. I don't know and I don't really care.
  • Katherine from Perthone of my all tie faves, i LOVE the backstreet boys, and have ever since i was a little person :P
  • Oliversabitch from Bitcharoo, Txthis song is about masturbation. just like steven s does every day to catcher in the rye and this band and pictures of Ian I naked
  • Tom from Bozeman, MtHow can a band that doesnt write there own music or play and intruments be compared to the beatles
  • Kimberly from Greeley, Coi cant believe backstreet boys were my all time favorite band. blahh. i like real music now (ie blink-182)
  • Sarah Floyd from Bloomingdale, Ili like this song also. it tells you what they want i think. and they are normal people like us. and if they dont get what they want then this happens and tells people what they want. they have feelings and i care for that. well every body has feelings at least.
  • Rob from Castaic, CaMore legendary than the Beatles? You're on crack!
  • Jade from Lexington, MiThank you SOOOOO much for that comment, Jason. Any who compares the Backstreet Boys with The Beatles isn't right in the head . . . no offense to anyone.
  • Jason from Austin, TxI can't even begin to explain how ignorant it is to even attempt to compare the backstreet boys to the Beatles... does anyone remember when music had balls and 13 year old girls didn't control the music scene?
  • Tom from New York, NyThe Howard Stern Parody of this song is much better.
  • Ryan from Lackawanna, NyThis Might Be The Worst Lyricy Song Ever, The Song Makes Absolutely no sense wat so ever it describes a love then a rebelious act its just so corny and so badly written its emmbarrising
  • Shawna from San Diego, CaI remember being about 11 years old and loving this song along w/bsb but having no idea what it meant. Now I'm 17 and heard it on the radio and was like "hey that song actually has good words to it!' but yeah, bsb wasn't so bad. too bad the band boy thing is over though.
  • Alireza from New Jersey, NjI want it that way is the best song of "Backstreet Boys" group.
  • Tony from Buffalo Grove, IlHeh, big surprise they didn't write the song themselves.
  • Vere from Pretoria, South AfricaBackstreet Boys kix you-know-what forever! I love them and they are gonna be more legendary than the Beatles (I hope!)
  • Kathryn from Wiltshire, EnglandThere is a second verion of "I want it that way". I have post the those lyrics on here.
  • Kathryn from Wiltshire, EnglandThe plane in the video is not real. It is virtual.
    x-Kat-x
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