We're not playing games: BSB blessed you with their first U.S. album two decades ago
Ready to feel old? Saturday marks 20 years since Backstreet Boys released their self-titled U.S. debut album on Aug. 12, 1997. (This came more than a year after they had already dropped their international debut, also called Backstreet Boys.) To celebrate the anniversary of this milestone moment in boy-band history, EW ranks the 20 best Backstreet songs and gives you a playlist — all right!
20. “Bye Bye Love”
Breaking out of their ballad groove, Backstreet busts an EDM move on this airy kiss-off from 2009’s This Is Us, their second — and final — album as a quartet before Kevin Richardson rejoined the band.
This bluesy ditty from 2013’s In a World Like This was co-written by British singer-songwriter James Morrison. The stripped-down soul — part Jason Mraz, part Babyface — is BSB at their rawest.
Yes, the first single from 2007’s Unbreakable pours on the melodrama and goes straight by the playbook. Still, this piano-driven power ballad finds Backstreet right in their lane.
Getting “swept away by love,” this 2001 single from BSB’s The Hits — Chapter One compilation is guaranteed to necessitate emergency mouth-to-mouth contact.
16. “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”
Sure, the production on Backstreet’s debut single sounds pretty dated now, as with most of their early uptempo tracks. But who can resist the ’90s nostalgia of this new jack swing jam?
By the time 2009’s This Is Us came around, the group’s longtime producer Max Martin had plenty of other clients. Even so, he conjured up some of the old magic on this guitar-pop ode to a girl who’s “bigger than me.”
14. “The Call”
The Backstreet Boys turned bad-news boys on this single from 2000’s Black & Blue, which finds them lying to a girlfriend — on “the call that changed my destiny” — and cheating. The frenzied production amps up the histrionics, making the whole thing play out like a guilty-pleasure soap.
13. “If You Stay”
Giving you Color Me Badd doo-wop feels, this sexy slow jam — featured on the soundtrack to the 1997 Jamie Foxx comedy Booty Call — is one of the most soulful things that Backstreet has ever done.
12. “Shape of My Heart”
BSB scored a Top 10 hit and earned one of their seven Grammy nominations for the first single from Black & Blue. It’s the kind of heart-in-hand plea for forgiveness that works like a charm.
11. “Helpless When She Smiles”
With its lilting piano and a melancholy streak that suggests a love that “hurts so bad but feels so good,” this Unbreakable single is a more complex swirl of emotions than you might expect from Backstreet. Resistance is futile.
Like the similarly named “Inconsolable,” this piano-led ballad from 2005’s Never Gone is Coldplay-lite pop-rock. The more mature sound showed that these boys had definitely grown out of their bubblegum phase.
9. “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”
The Backstreet Boys gave their smoothest Boyz II Men impression on this R&B ballad from their self-titled debut. With Brian Littrell and A.J. Mclean sharing lead vocals, they make you believe every word of their vow to do no harm.
8. “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”
This Grammy-nominated hit from BSB’s 1999 blockbuster Millennium captures the ache of “something missing in my heart” with a Latin-tinged lushness.
7. “The One”
Brian Littrell and Max Martin co-wrote this Millennium single, which promises to “make all your sorrows undone.” Certainly, this upbeat shuffle never fails to bring on bliss — and your best synchronized dance steps.
6. “Larger Than Life”
With the massive success of Millennium, Backstreet truly lived up to the title of this, the album’s first track and second single. Again co-written by Littrell and Martin (along with Kristian Lundin), the song packs an anthemic swagger that they certainly owned back in the day, but it’s really a big shout-out to the fans.
5. “All I Have to Give”
Produced and written by the R&B/hip-hop outfit Full Force, this guitar-laced ballad from their eponymous first album is a soulful showcase for the quintet’s glistening harmonies — especially on that bridge. If their love is all they have to give, it’s still more than enough for us.
4. “As Long as You Love Me”
Giving us the flip side of “All I Have to Give,” this sumptuous signature song from Backstreet Boys is about leaving your life in the hands of that special someone — on just the one condition that they love you back. Sounds like a deal.
3. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”
This track was not originally on Backstreet’s debut U.S. album, but after the song had already been a hit overseas, it was added when that LP was re-released. The production and lyrics may be even cheesier two decades later, but who doesn’t rock their body when this comes on?
2. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”
Oddly enough, BSB has never notched a No. 1 single in their career. They reached their highest position of No. 2 with this ballad in 1997. Even if many of their fans were still too young to be playing love games, this struck a major chord with adolescent angst.
1. “I Want It That Way”
While we still don’t know exactly what “that way” is, it has never really mattered. The hit first single from Millennium nails the beautiful pain of when it “ain’t nothin’ but a heartache.” The ballad won Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year, but more importantly, it gave us that iconic video of the boys in full swoon effect at LAX airport.
PLAYLIST: Relive two decades of BSB’s best in EW’s Spotify playlist below.