for backstreet boys fans. by backstreet boys fans.


The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” with age, actually DOES make sense.

As we all know, the narrative that ‘I want it that way’ doesn’t make sense lyrically is pretty much a pillar of the Backstreet Boys fandom. For years, the media, fans and the guys have all shrugged it off, ‘it makes no sense but who cares because it’s iconic’… and there’s nothing wrong about that. It IS iconic. For years, i was right there with everyone else, laughing it off, caring not one bit whether it did or did not make sense because what does it matter? It’s IWITW. 

With age, I have grown more interested in unpacking the lyrical content of the song. And in recent times I’ve discovered that I think it DOES make sense.

I had not truly considered it until this past year. I was okay with it making no sense. 

Like many fans, this song has always meant a lot to me, not necessarily for the lyrical content but for the nostalgia and the moment it represents. For the feels… you know.

It didn’t matter to me if it made sense. It never crossed my mind.

But again, age… it really does something to a person, doesn’t it?

For a majority of the time that the song has been part of my life, I was a kid. Only in the past ten years or so would the ideas of serious love and relationships truly be a concern of mine. But… when this song was recorded most of the guys and certainly the people who wrote it, were of age to understand relationships in this way… which is important because that’s how I’ve grown to understand the song better. Just begs the question, why didn’t it make sense to them all this time?

There was such a palpable concern about it making no sense that there is an entire alternate version of it that the boys tried out before releasing the version we all know and love. 

But, I actually think the version we know and love DOES makes sense. 

Let’s dig in here:

Yeah

You are my fire

The one desire

___ I love you, you’re perfect

 

Believe when I say

I want it that way

___ this is agreeable to me. I am happy with you being my fire/ desire.

 

But we are two worlds apart

Can’t reach to your heart

When you say

That I want it that way

____ when you look outside of our relationship and compare it to other people’s relationships, and tell me “i would prefer THAT/ i want what those people have” it makes it hard for me to connect with you.

 

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

____ why are you doing this? It hurts my feelings when you do the above.

 

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

__ why are you doing this? It feels wrong for you to do the above.

 

Tell me why

I never want to hear you say

I want it that way

__ why are you doing this? Tell me that you understand that i don’t like it when you do the above.

 

Am I, your fire?

Your one, desire

___ are the feelings mutual? 

 

Yes I know, it’s too late

But I want it that way

___ i feel like the feelings are not mutual, but this is still how i want it to be (mutual fire/ desire.)

 

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

Tell me why,

I never want to hear you say

I want it that way

___ reiterating the above.

 

Now I can see that we’ve fallen apart

From the way that it used to be, yeah

No matter the distance

I want you to know

That deep down inside of me

You are my fire

The one desire

You are (you are, you are, you are)

____ Now i understand that things didn’t work out for us / will not work out for us because you were too distracted by some ideal version of relationships you dreamt up/ assumed you saw in others. But i’m singing this passionate song about it because i love you, you’re perfect.

 

Don’t want to hear you say

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

(Don’t want to hear you say)

I never want to hear you say

I want it that way

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

Tell me why

I never want to hear you say

I want it that way

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

Tell me why

I never want to hear you say

(Never want to hear you say it)

I want it that way

‘Cause I want it that way

_____ as above.

 

So there we have it. ‘I want it that way’ tells the tale of love destroyed by idolizing what others seem to have and missing the goodness that’s right in front of us because we are distracted by the greener grass on the other side, so to say. It warns of the perils of looking outside your own relationship – of comparing what you have to what you think others have.

This iconic song is timeless for so many reasons, not least among them the warning that ‘comparison is the thief of joy.’ 

So what do you think? Does it make sense now?

 

Written by Danielle Spurge.

Danielle is an independent educator based in Virginia who teachers artists and makers how to sell their work online through her business, The Merriweather Council. When she isn’t busy running her business, she enjoys listening to BSB, going to BSB concerts, talking about BSB, buying cute BSB tee shirts online and petting cute dogs. She has been fan-girling since 98 and can’t wait to keep on fangirling for years to come. 

You can find her at @merriweatherc / merriweathercouncilblog.com

Guest Post: @BackstreetBoys’ ‘I Want it That Way’ DOES Make Sense After All

LAUNCH YOUR DAYDREAM

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7/19/20

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