Not Fade Away: Backstreet Boys’ ‘Millennium’ Turns 15
By Sean Rose
Let history note that in 1999, Millennium was the best boy band album that had ever been released. With over 1.1 million first-week units sold in the US alone —a record-breaking total at the time— it sent the Backstreet Boys into a new galaxy of popularity, making them unquestionably the biggest and most visible pop group of their time.
Along with Britney’s omnipresent debut …Baby One More Time, Millennium‘s colossal sales sent a message clear and true: Teen pop was king, and it wasn’t going anywhere… for another few years. It raised the stakes for teen pop’s late 90s/early 2000s Golden Era. It’s hard to imagine the likes of *NSNYC, LFO, BBMak and 98 Degrees hitting their heights without this record setting the example. Before Millennium, boy bands were an easy punchline. After Millennium, they reigned as pop tyrants.
Millennium served an important function in its time. Whether it holds up as an album 15 years later is a trickier question. Was it the best teen pop album of its era? No, I’d give that honor to M2M’s seriously overlooked The Big Room. Was it even the best Backstreet Boys album? No, I’d put 2009’s glamorous This Is Us and even 2005’s derided comeback Never Gone a few notches ahead in the quality department. Millennium‘s sales record wouldn’t even last that long — *NSYNC’s sexified No Strings Attached would more than double its first-week sales only a year later, making our poor Boys look like also-rans in its wake. Millennium‘s success was less the beginning of a glorious run and more the beginning of the end — the Backstreets would release only one more studio record during teen pop’s golden era before going on a five-year retreat, never again replicating Millennium‘s glories.