Nick Robertson | Credit: Supplied

Love Letter To A Record: Comedian Nick Robertson On Backstreet Boys’ ‘Millennium’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Here, comedian Nick Robertson opens up about the quintessentially noughties album, Backstreet Boys’ ‘Millennium’.

Nick Robertson is currently on a tour of Australia and New Zealand with his debut solo comedy show ‘Leave to Enter’. A storytelling show that weaves together stories about some poor advice from his mother, his obsession with the Backstreet Boys and the time he was deported from Scotland. He’s making his Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut from April 9th-21st at the Chinese Museum. Tickets are available here and you can follow him on Instagram here for updates.

Nick Robertson On Backstreet Boys’ Millennium

It’s 2001. It’s on the tail end of your school’s fete. You’re chockablock with your winnings from lob-a-choc. The jumping castle is deflating. The tuckshop volunteers are doggy-bagging the leftover sausage rolls. Mrs Lyons is complaining that her Anzac biscuits should’ve won first prize at the bake sale/competition. 

You walk into the school’s auditorium. There’s some basic ass spotlights aimed at the ceiling, they’re covered in cellophane in a (cello)faint attempt to set a party mood to the disco. The PE teacher has the limbo stick out (was that a universal thing or just a Queensland primary school thing?). But there’s a song playing – it’s a song that defines this era. The intro crescendos you into what could possibly be the best night of your pre-pubescent life – who knew a soft acoustic guitar could set a disco alight? But from the moment you hear it, you know that ‘I Want It That Way’ will forever be one of the greatest songs of all time.

Millennium by the Backstreet Boys is the soundtrack for most zillennial cuspers like myself. Released in 1999, ‘I Want It That Way’, ‘Larger Than Life’, ‘Show Me The Meaning’ all dominated the burnt CDs that filled our Walkmans. Whilst Nikki Webster, Vanessa Amorosi and the So Fresh collections did come close, there is no denying the impact that the Backstreet Boys had on our pop cultural palette. 

Nominated for five Grammy Awards, Millennium became one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling 24 million copies worldwide, the pop quintet cementing themselves as some of the most influential artists of their time. From ‘It’s Gotta Be You’, an undeniable rump shaker, to ‘Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely’, a soaring earworm of a ballad, the album traverses everything great about noughties pop. The ‘doo-woop’, the light licks of funk, the cheeky bass lines that dance their way through the record – Millennium is swoons and croons in a way that, if left in the hands of anyone else, would be cheesy. But BSB ooze enough charm to get away with all of this.

I think this album was the first album I ever bought – it was the first one that was really ‘mine’. My brother would listen to Usher and my sister would listen to Delta Goodrem and I sorta hovered somewhere in the middle with my tastes. And then when I first stumbled on ‘I Want It That Way’, I ~needed~ more. 

It’s a highly commercialised, pandering, poptastic wonder that, to me, sums up all the aesthetics of the early noughties. Nick Carter’s bleached tips, the dance moves, the matching outfits, A.J. McLean being deemed the ‘bad boy’ simply because he had tattoos – I’m still obsessed. I remember being so drawn to Nick, because well, we share the same name, therefore we are the same person. And for this not-so-masculine boy growing up in regional Queensland, it was just nice to have a role model in the media that wasn’t an NRL player. 

As I worked my way through the record, it was rinse and repeat of the same formula. Vague love stories told with simple harmonies, sugared with KILLER drops. It made me want to dance instantly, lip syncing my way around the house. It made love feel possible, it made me fall in love with love (yes, I was an overdramatic 10 year old and I refuse to apologise).

As I’ve grown older, I gravitate towards alternative/progressive rock and music that has ‘grit and emotion’ but this album, in particular ‘I Want It That Way’, still has that effect on me. Perhaps it’s a comment on how the turn of the century saw a shift in music consumption, and the Internet facilitated an oversaturation of a single band for the first time – so my memories of that time are inescapably attached to the Backstreet Boys, but that doesn’t change the fact this album just makes me want to DANCE. Its ability to make me feel like a child again, its ability to be just what it is and nothing more – it’s a rom-com in a song, it’s sugar in my ears, it’s joyous escapism. Period. 

Backstreet Boys walked, so One Direction could run, so Harry Styles could fly. And for this I say that Backstreet Boys should be held up as one of the best boy bands of all times, and Millennium, one of the greatest albums. It’s a hill I am willing to die on. Come join? 

Further Reading

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Singer Aaron Carter Found Dead, Aged 34

The Britney Spears & Backstreet Boys Collab ‘Matches’ Is Here!!

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