Jive / Arista Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/23/2000
With this album, I complete the 90s teen music trifecta. I have previously reviewed Britney Spears and 'N Sync. And I know that there's more of them around -- Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, 98 Degrees, Jessica Simpson, LFO, et al. -- but, the truth is that the big three remain Spears, 'N Sync and these Orlando, Florida guys. I also know that I threading dangerous waters as my cousin loves these guys. So, she may want to avert her eyes right now. This ain't gonna be pretty.
When I spoke of No Strings Attached by 'N Sync, I mentioned that they had wanted to show some originality and separate themselves from the pop sounds of all the other boy bands. So, 'N Sync went out and mixed in some hip-hop and rap beats to toughen their sound. Why do I mention this? Because, unlike that boy band, these guys go the direct pop route. They embrace their teenybopiness, completely and wholeheartedly. There are no surprises here; no attempted stab at musical growth. This is almost make-music-by-the-numbers. Don't believe me, check it out.
Step One: Need easy to understand lyrics.
For this, check out their smash, "I Want It That Way," "I Need You Tonight" and "No One Else Comes Close." Deep meaning? They don't want no stinkin' deep meanings. I mean, just read these lyrics. "You are my fire/The one desire" or "Girl, with a touch/You can do so much." Message loud and clear. There are no double-entendres or stabs at a moral. They're not needed here. (Heck. It's why my brother refers to "I Want It That Way" as the monkey song. Why? Because monkeys could write better lyrics!)
Step Two: Need major dance beats and numbers.
This is filled in by their hit "Larger Than Life," "The One" and "It's Gotta Be You." Standard, big and boisterous. These are designed to be sung by the entire group and danced to by a troupe of dancers around a stage. No bigger message than let's love one another. (For the record: the people onstage can dance. But the people in the audience - especially the larger and older chaperones - have no reason for getting up to get down. Stop scaring the children!!)
Step Three: Bring in the ballads!!
From the slow "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely" to "Don't Wanna Lose You Now," "Spanish Eyes" and "Back To Your Heart," it often seems as if a whole chunk of this album is nothing more than one big ballad that sings about losing/trying to get back/loving the girl. They even sing a song to their moms as "The Perfect Fan" closes the album. Syrupy sweet and meant so that every girl can remember the lyrics, they are somewhat forgettable and can often seem to blend into one another.
Now, let me step back and try to calm down the masses. Unlike No Strings Attached, Millennium is a group effort. Over there, the vocal talents often feel on either Justin Timberlake or JC Chavez, with the other three acting as the big guy from Boyz II Men - quiet, except during the chorus. Here, all five members (Nick, Bryan, Howie, Kevin and A.J.) share equal time and do the same duties. Whether it's something that is prearranged and planned or was the decision of one of the plethora of producers, I do not know. But at least this album sounds more like a group effort.
Nevertheless, Millennium never attempts to be more than it is. No chances are taken, no risks embraced. It starts and it ends and is ultimately disposable because it lacks originality. There's nothing here that we haven't heard before or heard it better. Though it sounds like cohesive, it is, at the end, flat.
Of all of these boy bands, the Backstreet Boys are often seen as the leaders -- because they broke through first. Yes, Millennium has been certified platinum worldwide and has received Billboard's Diamond Award. Millions have been sold and contine to sell. But coasters are also sold by the millions and no one cares about them. If the Boys actually want to live beyond the shelf-life everyone's tagged them with, they would do well to try to mature their sound and their music. "You are my fire/The one desire." I can come up with better lyrics than that.