Backstreet Boys admit 'I Want It That Way' lyrics make 'no sense'

Maybe they didn't want it that way, after all.
The Backstreet Boys appeared on "Watch What Happens Live" with Andy Cohen on Feb. 11.
The Backstreet Boys appeared on "Watch What Happens Live" with Andy Cohen on Feb. 11.Bravo

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By Madeline Merinuk

The Backstreet Boys revealed that even they don't understand the lyrics to their hit song "I Want It That Way."

The popular '90s boy band appeared on "Watch What Happens Live" Tuesday night with host Andy Cohen. During a segment of the show in which people call in with questions, one fan asked, "In your song ‘I Want It That Way,’ why do you sing ‘I never want to hear you say/ I want it that way’? What way do you not want it to be?"

The band members laughed, and Cohen agreed the fan had asked a "good question."

AJ McLean had an immediate response: "The song makes no sense."

He added: "There was a completely different version of the song that actually made sense, and thankfully we decided to go back to the one that didn't make sense. I don't think this song would've been as big as it was had it made sense."

It's not the first time the lyrics have been publicly questioned. Alternative newspaper LA Weekly published the article "What the hell is Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way' about?" in 2011. And in 2018, Chrissy Teigen wondered on Twitter: "He doesn’t wanna hear it because he is the one that wants it that way? He wants to be the one to say it? Also what is “it”?"

"Don’t wanna hear you say that you want heartaches and mistakes... or to be 2 worlds apart," the band's official Twitter account responded, adding to the confusion. "We don’t want you to want “it” that way - that’s the way we want it... for you to not want it that way."

The hit song, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on April 12, 2019, was nominated for song of the year and record of the year at the Grammy Awards in 2000. Popular from the beginning, the song has also managed to become a mainstay of our collective nostalgia, still played at weddings, school dances, parties and karaoke bars.

Wondering about the alternate version of the song? Its title is "No Goodbyes" (see the video below), and the lyrics are as follows:

"No goodbyes/ Ain't nothin' but a heartbreak/ No more lies/ Ain't nothin' but a mistake/ That is why I love it when I hear you say / I want it that way."

The Backstreet Boys kick off their upcoming tour, "DNA World Tour," on Feb. 20.