Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Millennium"

Friday, February 21, 2014
Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Millennium"

That's right, the Backstreet Boys album.

I had to own it, I needed to hear "I Want It That Way." After all, it was cowritten by the world's number one hitmaker, MAX MARTIN!


Just like Mutt Lange was the eighties' secret sauce, Max Martin has filled that role for the past fifteen years, ever since the advent of...Britney Spears.

That's right, I bought her debut too, I had to hear Max's composition "...Baby One More Time."

Oh, baby baby. Britney Spears owes her whole career to Max Martin and this one track. The one wherein girl becomes woman, wherein she radiates a sexuality she does not possess but a middle-aged Swedish man can supply.

My loneliness is killing me...hit me baby one more time!

That's the power of a hit record. In this pre-Napster era, that's why Tommy Mottola made $28 million in one year and Clive Calder had the biggest victory in the history of the music business. It's about tracks that are so infectious, so necessary that you drove to the store on a mission to satiate your jones.

It's easy to dismiss what's popular, it's easy to pooh-pooh that which appeals to the teens, especially to the prepubescent set. But one listen to "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" convinced me that Backstreet Boys were no New Kids On The Block. This was memorable music. I lived to hear it on the radio. And then when I heard "I Want It That Way," I took the plunge.

"You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way"

It's like he's serenading her on the beach. With just the flamenco guitar. But then the track builds and builds.

"Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way"

Perfection. A mood is captured.

But it was the opening cut that riveted me, that closed me.

Yes, the best rock record of the year could have been...


It hearkens back to Swedish superstars Roxette. But there's an underlying soul and power that evidences the millennium, when Generation Y came to power, eclipsing their parents, the baby boomers.

This is not the way it's supposed to be. We're supposed to be able to write off the mainstream.

But rock had lost its way.

Metal became so fast and unlistenable except to devotees.

There was a hole in the mainstream, and Max Martin filled it.

Backstreet Boys are lost without him. Anybody can sing, but not anybody can write and produce.

And Dr. Luke gets all the ink, but the secret weapon and still champion is his sometimes partner, the Swede known as Max Martin.

He's a modern day Todd Rundgren, seemingly able to write hits at will. But unlike Todd, Max has not rejected the adulation and riches. Then again, to this day most people have no idea who Max is.

You wonder who they're going to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sixty years on?