Backstreet Boys – ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’

Song: ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’
Artist: Backstreet Boys
US chart peak: 6
Release date: December 21, 1999
Writers: Max Martin, Herbie Crichlow
Producers: Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: It’s just an expertly created mega-ballad, isn’t it
Video synopsis: Sadness cubed, plus Howie looking lost in a coffee shop

The surprisingly parenthesis-free ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’ – the third single from the Backstreet Boys’ 450m selling ‘Millennium’ album – is a latin-tinged classic and I’ll fight anyone who thinks differently. I mean, I won’t, I’m incredibly weak, but I’ll have a heated debate with anyone who isn’t moved by its delicate verses, lilting pre-chorus and gloriously heavy-handed chorus. If your stone cold heart isn’t melted by the flamenco guitar breakdown bit or the sheer gusto with which Nick, AJ etc etc and so on belt out the lyrics like their lives depend on it then there’s nothing I can do to help you. Sorry.

Actually, speaking of the lyrics, ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’, is another Backstreet Boys classic in the sense that it constantly plays fast and lose with the English language. As we’re taken through a world of crimson suns and eyes of stone it’s never clear who’s done what to who, and whether they’ve been made to feel loneliness due to something they’ve done or if it’s been forced on them. Sometimes you think they’ve been kept apart by circumstance, and sometimes they’re trying to claw their way back into someone’s affections. The middle eight is properly dramatic though: “There’s nowhere to run / I have no place to go / Surrender my heart, body, and soul / How can it be / You’re asking me / To feel the things you never show?”. So good. AJ sounds particularly great on that last line too.

The song’s sadness is hammered home by the video, which is surely one of the darkest boyband creations. Dedicated to Max’s mentor Denniz PoP, who died of stomach cancer in August 1998, it also features an actor resembling PoP driving a bus down Denniz St. It opens with Brian Littrell watching himself recovering from surgery, just months after Littrell had undergone open heart surgery (!). The section with Kevin includes actual footage of him with his late father, while one character represents his sister who had died of Lupus a year earlier (!!). To balance that all out, Howie B just sits in a nice coffee shop waiting for his order.

‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’ was nominated for the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Grammy in 2001. It didn’t win. In fact, out of seven nominations, including four in 2000 alone, the Backstreet Boys won a grand total of ZERO Grammys. Well done everyone.

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