A guest blog written by Claire Biddles. You can agree/disagree with her here.
Song: ‘Until The Time Is Through’
US chart peak: 53
Release date: November 30, 2000
Writers: Max Martin, Andreas Carlsson
Producers: Max Martin, Kristian Lundin
Quintessential Max moment: The middle eight, followed by the uncontainable wail of “BABY NOW! UNTIL TIME! IS THROUGH!” over the end chorus
Video synopsis: The lads from Five mope mournfully/show blatant disregard for fire regulations at lavish house party
My favourite boyband ballads are always the sort of second rate ones: usually British approximations of American boyband ballads from 6 months before that have less perfect harmonies and more pathos. ‘Caught in the Middle’ by A1 instead of ‘This I Promise You’ by N’SYNC. A bit rubbish but well-meaning. Like real boys, not shiny American ones on the telly.
Max Martin was fresh from writing and producing the first two Backstreet Boys records when he worked on British boyband Five’s debut album, released in December 1997. The four songs he wrote and produced can all potentially be read as versions of Backstreet Boys songs: singles ‘Slam Dunk (Da Funk)’ and ‘It’s The Things You Do’ both reach for a jock-y swagger more common in American boybands than drippy mid-90s British and Irish groups like Boyzone or 911. Through this lens, ‘Until The Time Is Through’ could be read as a sadder ‘As Long As You Love Me’; retaining some of the Backstreet Boys’ slinky charm on the surface, but with a doubtful introspection at its centre. Backstreet Boys were always going to get the girl, but Five weren’t too sure. Maybe it’s this hesitant Britishness that prevented it from succeeding in the US.
‘Until The Time Is Through’ was the last single released from the debut, and the closest to other boyband singles of the time with its traditional ballad structure and production. It’s not trying to be singular like earlier singles such as ‘Slam Dunk (Da Funk)’, and it relies less on the collective personality of the group – it’s stripped of Five’s particular tough-boy posture, almost like they’ve run out of artifice and are falling back on the default (authentic?) boyband model: the crooning rejected lover and his harmonising mates.
Despite this, it’s not boring or insincere. Like all the best boyband ballads, and the best Max Martin productions, ‘Until The Time Is Through’ builds up to the classic high-emotion sequence of absolutely devastating middle eight/plaintive guitar break/ overwrought, clawing-at-the-walls, screaming-into-the-path-of-your-recently-departed-lover end chorus. This could be too much in lesser hands, but there’s an earnestness to it that makes the emotion real. The rest of the album is corny because of its dudebro/loverman posturing (eg convincing-a-lady-to-shag anthem ‘When The Lights Go Out’), but ‘Until The Time Is Through’ teeters on embarrassment because it’s pure, wide-eyed and deadly serious. The all-or-nothing talk of “now and FOREVER” and “my COLD REALITY” is almost gothic in its intensity – no wonder it appealed to me as pre-teen romantic. Even the syntactically-awkward title could be the heading of a chapter in a Victorian novel.
The video is gently gothic too. We didn’t have music channels when I was a romantic pre-teen, so my first viewing of it was on a Five video that my mum had bought me for Christmas. Continuing the classic 90s run of videos set in mansions – ‘Babe’ by Take That! – it features the boys from Five at a flash get-together in a massive house. Look at lovely Richie gazing mournfully out of the window – he’s at a party but he feels sad! He’s lonely in a crowd! I related even when I was 11. I remember all I wanted was to go to a glamorous party in a mansion, mope around and have a boy (preferably Abs in the red shirt he wears in the video) tell me he’d wait literally UNTIL THE END OF TIME for me to decide if I wanted to go out with him. That’s kind of still all I want (except maybe not Abs; I’ve seen The Big Reunion and he’s a bit weird these days).
If you’d like to write a guest blog on a Max Martin song that didn’t make the US Top 10 then there’s information on how to do that right here.