It’s been 20 years and we still don’t know what the lyrics to ‘I Want It That Way’ mean

Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 13, 2019

(CNN) — The Backstreet Boys have been ‘wanting it that way’ for two decades now.

The iconic hit song “I Want It That Way” was released 20 years ago Friday, and it’s still unclear what exactly Nick, Howie, AJ, Brian and Kevin wanted and what way they wanted it.

The boy band revisited the age-old question in a video on Twitter, posing several theories as to what “it” could be.

Let’s go through them, shall we?

Theory 1: Burger King

Remember that time when you could get a Backstreet Boys CD with your Burger King value meal? Or how you’d buy a kids’ meal just to get one of these action figures?

Yeah, 2000 was weird.

So let’s look at the facts.

Burger King did go by the slogan “Have It Your Way” until 2014, meaning the boys would indeed have gotten it “that way” — whatever “that” is.

But the song came out a year before their partnership with the burger chain, so we’re betting that’s not it.

Theory 2: The fans

Yes, fans still go wild for the Backstreet Boys, if the nostalgia for the 20th anniversary of “I Want It That Way” is any indication. And it’s possible that the boys appreciated their fans so much that they dedicated the first verse of their song to them, calling them “my fire” and “the one desire.”

But you don’t have to look past the chorus before this one falls apart too. Why would they say their fans “ain’t nothing but a heartache” or “ain’t nothing but a mistake?”

Theory 3: The song itself

The song was reportedly recorded with different lyrics at first, so it’s possible that the boys liked the original lyrics better.

Andreas Carlsson, a Swedish hitmaker who wrote the lyrics along with Max Martin, talked to music website HitQuarters about the ordeal back in 2009:

“‘I Want It That Way’ was a play with words,” he said. “When Max came up with the original idea for the song, it already had the line ‘You are my fire, the one desire.’ We tried a million different variations on the second verse, and finally we had to go back to what was sounding so great, ‘You are my fire, the one desire.’ And then we changed it to ‘Am I your fire, your one desire,’ which made absolutely no sense in combination with the chorus — but everybody loved it!”

So maybe there was never meant to be an answer?

Backstreet Boys try to explain themselves

Still, Chrissy Teigen nobly went in search of the truth last year.

“‘I never wanna hear you say, “I want it that way” cause i want it that way’. 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’?” the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model asked on Twitter.

The Backstreet Boys responded in their typically elusive fashion.

“Don’t wanna hear you say that you want heartaches and mistakes… or to be 2 worlds apart. 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.” they replied.

Wait, what?

The world may never know.