1. “I Want You” by Savage Garden
It feels dirty, calling Savage Garden a boy band, but I’m pretty sure they forced my hand when they released “Truly Madly Deeply.” Unlike “Space Cowboy” and “Liquid Dreams,” “I Want You” has aged perfectly. Admittedly, I still don’t know what a “chic a cherry cola” is supposed to be, but just because it’s not in a dictionary doesn’t make it totally invalid — lest we forget mmmbop and zig-a-zig-ah.
2. “Back Here” by BB Mak
“Back Here” is freaking perfect. No one is overdoing it, there are guitars, the lyrics aren’t muddled in metaphor, the boys do that adorable-English-busker-a-capella thing at the end, I just… this is how you sing about a girl, O-Town.
3. “I Just Wanna Be With You” by ‘N Sync
“I Just Wanna Be With You” displays ‘N Sync’s serious R&B chops, which is what I think distinguished them from the Backstreet Boys and most other white-boy-bands of the late 90s (that, and Chris’s pineapple hairdo. I mean…). This song is seriously sexy and kind of makes you forget that there are other members of ‘N Sync besides JC and JT — so basically, it prepared us for life after 2002.
4. “When The Lights Go Out” by 5ive
“When The Lights Go Out” is hella cheesy, but if it doesn’t make you want to paint yourself in black-light paint and hit up cosmic bowling, you’re probably dead inside. Not that a bowling alley is the ideal place to ‘express the love and tenderness,’ but if you’re an exhibitionist or a 13-year-old, why not?
5. “Swear It Again” by Westlife
There is something so dorky and earnest about Westlife as a group that I actually believe they never want to see me cry, treat me bad, cause me pain, etc. They don’t do the ‘dance around in the forest’ thing or the ‘room full of candles’ thing like American boy bands, but they do manage to pull off a ballad without being condescending or threatening to the woman they’re singing about, so props for that.
6. “Faded” by Souldecision
“Faded” is a great song to grind to, but it also gives “Polite Dance Song” a run for its money. It’s sort of a crass song because Souldecision is basically saying, “do me,” but to be fair, they’re asking nicely. There’s no pretense involved. Souldecision just wants to take you home (again). And maybe get laid this time. Not that you’re a dicktease. I mean, kind of you are, but Souldecision is okay with that. They really like your moves, and the way you’re making them wait, and they’re not just saying that to get in your pants. A girl’s gotta appreciate that.
7. “Butterfly” by Crazytown
The girls who traded in their BSB tour t-shirts for pot and navel piercings needed to fill the void with an edgier, tattooed boy band, and Crazy Town was there for us — telling us to come come, calling us sexy, sexy pretty little things, complimenting our non-existent tongue jewelry. With sweet talkin’ like that, we were left with no choice but to make awkward butterfly gestures with our arms every time we hear “suga, baby.” Even a decade later.
8. “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” by the Backstreet Boys
I’m of the opinion that BSB is celebrated for some of their crappiest songs — “Everybody” and “I Want It That Way,” to name a few — while “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” sits lurking in the shadows waiting for recognition. Hearing this song 14 years later!!!, it seems pretty clear to me that it’s one of their best. The harmonies and ad-libs are stellar, not to mention that the lyrics actually make sense (looking at you, “I Want It That Way.”).
9. “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” by 98 Degrees
I don’t know if you recall the faux-Latin fad that took over pop music at turn of the millennium, but “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” was an indisputable product of it — and thank god! Most of 98 Degrees’ songs are pretty snooze-worthy, but they finally hit the nail on the head with this one. All they had to do was appropriate another culture to pull it off..!