Lyric Analysis: Backstreet Boys and 'As Long As You Love Me'

As Long As You Love Me 

Backstreet Boys 

There are deep and delicious secrets lurking in this song, I can feel it.  Like the caramel inside a Caramilk bar.  How does it get there?  What does it mean?  We're going down the rabbithole together to get to the creamy centre of this song.  (Get your minds out of the gutter.)

Experiment: Is it possible to analyze Backstreet Boys lyrics while listening to Marilyn Manson?

As long as you love me

Experiment concluded: No.

Although loneliness has always been a friend of mine
I'm leavin' my life in your hands

Right away I’m questioning things.  Are these two things related?  Loneliness being friendly and leaving life in somebody else’s hands?  If you’re that cozy with loneliness how is there anybody else around to leave your life with?  I feel like this is so layered already and because it’s the opener I’m not properly prepped for the depth.  Hopefully further exploration will shed some light on things.

People say I'm crazy and that I am blind
Risking it all in a glance

Blind: (adj) unable to see; sightless.  Also: (adv) without being able to see clearly.
So faced with the accusation of being crazy and blind, caution is being thrown to the wind and their sight will be risked in a single glance.  Presumably at a solar eclipse.  Because everyone knows staring straight at a solar eclipse will destroy your eyesight.  See also: sitting too close to the television and masturbation.  Perhaps they’re so crazy that they’re going to risk their sight by masturbating?  We need clarification.  

And how you got me blind is still a mystery

But we aren’t going to get any.

I can't get you out of my head
Don't care what is written in your history
As long as you're here with me

This is very Twilight-esque though Backstreet notably pre-dates Twilight.  But look at the evidence.  Bella can’t get Edward out of her head.  She doesn’t care what’s written in his history.  All one hundred sparkly brooding years of it.  As long as he’s with her.  Which he is.  All night, every night, standing in the corner of her room watching her sleep.  But Backstreet couldn’t possibly have foreseen this horrible future so we must assume they mean this literally, as a sort of romantic compliment describing the depth of their love.  Two things immediately become evident when faced with these facts.  1. Stephenie Meyer is a Backstreet Boys fan.  2. Edward Cullen never made it past puberty.

I don't care who you are
Where you're from
What you did
As long as you love me

But maybe you should care.  About one or all of those rather important things.

Who you are
Where you're from
Don't care what you did
As long as you love me

They don’t care who you are.  Be you man, woman, dead, alive, assassin, drifter, invertebrate.  They don’t care where you’re from.  Chicago.  Spuzzum.  Tuktoyaktuk.  The North Pole.  An abyssal plain.  Mars.  They don’t even care what you did.  That leaves things wide open.  Wide open.  Literally anything goes.  They don’t care.  They don’t give a good goddamn as long as you love them.  Collectively or, presumably, individually.

Every little thing that you have said and done
Feels like it's deep within me

This speaks to how words can cut like a knife.  Cliché comes from a place of honesty.  The words you say can resonate deep inside a person, settling into the very fabric of who they are.  Backstreet knows this intimately.  They’ve been dealt the raw hand of savage truth before.  

Doesn't really matter if you're on the run
It seems like we're meant to be

On the one hand it’s nice that trouble with the law isn’t a dealbreaker for them.  The A-Team could find love with the Backstreet Boys, apparently.  It’s meant to be.  But on the other hand I feel as though rhyming with ‘done’ didn’t have to immediately turn to ‘on the run’.  It could have gone any number of less distressing directions: ‘near the sun’, ‘thirty-one’, ‘lots of fun’, etc.  

I don't care who you are (who you are)
Where you're from (where you're from)
What you did
As long as you love me (I don't know)

Let’s leave the reference to the myth of Narcissus and Echo out of discussion because it’s too obvious.  Backstreet, be more subtle!  Instead, can we talk about that last line?  ‘I don’t know’.  Wow.  They’re saying they don’t care about anything except love but there’s a modicum of doubt underlying the ardent professions of devotion.  It recalls John Patrick Shanley’s play ‘Doubt: A Parable’ wherein the strongest convictions are shaken when absolutes are demanded.  None can say anything for certain, not without the shadow of doubt darkening their hearts.  Not even Backstreet.

Who you are (who you are)
Where you're from (where you're from)
Don't care what you did
As long as you love me (yeah)

Though they’ve apparently managed to shrug it off here.

I've tried to hide it so that no one knows
But I guess it shows
When you look into my eyes
What you did and where you're comin from
I don't care, as long as you love me, baby

They’re trying to hide the fact that they care what you did.  They profess that they don’t care but their eyes betray them.  They do care, they just don’t want you to know that they do.  They want you to believe that they remain uncaring about your entire history because love is enough.  But love isn’t enough and it might show so they’re hiding it and pretending that the secret they’re hiding is that they don’t care.  It’s so damn deep I feel stoned.

I don't care who you are (who you are)
Where you're from (where you're from)
What you did
As long as you love me (as long as you love me)

We covered repetition in the NSync analysis but to recap, there are ten distinct types of repetition.  In this instance they are employing a sort of elongated (bastardized) combination of diacope and epistrophe.  It also exemplifies the symmetry inherent in musical composition.  And echo is an effective use of chorus which, here we go again, hearkens back to the Greek.  It could be said four of the five are playing the part of theatrical chorus here.  

Who you are (who you are)
Where you're from (where you're from)
Don't care what you did (yeah)
As long as you love me (as long as you love me)

But since we’re still on the subject of all the things they don’t give a hoot about, let’s unpack that a bit more.  They don’t care who you are.  Even if you’re a deaf-mute psychopathic serial murderer who couldn’t hear this song nor sing along in emotional reciprocation and who would really only be interested in the acquisition of severed limbs or skin lampshades.  They don’t care where you’re from.  Even if you’re from whatever that desert pit prison that birthed Bane was called or the sewer where Pennywise the Clown liked to lurk.  Because, following through, they wouldn’t actually care if you were Bane or Pennywise, see?  They don’t care what you did, either.  Alien overlord with a penchant for anal probes and cattle mutilation?  Fine.  But it also speaks to more intimate things.  They don’t actually care if you have an STI, either.  And if there’s one thing I do care about, it’s murderous clowns with herpes.  I guess I’m just not as egalitarian as the Backstreet Boys when push comes to shove.  I need more than just your declaration of love after all.  I need some kind of basic background check and assurances that you don’t have bodies in your deep freeze.

Who you are (who you are)
Where you're from
What you did
As long as you love me
Who you are (who you are)
Where you're from (where you're from)
As long as you love me

Methinks thou dost protest too much.  

Who you are
As long as you love me
What you did (I don't care)
As long as you love me

That’s not romantic, silly.  That’s just idiocy disguised in poorly written alternate rhyme scheme.

 

- Corinne Simpson