Lyric Analysis: Backstreet Boys and Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

Backstreet Boys Lyric Analysis
Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

I think the most important thing to tell you, right off the top, is that my roommate requested this song for lyric analysis.  Actually, she requested that I analyze Everybody or Backstreet’s Back, one of the two Backstreet Boys songs she likes.  But they are the same song, as it turns out, thus she only likes one Backstreet Boys song.  So just for her I’ll analyze them both.  And for the rest of you, just admit that this is also the one BSB song we can all agree on.  Aptly named because everybody likes this song.  (Yes, even NSync I'm sure.)

Everybody, yeah
Rock your body, yeah
Everybody, yeah
Rock your body right
Backstreet's back, alright

The first pressing question is “back from where?”  Where were the Backstreet Boys prior to this that required they make a dramatic reappearance in the form of song and dance and classic monster video stylings?  As it turns out, the Boys’ actual debut album was a self-titled one (Backstreet Boys) that released everywhere in 1996 except the US.  They followed that album up with one titled Backstreet’s Back (featuring this song) in 1997 which again released everywhere but the US.  They then made their US album debut with another self-titled album (Backstreet Boys) also in 1997 which contained a track listing comprised of songs from both the first Backstreet Boys album and the Backstreet’s Back album  and which did not include this song.  Then came a re-release of that same US Backstreet Boys album in 1998 which did feature this song.  So if you’re keeping track at home, that’s four albums in three years with essentially only two albums’ worth of tracks.  Where were they back from?  A labyrinthine plot to take over the world one re-release at a time, that’s where.  

Hey, yeah
Oh my God, we're back again

At first glance this looks like bad grammar.  “Back again” seems akin to a double negative.  Either you’re back or you’re here again.  Except in the convoluted Backstreet Boys album debut history, they came back and then, due to the re-release, technically did come back again.  So this is actually as grammatically accurate a statement as you’ll ever see from these Boys.  Bask in it.  Revel in the glory of it.  

Brothers, sisters, everybody sing  
Gonna bring the flavor, show you how

This is like a mixed metaphor for the senses.  They want everybody to sing and they’re going to bring the flavor and show you how.  That’s auditory, taste, and visual.  They are taking over your entire sensory palate in two lines.  That is ambition, friends. 

Gotta question for you better answer now, yeah

I won’t detail exactly how many times they drop sentence subjects and use slang contractions to construct thoughts but it’s a lot.  In real-life English this sentence would read “I have a question for you, you’d better answer now” but that’s in no way cool or lyrical by boyband standards so a virtual avalanche of ‘gottas’, ‘gonnas’ and ‘wannas’ awaits us.  Gird your loins, it’s gonna get bumpy, yeah.

Am I original?
Yeah

Well.... no.  Although there is some precedent to the argument that the Backstreet Boys are the best-selling boyband in history (over 130 million records sold worldwide), they are by no means the first.  In fact, a good number of popular boybands preceded their rise to world domination: The Monkees (formed in 1966), Boyz II Men (formed around 1989), Bay City Rollers (popular in the 1970s), The Osmonds (also in the 1970s), The Jackson 5 (1964), and of course New Kids on the Block (formed in 1984).  

Am I the only one?
Yeah

Nick, cherub, you’re not even the only one in your own band so this question is completely disingenuous.

Am I sexual?
Yeah

Also, Nick, you were approximately twelve years old when this was recorded.  It’s an awkward lyric for everyone and time doesn’t necessarily mend that.

Am I everything you need?
You better rock your body now

Rocking your body is a theme in this song.  In one way, the music could rock your body.  Rock out to the beat, you know.  Do the Backstreet dance.  In another way, your body could be rocked by one of the Boys in that “wink wink nudge nudge” kind of way.  Sexy parties for everyone!  And in yet another way you could be said to rock your body in the sense of owning with pride.  You go, girl!  Rock that body!  Music is interpretive so I will leave it up to you to decide which meaning applies here.  But I will also remind you that Nick was twelve at the time of this recording.  

Everybody
Yeah
Rock your body
Yeah
Everybody
Rock your body right
Backstreet's back, alright
Alright

More than anything else this song is an anthem.  It’s a declaration of arrival and intent.  They’re back, they’re ready, they’re here to rock you, and it’s alright.  Every boyband has a song (or several) like this.  NSync has No Strings Attached and Pop.  New Kids on the Block has Games.  This is that song.

Now throw your hands up in the air
Wave them around like you just don't care

If I had a dollar for every time this phrasing was used in a song I’d have the same amount of wealth but with like two whole dollars in my pocket.  I confess that every time I hear “throw your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you don’t care” I think of Alanis Morissette before she was the alt-rock Alanis Morissette we know and love; when she was a saucy little pop star with her hit song Too Hot.  Yes!  Google it.  It is GOLDEN.  However, it must be said that Too Hot came out in 1991 so I give this lyric round to the Boys.  Sorry Alanis.  

If you wanna party let me hear you yell
Cuz we got it goin' on again
Yeah

Does ‘yell’ rhyme with anything here?  

Am I original?
Yeah

The Oxford Dictionaries defines original as either an adjective meaning “present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest” or as a noun meaning “the earliest form of something, from which copies may be made”.  

Am I the only one?
Yeah

This is just another way to ask if he’s original which we’ve covered.  There are five Boys in the band so I can’t even figure out which one is asking if he’s the only one but the answer to any iteration of this question is no.

Am I sexual?
Yeah

This seems more like an AJ lyric, no?  

Am I everything you need?
You better rock your body now

Question: if he isn’t everything I need can I still rock my body?  Or does this only apply if I’m fully satisfied by the Boy of my choice in every way?  Also, if everybody is meant to rock their body(ies), how can only five Boys expect to be everything everybody needs?  

Everybody
Yeah
Rock your body
Yeah
Everybody
Rock your body right
Backstreet's back, alright
Alright

Alright alright alright!  Matthew McConaughey is definitely down with this song.

So everybody, everywhere
Don't be afraid, don't have no fear

I covered this in my Boyband Grammar post but basically “don’t have no fear” is a double negative.  The ‘no’ counteracts the negative implied by the ‘don’t’ so what you essentially get is a plea to have fear.  Which means the whole statement is a contradiction.  Don’t be afraid but have fear.  They’re seducing you with confusion!

I'm gonna tell the world, make you understand

The Boys understand the need for a global awareness to heighten personal understanding.  They’ve got your back.  

As long as there'll be music, we'll be comin' back again

As long as there will be music, we will be coming back again.  Clunky.  As long as there is music, we’ll be coming back.  Again.  *sigh*

Everybody, yeah
Rock your body, yeah
Everybody
Rock your body right (rock your body right)
Backstreet's back
Everybody (everybody)
Yeah (rock your body)
Rock your body (everybody)
Yeah (everybody rock your body)
Everybody (everybody, rock your body)
Rock your body right (everybody)
Backstreet's back, alright

And we end on either an extended use of echo or a sort of a round.  Remember rounds?  It’s where everybody sings the same thing but starting at different times so the overall effect is one of delightful overlapping cacophony.  As long as you rock your body, nobody much cares what you’re singing.  

 

- Corinne Simpson