In 1999, when boy band legends Backstreet Boys were at their all-time high, they released their cult song “I Want It That Way.” It was a melodic love song that dominated US airwaves all year, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but topped the chart in Canada, according to Billboard. According to band members AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell, their success in Canada was due to their special connection to Canada and Canadian music fans. “Canada holds a very special place for us because it was a huge benefit to infiltrate the Backstreet Boys into the US,” McLean told the Huffington Post in 2015.
In 1998, during an appearance on MuchMusic’s Intimate & Interactive show, Richardson revealed that Canadians were the first in North America to discover the band after their 1995 single “We Got It Going On” made waves in Europe. “It got here and it’s been going great ever since, so the Canadian fans are definitely very special to us. We will not forget them.”
It turns out that one young Canadian fan didn’t forget BSB as he grew up and became a mega-superstar either: rapper and actor Drake. The former ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ star was 13 when ‘I Want It That Way’ topped the charts in Canada, so the ‘One Dance’ rapper had a moment in Toronto recently that made things come full circle closed when he got the chance to share the stage with BSB for a special song.
Drake sang “I Want It That Way” on stage with BSB in Toronto
On July 2nd, during their Toronto tour stop, the Backstreet Boys invited a very special guest onstage to join them in a rendition of “I Want It That Way,” according to Rolling Stone, and it was none other than Toronto’s own , drake. Drake is used to getting fans talking, but how did this epic collaboration come about? AJ McLean told Variety that the last-minute addition was pure luck, when Drake spotted her at his favorite Italian eatery over dinner in Toronto, approached his table, and they started exchanging ideas. “[He] asked if he could perform with us,” McLean told the outlet. “Then that led to him just announcing the song, but we told him to stay on stage.”
In the video of the performance, we see Drake singing along with all the key verses and choruses of the song, and at one point boy bander Howie Dorough sang a few verses of Drake’s 2013 hit “Hold On We’re Going Home.” The Toronto crowd went berserk at Drake’s performance and screamed as he delivered the last line of the song with passion. All six on stage then threw their arms around each other for a group hug. The “God’s Plan” rapper later posted a picture of himself with the boy band on his IG Stories with the caption, “I Really Made It,” per the Los Angeles Times. As a great band once sang, how this “love affects our reality!”
Drake’s love for “I Want It That Way” goes back years
It turns out that Drake’s love for the Backstreet Boys, and in particular the 1999 song “I Want It That Way,” runs much deeper than anyone could have imagined. While taking the stage with the boy band during their Toronto stop, Drake spoke about how the song shook him to the core at just 13 years old. “At my bar mitzvah,” he began, per The Algemeiner, “for the first time in my life, this girl I was in love with came up to me while one of the greatest songs in the world was being played… and she asked me.” if I would dance with her. It was the first time I felt recognized. It was the first time I felt like I was cool.”
“If she could see me now,” he cried. “Like I said, this is one of the greatest songs in music history!” He ended up posting footage of his performance with the boy band on his hallowed Instagram page with the tongue-in-cheek caption, “When she says she’s over men in this generation and asks why I live alone…” BSB singer Nick Carter in return, thanked Drake (aka “KING of Canada”) for “making tonight one for the books” on his official IG. While their collaboration may have been short-lived, AJ McLean has suggested to Variety that there could be more collaborations in the future. “Who knows if we might do something with Drake for our 30th anniversary.”