Amid the day’s quickening flood of stories about Donald Trump inappropriately touching things, all flowing ceaselessly into the soggy, fetid delta of his campaign, the news that he’s also grabbed yet another artist’s song without consent barely registers as an offense. Still, here’s another for that sloppy salmon-colored mound, and the long list of offenses it’s generated: The Backstreet Boys would like him to stop using “I Want It That Way” at his rallies, which is something he’s recently started doing. Multiple times per event, in fact. Apparently, Donald Trump has found something he can relate to in its narrator’s petulant demands for what he thinks he deserves, ignoring any protest as something he “never want[s] to hear you say.” Trump wants it that way. The Backstreet Boys do not.
“[The Backstreet Boys] did not approve this and we are not associated with the Trump camp,” said Steven Trachtenbroit, a publicist for the ’90s boy band, in an email to The Daily Beast. It’s a statement we’ve heard time and again from the many other artists Trump has reportedly personally added to his campaign’s playlist, forcing himself upon these musicians like they were some kind of woman trying to go about her life. And as we’ve repeatedly discussed, there’s not much that Queen, The Rolling Stones, Adele, R.E.M., Neil Young, et al can do about it, besides pull themselves away in disgust and hope that Trump develops a sense of shame—or that this election season finally, mercifully shudders to an end. Whichever arrives first.
In the meantime, “I Want It That Way” joins the long list of songs whose lyrics are either a subliminal nod to Trump’s sly self-awareness (“Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache …/ Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake”), or to the fact that Trump only ever hears exactly what he wants to. Perhaps Trump hit upon the line, “Believe when I say” and thought to himself, “I say ‘believe’ all the time! This song is about me. A tremendous, tremendous song that I wrote, actually. If only Backstreet Boys could vote in this country, I’d win in a landslide, folks. Believe me.” Perhaps he feels a kinship to the Backstreet Boys’ late svengali Lou Pearlman, who also had a fondness for bilking investors, breath mints, and groping. Or maybe he’s just an entitled asshole.
Still, Trump’s right about one thing: There’s no better theme for this shit than a pained, pleading refrain of “Tell me why.”