After the success of their first two albums, Backstreet Boys (1996) and Backstreet’s Back (1997), the band recorded their third studio album, during 1998 and 1999. When the members of the Backstreet Boys came to Stockholm in November 1998 for a two-week recording engagement, they were eventually presented the demo of “I Want It That Way”, which at the time only consisted of the main chorus. Upon leaving Sweden on November 16 for a November 17 Oprah taping (Dec. 3 airing), vocals for the song had been completed in two days.
Originally, “Larger Than Life” was intended to be the lead single, following the similar formula of their first two albums, having an upbeat lead single. However, after hearing the final version of “I Want It That Way”, the group wanted to move in a more mature direction, by utilizing a mid-tempo track as the lead single. Zomba Recording executives had to be convinced to approve of the song as the first single, due to them citing that the group could “alienate fans” with a mid-tempo song that had vague lyrical meaning. In the end, press information in the form of snippets was authorized for release to radio stations in March 1999, to precede the song’s release to radio in April.Wiki