Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time

First Hit #1: January 30, 1999

I’ve always been slightly concerned about Britney Spears. It’s easy to say that today, after she has had some very public problems, but even back in the day I was kind of uncomfortable with her and her image. Take the song …Baby One More Time and the promotion behind it. It’s a pretty typical bit of slick pop, it is catchy enough, plus there’s the distinct “baby baby” that opens the song and kind of defines the rest of it. But then, one of the main lyrics is “Hit me baby one more time.” It’s a bit of slang, and hit it as a sex term was definitely around at that time, and popular enough to be hilariously misused by McDonalds, who accidentally implied a man wanted to have sex with a double cheeseburger. But whether slang or not, it’s a weird and kind of unpleasant part of the otherwise slick production – this is a song about desperately wanting to get back with a lover, and it doesn’t really sound like a healthy relationship going by the rest of the song. It’s desperation, tip to tail, and that’s unpleasant outside of the cheery pop that makes the background.

Also, as a song about a woman who just wants to have more sex with an ex, why is she made up so young? Pigtails, school girl uniform, school themed video. I mean, I was young at the time myself, and it just felt kind of gross to mix sex and an image that was almost extreme youth. There was something that was subtly unsettling about Spears’ persona, as she was pushed to be a Lolita-esque figure. I’ve never been able to really get comfortable with her early hits because of that.

However, for most of the people, the potentially gross underbelly didn’t matter when the surface gloss was so slick and catchy. Thus, …Baby One More Time was a hit, whether or not I had, or continue to have, some misgivings about the way the song was written and sold.

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2 Responses to Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time

  1. RBerman says:

    The end of 1998 marked a turning point in pop music. One reason for the triumph of R&B at #1 during the 90s was that rock albums had stopped releasing singles for sale, and Billboard rules prohibited songs from charting on the Hot 100 unless they were available for sale as singles. That changed in December 1998, so we should be seeing more pop and rock at #1 in the future, starting with Ms. Spears.

    Legend has it that tying up her shirt was her idea during the filming of the video. I believe it; she’s always been clear that she wanted to be Madonna, which as you say is an unsettling ambition for a teen girl. The music is quite trebly, with a lack of low end that would characterize pop hits of the next few years. Isn’t this the first Max Martin composition we’ve seen at the top? He and “Dr. Luke” would be the go-to hit-writers for everyone from Pink to Avril Lavigne to the boy bands for years to come.

    Seems like a good time to lament a few great pop hits of 1998 that didn’t make #1. First on the list has got to be one hit wonder The New Radicals with “You Get What You Give,” about as perfect a pop song as was ever constructed. Goo Goo Dolls did well with “Iris,” which rips off the song structure of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Country Pop made a comeback with Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” among others. Madonna’s “Ray of Light” was her last great track in my book. Train’s “Meet Virginia” was the start of a surprising career which even more surprisingly is still going strong today. U2 pulled out a hit with a lost Joshua Tree B-side, the Smokey Robinson-sounding “Sweetest Thing.”

  2. Pingback: *NSYNC – It’s Gonna Be Me | We Are Number Ones

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