Mar 15

BRITNEY SPEARS – “Oops!… I Did It Again”

Popular107 comments • 6,524 views

#858, 13th May 2000

britney oopsHow do you follow “…Baby One More Time”? Perhaps you can’t. Britney Spears’ second album splits the job, starting with two songs that plainly exist in “Baby”’s shadow. One is an overt sequel, “Stronger” – eager, catchy dance-pop that’s more upbeat than the first instalment: “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, Spears sings. Glad to hear it. The other is “Oops… I Did It Again”, which hit listeners initially as a straight-up clone of “…Baby One More Time”: the mid-paced, dancer-ready stomp, the melodrama, the end-of-song pile-on. And as that half-mocking title signalled, the song knew it.

The similarities weren’t enough to dismiss “Oops”, because if you copy a classic you might easily end up somewhere very good. Clone or not, “Oops” became one of Britney Spears’ signature tracks – a highlight of her tours and now her Vegas residency. But the resemblance meant that what “Oops” does differently – its startling gamble with its breakdown, its development of the singer’s persona, and the uses it starts to find for her voice – was overlooked.

But if Max Martin had somehow restrained from ripping himself off for Britney’s comeback, he’d have been the only one. “Oops” sounds a bit like “….Baby One More Time”. But by Spring 2000 half the charts sounded a bit like “…Baby One More Time”. British acts showed themselves especially keen students of Martin’s Cheiron studios and the new Swedish pop. It worked, too – several upcoming number ones come decked out with Cheiron-style crashing chords and floor-friendly melodrama, crowding out more authentically Max-factor productions from the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync. “Oops” was never likely to end the sound’s hot streak.

You need to look at a different Britney song to best understand how the Max Martin approach worked and how it could fail: “Satisfaction”, her Rolling Stones cover. Just as “…Baby” or “Oops” don’t, in fact, reveal more of themselves when covered by a dude with a guitar, so “Satisfaction” exposes the methods and limits of the sound by breaking a great pop record upon its wheel. The Cheiron style is built around an excess of emphasis – massive boldface syllables, power chords, and single steam-hammer beats all hitting in unison. Tightly choreographed formation dancing – freezing into shapes or throwing down on the heavy beats – completes the effect. “Satisfaction” shows what this can’t do – the Stones’ track doesn’t have the primary-coloured chords that Max-pop needs, and is front-loaded with Keith Richards’ riff, which Britney’s cover simply can’t find room for but – fatally – can’t replace either.

But listening to a misfire like “Satisfaction” leads to a better appreciation of Martin’s tricks and tics, too. In the great Cheiron numbers, the first half of a song uses the bombastic emphasis to crank up tension, which breaks near the end – often with a key change – to give the climaxes of their tracks their delirious potency, as every hook rains down at once like a videogame combo attack. Like glam rock, it’s an immediately recognisable, and not terribly subtle style, and like glam, it enjoyed a brief moment of unmatched pop dominance.

Digging into the Max Martin and Cheiron way of pop is important, because “Oops…I Did It Again” uses and plays with it so magnificently. For me, this is a peak of Britney and Max Martin’s early careers – just as good as its template, perhaps better. As a piece of classic pop songwriting, “Oops” is inferior – “…Baby” has that dynamite sixties melodrama going on, and it feels so complete and satisfying it’s irresistible. But “Oops” takes it as a model and vaults it, going beyond its aspirations to lay foundations for the rest of Britney’s career.

For a start, she actually sounds happy on it. Her singles had been a sequence of teenage agonies, with “Born To Make You Happy” pushing her melodrama to an unnerving limit. “Oops” goes in a completely different direction – now she’s the one in control while her luckless boy makes a fool of himself. “Oops” isn’t a word you say when you sincerely regret anything, and Britney clearly doesn’t. It means she gets to sing the song in a rather different way from earlier singles – breaking out a sarcastic snap that’ll end up as one of her most recognisable styles. She still flirts with melodrama – “To lose all my senses…” – but knowingly undercuts it, makes a joke of it – “that is just so typically me.”

This shifting vocal style finds an echo in the record’s production: this is the single that begins the journey to the cut-up, fractured vocal lines of Spears’ great mid-00s records. Take the sequence at the start of verse two: “You see my problem is this” – sly and crackly, confidential. “I’m dreaming away, looking for” – the callous nasal jab that’s her main “Oops” register. “Heroes that truly exist” – a multi-tracked swoon. The form of the song – Britney’s voice flitting between styles – mirrors the content – Britney as a girl gleefully trifling with her suitors. Max’s lyrics aren’t brilliant – when are they ever? – but Britney’s singing and his production are a potent combination.

As Diamanda Galas – a woman who knows a thing or two about the uses of the unnatural sounding voice – said with approval, “She doesn’t even sound human!”. Galas delightfully characterised Britney as a producer’s “sick dream”, a “radioactive worm”, and these unlikely compliments get to the implications of “Oops”. What “Oops” is doing with its vocals is picking up on the potential of Cher’s “Believe” – moving away from the idea that a pop single should pretend to be a recording of a single, replicable performance. On the instrumental side, this illusion had fallen away a long time before. In dance music, loops and cut-ups and stretching meant that vocal naturalism was strictly optional. But in pop, there was still an implied hierarchy. The lead vocal was more important than the backing, which was more important than the video, which was more important than anything else the star did.

“Oops…I Did It Again” doesn’t dissolve that hierarchy entirely. But it presents a strong challenge to it. Not just in the vocal – whose treatments are quite mild compared to later Britney Spears tracks – but in its most audacious trick, not writing a breakdown at all and instead churning to a halt, then cutting to video dialogue with a sudden “All Aboard!” As the “Oops” chords bubble softly around them, Britney and her doe-eyed suitor discuss the gift he’s brought her. Not just any gift: The Heart Of The Ocean, the necklace from the film Titanic. The dialogue makes this absolutely obvious to anyone who’s seen the film – which is most of Britney’s audience, you figure. And Britney’s response to this impossible gift of the most symbolically romantic object in the entirety of late-90s pop culture? A slightly exasperated, “Aw, you shouldn’t have.”

(Just to make it even more absurd and amazing, in the video, all this is happening on Mars.)

Britney doesn’t perform this section live – in a gig environment, “Oops” gets forced back into song-shape, which emphasises how much the section breaks that shape on record. It’s a deeply weird moment – not even a spoken word section a la the Shangri-Las, more like a skit stranded in the middle of a track. It’s simultaneously clumsy and swaggering – Britney casually hijacking the biggest film of all time – and it explicitly declares that “Oops”’ as a song is a soundtrack to its video. Which in the era of Total Request Live and its UK equivalents, was a fair acknowledgement of how fans would encounter it.

The spoken video breakdown isn’t a trick Britney, Max Martin or any of her other collaborators would revisit – it risks the momentum too much. But in this one case, it works. The dialogue is such a perfect capsule of the song’s theme, for one thing – look how far this guy will go, and look how awkwardly misguided that is. But also the interlude does the exact job a bridge would do and does it splendidly – pausing the song so it can return stronger. If the first half of “Oops” is a patchwork of new ideas and old, its climax is the Cheiron pop machine on booming form. Once again, the idea of the lead vocal as the core of the song is dropped – the back end of “Oops” is mostly carried by backing singers, with Britney contributing licks of vocal fry at its edge. It doesn’t matter – any more than it matters that, when the massed vox come in after the break,on a modified chorus, it’s the same payoff trick as on “Baby One More Time”. It’s still the most joyful trick around, and Britney and Max work it even better. The skipped beat on the title – “Oops I — DID it again to your heart!” is my single peak moment of this whole wave of pop. Even when I’ve listened to the rest of the song so much it can only sound harsh and draggy, that tiny, explosive pause pulls me back to loving it.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Max Martin and of Britney Spears. None of their later work together – before or after her breakdown and comeback – has the bright, self-aware confidence of “Oops”, a collaboration between a producer and singer both flush with early success and keen to consolidate their position at the very heart of pop culture. It would soon be time for Max to find other singers, and for Britney to decisively break from the “…Baby One More Time” model. But “Oops” was never meant to be that break – its new ideas and laugh-out-loud cheek are a freebie. Its only job was to be a triumph, and it is.



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  1. 76

    first bunnymention (i think), courtesy the swede formerly known as waldo

  2. 77
    Rory on 8 Mar 2015 #

    #75: Long before. I started following around 1975 Popular Time and commenting from 1983, and he was already watching over us like General Woundwort…

  3. 78
    swanstep on 9 Mar 2015 #

    @59-61, 63-65, etc.. I’m uncomfortable with equating good acoustic accompaniment with the virtuosic or near-virtuosic. There’s plenty of acoustic stuff from Cat Stevens to Jonathan Richman to Kristin Hersch that I suppose is pretty buskery but that works fantastically well. Or consider this from Thom Yorke; you can’t *get* any simpler and more open-stringed than that, and it’s a complete knock-out.

    I do think that in many cases the proper home for stripped back acoustic arrangement is live: there the tactile quality of the performance whether it’s virtuosic or rough-as-guts can come through in a way that it can’t elsewise. E.g. live Joanna Newsom is a world-beater whereas on record the very same tracks often fall flat.

    I agree that there are lots of shockingly unimaginative and uncommitted acoustic performances out there where the stripped-back-ness is a (lousy) kind of gimmick and has no meaning internal to the song and its playing – nothing particularly sensitive or raw was intended so it’s simply not clear what anyone thought they were doing. More generally, I agree that it’s rare for anything especially good to come out of stripping-back a very highly arranged, orchestrated and produced original, whereas songs that were conceived from the ground up in a minimal setting and where the intimacy of that setting is internal to the meaning of the song are often spectacular.

    On the thought that ‘The Song (without the production, arrangement etc) is the true, authentic thing’: there’s a lot right with that idea. We’d ordinarily say that the same song exists in its live instances as in its recorded instance, in any cover versions live and recorded (indefinitely many if it becomes a standard). That is, the song is robust across variations in performance and production and arrangement. And this notion of song as chords and melodies and words is in fact crucial when one’s writing and recording precisely because one wants the freedom to explore different arrangements, tempi, you name it. Committing too early to a specific instrumentation, tempo etc. is often fatal both because it can lead you to fool yourself about the strength of the underlying song (entirely parallel to film-makers these days spending months or years on more and more design and world-building rather than address objections 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. to their script) and because it can lock you in prematurely to some specific, e.g., performance, choice to the exclusion of other choices. I don’t think it’s at all ‘rockist’ to be concerned with the underlying song, rock’s generally been *very* performance-centric whereas Brill building and Motown and earlier song-book pop traditions really were song-centric.

    Anyhow, it’s fine if people dig particular performances or arrangements, and whole aspects of modern music from the riff to the groove to drone, in effect amount to shrinking song-craft – so the underlying song is close-to-trivial apart from the words (but sometimes the latter is trivialized as well) – to thereby give more of the spotlight to various kinds of performance (i.e., counting all of production as a kind of performance). At any rate, I think most people have quite catholic tastes and respond strongly to both performances and song-craft. We value our early Dylan and Elliott Smith but we wouldn’t want everything to sound like a minimally performed embodiment of just-the-song-facts-m’am, and happily we never have to choose.

  4. 79
    Phil on 9 Mar 2015 #

    My earlier comment was fairly extreme, so thanks for the pushback! I actually sing traditional folk songs, and in that context the song really is the words and the melody – it’s the same song whether you back it with an acoustic guitar, a kaossilator or (my preferred option) nothing at all. But then, *is* it the same song? There’s endless variation in words and melodies, both between different variants of the same song and between different performances. As for keys, chords and time signatures, as a folk singer the world’s your oyster. (The bare minimum for a Brill Building song includes a lot more than words and tune.) Traditional folk songs have no definitive version – the song only exists in multiple forms.

    But yes, for most songs – which have an author and a definitive version – there is a package of words, melody, key, time and chords, which is portable between different arrangements & instruments. What I was getting at was the idea – which I do think is rockist, or at least rock-and-roll-ist in the broader sense* – that stripping back an elaborate pop production to that basic package, and then playing it on a guitar, is an exciting thing to do and/or brings out something authentic about the song. Apart from anything else, it’s a bit imperialistic to declare that the songbook basics of words, music and chords *are* the core elements of a particular recorded song – as distinct from, say, words and music (folk) or time signature, BPM and bassline (dance). As we know, if you strip down Hey Ya! in this way (a track whose *real* core elements are a minor scale keyboard arpeggio and an interpolated bar of 2/4) the song you get is completely different – and much less enjoyable.

    *The sense in which Mott the Hoople could barely get through a song without mentioning ‘rock and roll’ (generally in laudatory terms).

  5. 80
    anto on 9 Mar 2015 #

    One of the best ever reviews on ‘Popular’ – the song itself I consider to be good but not great and Britney is one of the few vocalists who could sing that title phrase with such loopy conviction.
    I don’t feel the need to repent for preferring Billy Corgan to Max Martin as much other people seem to, I still do now even if I haven’t listened to any Pumpkins for a while. At the time when ‘Ooops!…’ came out I had reached a landmark age and, quite simply music no longer seemed like the centre of everything for me as maybe it had done 3 or 4 years earlier.

  6. 81
    swanstep on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Musicless OIDIA vid is somewhat amusing.

  7. 82
    Ed on 10 Mar 2015 #

    @66 etc: I always thought the African influence on Marr came through King Sunny Ade, whose Island debut Juju Music was released in 1982, just as the Smiths were getting going.

    Listen to this, for example, and you could easily believe it was Marr playing:


    With the Bhundu Boys, I always guessed it was a combination of parallel evolution and reverse engineering. The band came up with a Marr-like guitar sound quite separately – although possibly with some of the same influences? – and then marketers realised they could be sold to that segment of the UK indie audience who listened to The Smiths for the guitar playing.

  8. 83
    Ed on 10 Mar 2015 #

    I was right! Maybe…


    I remember the review of the Smiths’ Ask in the NME described the guitars as “gorgeous in that kinda folk, kinda highlife way…”

    But the writer may not have heard much highlife.

  9. 84
    DJBobHoskins on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Massive sigh. This is nothing much more than a re-hash of BOMT and gets a ’10′, yet ‘Belfast Child’ gets 1? Sorry. I love this site, but that’s off the scale of wrong.

  10. 85
    Tommy Mack on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Enimarthon @ 72, she was pretty crap in interviews iirc, as a performer, she’s an Elvis not a Dylan (although I don’t see why R4 listeners have a right to hear about her private life – reminds me of the story about Col Parker banning Elvis from giving interviews after he said ‘ you don’t buy a cow when you can get free milk’ when asked if he planned to marry.)

    The thing that really pissed me off about Britney came later, after 9-11. Probably more relevant for a later thread.

    FWIW, I never read this song as being about a cruel femme fatale, rather Britney being kind of bemused and slightly frightened by the power she suddenly had over men. The spoken word bit suggests I misread it though.

  11. 86
    Tom on 10 Mar 2015 #

    It’s not something I’d really thought about before, but the rise of my interest in pop in the 00s coincided with the decline of any interest I had in reading interviews. Not just because PR managed interviews are pretty deadly, but because I suddenly had access to so many other fans and listeners, and I found what they had to say far more entertaining than most of the artists. To this day I don’t actually follow any musicians on Twitter (except Wichita Lineman).

    The upside of this is that when artists like Britney say idiotic things occasionally – and they do, I’m well aware – I don’t really notice much.

  12. 87
    Tommy Mack on 11 Mar 2015 #

    That’s probably the best way! There are a couple of forthcoming bunnied performers whose social media presence has seriously tested my affection for their music. In one case pretty much to breaking point.

  13. 88
    Tim Byron on 16 Mar 2015 #

    Conversation about the role of ‘the song’ above (e.g., #78-79) is very interesting. For me, ‘the song’ isn’t intrinsically better or more important than ‘the performance’ or ‘the production’ – a great recording can be based around a fairly average song. But I do feel that the song matters in some ways that the performance/production cannot – namely, in the way that a song becomes part of people’s lives. We can sing a song to ourselves, but unless we’re musicians or producers, we can’t really perform or produce a song to ourselves. It’s the song that matters when it comes to picking something to do karaoke with, it’s the song that matters when it comes to having music stuck in our heads (or at least, it is for me – people differ in terms of how vivid their earworms are, but they seem to be largely based around vocal hooks).

    And I think that, generally, ‘the song’ isn’t something you need to be a specialist in to understand. You might need to have a knowledge of 1990s electronic music (or the Beatles in the mid-1960s) to really understand where the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Setting Sun’ is coming from, production/performance-wise, but you don’t really need to know much about anything to decide whether you like the melody and chords and lyrics.

    Which isn’t to say that ‘the song’ is all important. I mean, there’s stuff like, say, Dylan’s and Hendrix’s versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, where it’s clearly the performance and production of Hendrix’s version that makes the song work, which made it a hit at the time. It’s because of the way that ‘All Along The Watchtower’ sounds that it gets used to denote the Vietnam era, etc. But it is also true that Hendrix’s version works better than Dylan’s not only because of the sound, but because his version improves the stuff of the song – Hendrix’s version obviously adds a fair few guitar melodies, and he changes the basic rhythm of the vocal melody in a lot of places (etc).

    So anyway, I suspect that ‘the song’ tends to play an outsize role in how most people think about and use recordings from the past – hip new production styles often become passe, and a great performance loses its ability to surprise after you hear it a few times. But the song lingers on.

  14. 89
    Mark M on 16 Mar 2015 #

    Re88: ‘it’s the song that matters when it comes to having music stuck in our heads (or at least, it is for me – people differ in terms of how vivid their earworms are, but they seem to be largely based around vocal hooks).’

    Just off the top of my head, a few none-more-obvious moments to contradict that notion: the drum intro to Be My Baby, the sax riff on Baker St, the sax break on Careless Whisper, the keyboard riff on Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, the bassline from Walk On The Wild Side, the baseline from Good Times, the guitar solo to Hotel California… the way that when people sing Sweet Caroline they sing the horn (?) bit from the chorus (likewise God Save The Queen (national anthem one))…

  15. 90
    Adam on 23 Mar 2015 #

    Great essay. I agree that the skipped beat makes the song… any other examples of this in pop? Seems like a common trick but I can’t think think of any… there MUST be a Jackson song that does this.

  16. 91
    Izzy on 24 Mar 2015 #

    TLC’s Creep, at 0:33 – though there the dropped beat is in the accompaniment, rather than the vocal line.

  17. 92
    ciaran on 14 Apr 2015 #

    A good write-up one would have to say but I’m not as enthusiastic for OIDIA and I find the 10 a bit extreme. A ‘Vincent’ in reverse!

    BOMT was the A grade Britney, and whilst OIDIA is a decent effort I just find it a bit less exciting than a lot of her other hits. Maybe by this stage I was a bit worn down by the rampant US Teen pop boom but I don’t think that this would have had anything like the success of BOMT if it was chosen as her debut single.

    For all that though I reckon it merits a 7.

  18. 93
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I’m rather baffled by Tom’s 10 in this instance. For every other maximum he’s awarded, I find that the accompanying review has built logically and eloquently towards that magic mark – even where I don’t agree with said mark. Here, though, he’s describing a tune that – as he freely acknowledges – rehashes a formula already established. For my money, no matter how competently the trick is repeated, the act of doing so diminishes the lustre. All the other 10s that Tom has awarded have, quite rightly, been for songs that are utterly original, even unique.

    One other thing that struck me about this review is that the song’s narrative – Britney as a tantalising tease stringing a hapless chappie along – is apparently something to be applauded on its own terms or, at least, relative to the submissive Britney presented in some of her previous hits. Tom, would you be so approving if it was some cocky bloke singing about making a fool of some silly filly? You’ve expressed some unease about songs that depict unequal relationships in which the guy is gleefully exploiting the girl or where the female party is otherwise subservient – ‘Baby One More Time’ and ‘Born to Make You Happy’ being the obvious cases in point. I don’t see how reversing the usual roles renders ‘Oops’ somehow superior from any perspective.

  19. 94
    Andrew on 15 Apr 2015 #

    #93 at a hunch, because years of patriarchy and male entitlement being casually deployed and reinforced in pop songs just do make this type of lyric much less skeezy coming from a woman.

  20. 95
    Tom on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I expected this to be the most controversial 10 (well, so far) – I think “brilliant execution of a successful formula” is part of pop’s great jigsaw, so I’m comfortable with there being at least one 10 handed out for that.

    The other point is an interesting one. I think the difference in power, influence and expectations between men and women usually makes “What if it was gender-flipped arguments?” specious, because when you do flip the roles the whole tone of the song changes – witness “Love Won’t Wait”: the pressure Gary is exerting there becomes much more sinister coming from a dude. So if “Oops” was flipped – yes, it would be crueller. It would also be firmly in line with a long tradition in rock where a guy has to be free, move on, sow his oats, etc. – a callous, gender-flipped Oops would fit emotionally, if not musically, onto Aftermath. I like a lot of that kind of rock, but no, I probably wouldn’t give it a 10.

    On the other hand, things not being equal, when Britney does it, it has a different weight. I actually was very careful to avoid words like “tease” in the review, because I know that ‘teasing’, ‘leading on’ etc are ideas that get used to justify awful actions against women. (I’m not saying you are endorsing those, of course! Just I made a choice to shy away from particular language.) More broadly, my hypothesis is that when women misread emotions, they often blame themselves, but when men misread emotions, they often blame women. So yes, I quite like the fact that in “Oops”, Britney acts unapologetic for being a bit mean. I like that there’s a song which says that, you know what, it’s OK to be capricious sometimes – and I particularly like that it comes after songs that have legitimised much more self-negating reactions.

    This was all stuff I was consciously thinking when I wrote the review, and with hindsight should have found room for, but it was already a bajillion words long. So thanks for giving me the chance to articulate it a bit more.

  21. 96
    DanusJonus on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Being very new to the site, this review was the first new one posted when I was reading. I think the first thing I did was go through the old reviews to investigate what marks Tom had given everything, particularly very famous singles (alright, Beatles and Stones stuff mainly!) I was therefore shocked to see this get a ten, particularly as when the tune plays in my head I can splice it into Baby One More Time.

    However, when I then did some background research on the site around the marks, the idea of giving something a mark based on how Tom feels about it at that time seems to perfectly reflect that instantaneous magical cluster of ingredients that draws us all to music and certain songs from a young age. It has to be subjective really doesn’t it? There’s a debate on one of the reviews (Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer?) about somebody thinking in that instant that Dreamer was the best song ever written. I think Tom then mentioned that he’d had an idea once to record and detail every song he’d at one point thought this about. I like that concept and it rang true when for some reason I decided to put The Small Faces Itchycoo Park on the other day (it’s on the advert for the snooker World Championships). Hadn’t listened to it in ages, but in that 2 minutes 30 seconds I thought it was the best song ever written. Just the line and melody of ‘Over bridges of sighs’ gets me every time.

    Defining what you love about a song of course gives your view credence and I think this review goes a long way to justifying the ten mark. But sometimes, to perfectly express how music can make you feel just isn’t possible. Hell you sometimes can’t articulate it on a second listen to something. Years and years of loving music, learning instruments, chord patterns and all the reasoning why a song can have such an impact on someone still hasn’t helped me understand why sometimes a piece of music resonates with me. To be honest, I don’t think I want to know why half the time.

    So, just a few points from a newbie. Apologies if this debate has been had many times before. I’m trying to read through as many previous comments as I can, but well, it’s a daunting task.

    I’m off to put Itchycoo park on repeat again…

    One question though. Can someone please explain ‘The Bunny’ thing to me please!?

  22. 97
    Mark M on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Re96: Bunny is short for the ‘The Spoiler Bunny’, a mythical creature used as a reminder of Tom’s (understandable) rule that he doesn’t want discussion (or naming) in the comments of No1s yet to be reached by Popular. Extended by the zealous to also avoid naming acts whose first No1 has yet to be covered.
    See comments 68 & 76 on this thread.

  23. 98
    Mark M on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Re93 ‘For my money, no matter how competently the trick is repeated, the act of doing so diminishes the lustre.’

    Here’s my attempt, in the context of the Astaire-Rogers movie Top Hat, to argue the opposite.

  24. 99
    DanusJonus on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Thanks Mark, though I’m now hanging my head in shame after realising the explanation was in the sodding comments section of the review I was commenting in. Though possibly worth it to know that the bunny is also a mythical creature, though I must admit to now thinking the bunny to be the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

  25. 100
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    @98: that’s a fine article, and I agree with pretty much everything you say in it. However, while Top Hat may follow a similar formula to The Gay Divorcee, there are plenty of differences over the course of 80 minutes or so. Whereas the 4 or so minutes of Oops are extremely similar to the four or so minutes of Baby One More Time (which I love, btw). It’s a pretty blatant and, to my ears, cynical rewrite.

    I’ve no problem with musical acts repeating the formula up to a point (e.g. I love most of T. Rex’s stuff from ’70 to about ’73), but there’s invariably a detectable whiff about it – whether it’s of laziness, lack of ideas, cashing in, or just plain fear – that takes the material down a peg or two in my estimation.

  26. 101
    Tommy Mack on 15 Apr 2015 #

    #100 – what about All Day And All Of The Night? That’s a better song than You Really Got Me. Does it detract from it that it loses the shock of the new by virtue of being cut from the exact same cloth as its predecessor? For me probably not, mainly because the better song came second, suggesting that The Kinks felt they weren’t finished with the formula and could better YRGM (possibly Britney/Cheiron with OIDIA vs BOMT too. Dunno, I’ve not heard much early Britney for ages) whereas with T-Rex who you mention, I’d agree with Tom in his review that Telegram Sam doesn’t do anything that Get It On and Ride A White Swan didn’t do better before and with less fuss.

  27. 102
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    “I think the difference in power, influence and expectations between men and women usually makes “What if it was gender-flipped arguments?” specious….”

    The thing is, I’m not sure that this idea of a power imbalance – at least in the game of lurve, if you will – is all that valid. The idea that men generally have the upper hand in relationships, and that women need to give them a taste of their own medicine, is a well-worn feminist truism. But since the year dot, popular song has been chock-full of hopeful male suitors whose happiness depends on whether the lady in question deigns to accept their attentions. Womenfolk wield all the power in that evergreen scenario. The great popular songbook is equally full of spurned, thwarted or cheated lovers, both male and female – some resigned to heartache, others fighting back. For every helpless, lovelorn “Crazy” or “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”, there’s the defiant schadenfreude of a “Cry Me a River” or a “Who’s Sorry Now”. And for every “Under My Thumb” there’s a “These Boots Are Made for Walking”.

    And the songbook reflects the realities, as far as I can see. We don’t live in a world where men hold all the aces, and I’m not sure we ever did. Yes, of course there was a time when a woman had to find a husband (whose legal property she then became) as quickly as possible or else face being “left on the shelf”. There was also a time when women had little or no personal autonomy, no career prospects etc. But that’s a long-vanished world and certainly not the one Britney was speaking to 15 years ago. In any event, relationships between men and women have always been more complex than what might have been suggested by their relative places in the societal pecking order.

    So, in short, I don’t buy into the trope that it’s “refreshing” when a female narrator asserts control in a pop song or in any other narrative. To me, it’s just another reflection of the power struggles/imbalances that can apply in romantic relationships, and no better or worse for that.

  28. 103
    Izzy on 15 Apr 2015 #

    There’s also the fact that whatever one’s view of where a power balance may lie as a generality, that says nothing about a situation involving actual individuals.

    Which obviously doesn’t really matter to the fictional people in Britney’s tune. But one can easily imagine an ‘oh noes the poor white man’ response to the Craig David guitarist story that’s currently latest on the Fill Me In thread, yet that’s an actual guy and his career on the line there.

    For what it’s worth, I assumed the 10 here is marker’s remorse for scoring BOMT as a 9. Which I’m basically fine with – as others point out, recycling is and has always been a big part of pop, why should reviews be any different?

    Plus I’m pretty sure Atomic got its 10 for Heart of Glass, and I personally prefer Atomic.

  29. 104
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    @101 That’s a very good call on those Kinks songs. Yes, ADAAOTN is superior to YRGM – a 10 to the latter’s 9, in my book – and yes, it’s cut from the same cloth sonically and stylistically. But what ‘All Day’ does is take the template of its predecessor and strip it down to an even simpler, noisier and more brutally effective model. The riff is slightly more intricate (though still brilliantly Neanderthal), but the tune and the song structure are even more basic than before and owe less to American R&B. YRGM is a crunching, squalling, cranked-up approximation of that particular genre – but it’s still identifiable as such. The genius of ADAAOTN, however, is that it uses the YRGM ‘sound’ as a starting point and then bludgeons it into something entirely new (‘eavy metal, innit). It’s a totally different song to YRGM and, in its own way, utterly groundbreaking.

  30. 105
    Tom on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Atomic got its 10 totally for Atomic! Which you are quite right to prefer :)

    I think I said upthread that on another day, BOMT would have got a 10, and Oops a 9. There’s usually a mark or so’s variance either way: a lot of 9s might have got 10s if I’d felt like it*. Marker’s remorse is a nice way of putting it in this case, but as I said on Facebook when the review went up, my answer to “which song do I prefer?” is generally “whichever’s playing”

    *there are also tracks which I am a bit shocked I went as high as 9 for.

  31. 106
    flahr on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Didn’t someone in these parts define poptimism as the opinion that the best song of all time is the one playing on the radio at the moment?

  32. 107
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    #106 Not wanting to sound like a surly prick, doesn’t that describe a complete lack of discernment? The sort of OMG! Best Ever! overreaction as standard that permeates social media? Or the liberal sprinkling of four star reviews that’s devalued much of the music press’s critical faculties (this far more cynical, driven by ad revenue)

    I mean I love that you can change your favourite band/singer every week but in order for ‘love this’ to mean anything there has to be something you dislike or at least feel indifferent to.

    I think that’s part of the cause behind pop tribalism (good thing) and canonism (bad thing) – to narrow the dizzying array of choices for the pop consumer. Now you don’t have to spend money on music, the tribalism has faded though I’d say not disappeared and the lists have sprawled into the thousands.

    Actually, I was thinking about this. Is it possible to be too open minded about music or art in general? My instinct says No, since when I’ve had the narrowest taste in music is generally when I’ve had the worst taste but at the same time, if we like or at least appreciate everything, do we love anything? On a more pragmatic level, how much time should you allow for music about which you’re dubious vs repeat listening of favourites.


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