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Sep 14

BRITNEY SPEARS – “…Baby One More Time”

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#817, 21st February 1999

bomt How was I supposed to know that something wasn’t right?

It was a gilded age: the commercial zenith of the music industry at the end of the 20th century. In America, its apex as a money-making force came in 1999 when – adjusted for inflation – $71 per head was spent on music, a small box set for every man, woman and child in the country. Other countries hit the summit a little later, but they hit it. Did the industry see a crisis coming? Certainly – the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in the USA weeks after “….Baby One More Time” was released. But the biz was surely overconfident, it had seen its way through busts before. In 1981, when Britney Jean Spears was born, the industry was financially stagnant, caught in a recession-hit decline after the unsustained mini-boom of disco. It climbed back thanks to technology, and kept climbing. CD revenues rose and rose, and the machine to ensure they would not stop rising grew slicker and faster: radio, TV, promoters, manufacturers, labels, press and retailers meshing ever more efficiently in the pursuit of getting people to take home silver discs. And here we are at the top of the growth charts: peak pop.

The idea that pop had become mechanised soon became a weapon against the industry, a justification for forcibly free music. The list of those grew very familiar in the early 00s: rising CD prices, the mistreatment of artists by rapacious labels, convenient info-utopian philosophy – these reasons were regularly joined by “manufactured pop”. If the product was worthless and generic, why not just take it? And if you were to ask these pirate revolutionaries, who makes manufactured pop? Name me an act – I suspect Britney Spears would have been quick to their lips. Every ancien regime needs its Marie Antoinette.

So it’s time to dig into what “manufactured” means. Because, unquestionably, Britney was trained and raised as an entertainer from a very young age – even if the decision to make her a solo pop star was taken relatively late. And the pop world she emerged into was massive and complex and finely geared, not quite as businesslike as a Unilever or a Glaxo SmithKline, particularly at the edges, but aspiring in that direction. “Machine” doesn’t seem an awful description of it.

At the same time “manufactured” has an inevitably disdainful edge never really felt by other labels in other times who applied production-line principles to their music: Motown, most obviously, whose industrialisation of soul was generally described with purring approval for Berry Gordy’s Fordist vision of pop. And why not? The music was brilliant. Something else is happening when Britney and her peers are called manufactured. The implication is not just that the songs or playing are kit-built, but that the performers themselves are interchangeable, barely more than automatons. If millennial pop is a machine, then – according to this idea – Britney is not the owner or the operator, merely the product.

Do we need a different metaphor? Does Britney deserve one?

One hint towards an answer comes from listening to “…Baby One More Time”. Because, fifteen years on, two things jump out at me. One is, yes, how steely and immediate and effective this is compared to the (often very charming) bubblegum of Billie, B*Witched et al. “…Baby One More Time” is a ruthlessly lean, superbly constructed pop song: a track with awesome momentum earned by impressive economy, where every note or idea leads to a payoff, and each payoff sets up the next one. It’s a song with a fantastic ending – that final touchdown of “hit me baby one more time!” – but that ending is earned by the bit before where Britney drops the “I must confess / that my loneliness…” bridge, which in turn draws power from being a sneaky inversion of the rest of the song (where it’s the belief she’s confessing, not the loneliness), and so on all the way back to the iconic intro, a four-note knock on fame’s door given in full confidence it will be answered.

But the second thing that jumps out at me is that, for all the clockwork marvels of the construction – something she had nothing much to do with – what “….Baby One More Time” really, really sounds like is a Britney Spears song.

There have been an endless stream of studio leaks, abandoned vocal takes and live howlers which – apparently – prove how weak Britney’s untreated vocals are. But however they got that way, the vocals that appear on record aren’t just competent, they’re distinctive – Britney-as-vocalist may not have much range or skill but texturally her throaty southern cluck is unmistakable. It’s a percussive instrument – that first “oh bay-beh BAY-beh” and the pause straight after it is classic Britney. As of “…Baby One More Time” her voice is still the lead instrument – it’s not until the breakthrough into full-on R&B and club pop that she (and the producers) can really start playing with it, and with her role in the song. As such it has to do things it isn’t totally suited to – the melisma on “how could I have let you go-oh-oh-oh” stretches her thin, for instance. But even at this very early stage there’s no mistaking her.

So Britney isn’t interchangeable – but might she still earn that manufactured tag by being an automaton, a producer’s puppet?

Questions of agency in this high-stakes, professionalised form of pop are very murky. For instance, take two central decisions around Britney’s first single, ones that critically shaped what ended up in front of the public: what the music sounded like, and what the video looked like. In both cases, we know what Britney wanted. For the music, she would have preferred Sheryl Crow-style AOR – a good fit for her husky voice – and acquiesced to her management or label’s wish for bright, upbeat dancepop. (On the album, traces of AOR creep in – odd guitar solos here and there, though this may just be a natural function of bored session musicians doodling in the margins of a teenpop record).

For the video, meanwhile, her managers wanted something generically romantic – the singer and some hot dude or other. Britney had other ideas: she suggested the school setting and the dancing. Which, very obviously, works a lot better – it keeps the focus on her, fits the song (she’s dumped the guy, so best to keep him as a marginal presence), puts it in a setting her audience knows, and most crucially gives a better showcase for her dancing.

(Which is all the video looks like now, midriffs and all – a perpetual-motion song-and-dance number, its controversial sting long drawn by shifting standards. There are better records to talk about how the media obsessed over Britney’s sexuality – and how the Britney publicity machine fuelled that. For now, it’s enough to note that some of the Baby One More Time era coverage, like her first Rolling Stone story (“INSIDE THE HEART, MIND AND BEDROOM OF A TEEN QUEEN”, Britney clutching a plush Teletubby on the cover) surely stepped over a line into creepy Lolita territory. For me the video doesn’t get there, though the furore around it helped set the future press agenda.)

Both these decisions – the musical one Britney disagreed with, and the visual one she came up with – were the right ones, crucial to the single becoming a sensation. If we’re keeping a creative autonomy scorecard, this is a creditable tie. But the whole debate over who came up with what is also a red herring. Even if Britney had zero input into anything, it’s her name up there in lights – the whole enterprise depends on her. The idea that you can dig into the credits and origins of modern corporate pop to find secret lines of creativity and influence is a true one. But to imagine those stories are more important than the public ones can be a seductive fantasy of insider knowledge. Britney Spears, like every modern pop star, is the frontwoman of her own career: the story begins with her. It’s like politics, that other great bit of modern theatre: every candidate is the creature of a party machine. But the individual candidates – their strengths, foibles and priorities – matter. They are the story.

So if “manufactured” is unfair, what is the right metaphor for Britney’s relationship to the pop machine? Scanning the pop culture of the late 90s gives us a better possibility: mecha, the Japanese anime genre where beautiful, tragic youth fuse themselves to sublime, state of the art machines. Britney is not the machine’s puppet; she’s its pilot.

Pop culture’s relationship to “the system” – the societal machines it exists within – is regularly rewritten. The 21st century is a cybernetic era defined by the power (and vulnerability) of complex, interdependent global systems – the climate, the economy, the internet. So the inescapable symbiosis of human and machine – and how the doomed symbiotes cope with it – is as relevant and resonant a cultural metaphor in the 00s as ideas of “the road” and flight from the system were in the 50s and 60s. And such fusions became the dominant form of pop – singers and performers in entwined collaboration with nomadic producers who might end up superstars themselves.

The specific machine that Britney is piloting has a well-known engineer: Max Martin, writing and producing his first number one record as part of his Cheiron Studios production team. Even fans who have never begun to map the circuitry of contemporary pop have heard of Max Martin – and “…Baby One More Time” was a compelling introduction. Those big percussive chords – a statement of intent at the start of the single – became a signature trick of Cheiron and its later imitators. Martin was in a hard rock band at one point before hooking up with the late Denniz Pop and the other Cheiron boys, and you can hear the unashamed, aggressive theatricality of glam threaded through his work.

“Baby One More Time” has other debts to pay, though. It’s shot through with imagery of religious faith and doubt – “I confess”, “I still believe”, “Give me a sign” – and I don’t think it’s fanciful to hear traces of other 90s Swedish pop: the grandiose post-ABBA kitsch of Alexander Bard’s Army Of Lovers project. Their mighty and absurd “Crucified” is a prototype for the kind of fervour “Baby One More Time” trades in. Queen meets ABBA, then: not a bad marker to put down.

But the religious overtones in Britney’s song are mostly there as intensifiers for her emotional state: they raise the stakes, putting a reunion with an ex on the level of spiritual salvation, and making present despair seem starker. This is the thing about the “pilot” metaphor for 21st century machine pop: in mecha stories, the focus isn’t usually on the machines but on the young people inside them and their emotional arcs. And “…Baby One More Time” introduces a major emotional motif in Britney’s pop – doomed, melodramatic, helpless obsession. Not since some of the darker corners of the Shangri-La’s catalogue and the 60s girl group boom has a pop star been so abject, so often, as Britney Spears.

It’s the paradoxes that give “Baby One More Time” its power – a song of self-negating regret performed and choreographed as a statement of total confidence. A generational shift in pop that’s also a restatement of one of its oldest and truest beliefs – that teenage feelings matter, even the dumb and disastrous ones. An ebullient new star born at the onset of the industry’s long twilight. The machine pop age “Baby One More Time” heralds will be one whose pleasures generally come shadowed by complications. In this case – as with all her records when I listen to them now – the shadow is cast not by Britney’s youth, but by her future. The sixteen year old raised to be a star with the drive to insist that her first video be made on her terms is now thirty-two: for the last six years her life and finances have been under the total legal control of her father. Britney’s story, like the record industry’s, has so far not ended happily. Its beginnings, at least, were magnificent.

(This entry, and probably most of the Britney ones, is indebted especially to Isabel Cole’s Britney Week on One Week One Band. Thanks!)

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Billy Hicks on 29 Sep 2014 #

    TEN. TEN TEN TEN *TEN* as one of two absolute definites to come this year. And that’s not just because that’s also the age I was at the time, as this could have come out five, ten years later, even today and at every age – hyperactive pre-teen, moody long-haired teen, hedonistic late teen/early twenties and the slightly bitter mid-late twenties male I am now, I’d listen to this and go, fair play, you’ve created a classic.

    It is, along with ‘Wannabe’ one of two songs that I would simply say define the entire decade of pop. Perhaps bizarrely so in Britney’s case as we’re a few months away from it finishing but it certainly defines perhaps the entire musical era starting with Wannabe and not so much definitively ending but slowly fizzling out sometime around the early noughties. While some may dismiss it as throwaway machine pop it’s always been much more than that to me, and listening to it as I type there’s something actually heart-wrenching at the piano breakdown two minutes in – maybe because it simply brings me back to 1999 more effortlessly than anything else heard in Popular so far. I knew every word fifteen years ago, I know every word now – I even know the infamous Darius Dinesh version by heart – and despite its absolute domination of late 1990s radio and television, I still and always will adore it.

    Bonus note – the supposed sexualisation meant nothing to me fifteen years ago, her being in a school made perfect sense to me and it could have easily been part of an episode of ‘Sabrina The Teenage Witch’ (a program that, to my joy, she did actually appear in later that year). She seemed extremely innocent until I watched the video for ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’ a couple years later and first wondered what the hell she was doing.

  2. 2

    […] “Bye Bye Bye” for ‘N Sync exactly one year later. But as Tom Ewing implies in his excellent essay/retrospective Britney doesn’t accommodate herself to pop narratives: she’s never […]

  3. 3
    swanstep on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Aw, not a 10? Well that’s what it gets from me… Remembered first impressions: what the hell is this? Is she really sneakily saying that she wants to be hit? This sounds so bouncy but it’s so minor! And it gets more and more minor in the harmonies as the song progresses. Who is this? Oh my freaking god the video (which was included on the album – f*** yeah). She’s a 20-something playing a teen (like the people on 90210), right? No, she’s 16. Suddenly very guilty about thoughts. Lonely. Loneliness killing. Lonely Street. This is ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ isn’t it? – the original suicide-tinged erotic bomb that kicked off things off in the ’50s. Listen again. What are those synth blasts on the one all the way through? Why doesn’t every pop song have them? Whoever made this is a frickin’ genius. Britney Britney Britney everywhere; in the US at least this was a huge turning-point, much more so than the Spices. In NZ the song went to #1 for a coupe of weeks dropped down to #2 or #3 for a couple then back to #1 then again a drop and back to #1 for a third time. This was a track that kept on making converts, and why shouldn’t it? With roots back to Elvis and the Shangri-las, and with Scandinavia’s-answer-to-Trevor-Horn producing, and with pregnant-with-the-future Miss Mouseketeer & Louisiana’s finest ready for her close-up, this track had it all, for everyone, and still does.

  4. 4
    swanstep on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Stairway To Britney.

  5. 5
    Nixon on 29 Sep 2014 #

    One of the best essays yet.

    I especially (obviously) enjoyed the Motown comparison. I’d point out with reference to one of the later paragraphs that Motown’s Golden Age, particularly the Holland Dozier Holland songbook, is actually chock full of horribly miserable female narrators (as Tom himself discovered wrt Baby Love) – the Supremes in particular hardly ever get to play anyone happy (making it all the more effective when you then hit something unabashedly giddy like I Hear A Symphony).

    Anyway, this is a ten from me. Gareth Bale said this was the first single he ever bought, which made me feel old.

  6. 6
    Nixon on 29 Sep 2014 #

    OH WOW THE HEADER ICON SMILED :)

  7. 7
    swanstep on 29 Sep 2014 #

    “the iconic intro, a four-note knock on fame’s door “
    Isn’t it three notes (sometimes followed by bass thud and synth blast on the one)?

  8. 8
    Andrew Farrell on 29 Sep 2014 #

    #3 there was definitely a rumour going around that she was really 5 or 10 years older than presented.

    I never really considered the idea that she’d dumped him, the impression I got was that all of the disturbing neediness was still happening in an unhealthy relationship – which may have been why I never really liked this.

  9. 9
    Tom on 29 Sep 2014 #

    “Disturbing neediness in an unhealthy relationship” is sort of the signature Britney topic, so I think ‘dumped’ is probably the optimistic read, yeah.

  10. 10
    swanstep on 29 Sep 2014 #

    The little things about this record are so fab, e.g., the syncopation of ‘when I’m not with you I lose my mind’ makes for a hidden, propulsive hook. Compare with the plod of ‘Go insane and out of your mind’ from Blondie’s Maria, and it’s clear who should own the pop charts in 1999. (I wanted to make this comparison back when ‘Maria’ was on deck but had to respect the bunny.)

  11. 11
    Mark M on 29 Sep 2014 #

    We’re somewhere around the culture peak point of the American teenage girl here – Clueless and My So-Called Life had set things up earlier in the decade. In 1999, Buffy was in its prime, this was the year of 10 Things I Hate About You and (less excitingly) She’s All That, Christina Ricci had just had her great year (The Ice Storm, Buffalo ’66), Reese Witherspoon’s astonishing early career climaxed in ’99 with Election… Things like Ghostworld were just over the horizon…

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Rather than just the steady pulse of some dance music the rhythm lopes along tautly and Britney’s voice rides it with seeming insouciance – the dance/rock hybrid also reminds me a little of Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’.

    According to wiki the school in the video was the same one used for the film of ‘Grease’ and I can imagine Britney as the daughter of Travolta and ONJ.

  13. 13
    James on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Long time-lurker, first time poster here. I’d decided to wait until this review to post for a number of reasons; the main one being that this song is where my relationship with music truly begins. I was four years old when I first heard ‘Baby…’ and I can certainly recall it being the first song I remember liking, listening too regularly and getting excited whenever I did so. It wasn’t my first single, that wouldn’t come until a certain S Club 7 record in December 2000. So, yeah, this is really the song that kicked off everything for me and though my musical taste and direction has changed drastically in the near-16 years since this songs release, I’ll always have a fondness for ‘Baby One More Time’ and Britney in general for setting me off down this musical path. As someone who’s just about to enter his 20s; ‘Baby One More Time’ is a record that could be tainted by nostalgia; my fond memories of it and appreciation for what it introduced me to could give me a very biased view of it now, but that would only be a problem if ‘Baby’ had aged badly or a rather crap song overall, which it certainly isn’t. It’s pretty much as perfect a pop song as you’re going to get and I highly believe that had I been twenty years old in 1999 I still would’ve been all over this

    The childhood nostalgia only makes a fantastic record better

    10

  14. 14
    Kat but logged out innit on 29 Sep 2014 #

    GLORIOUS DAY: it was around this time that my Dad *finally* realised that he could hook up a modem to our old Amiga without us immediately being haxx0red, and got us ‘on the net’. A whole world of Yahoo directories could finally be explored by my teenage self for 59-minute stretches (or until Mum yelled up the stairs that she needed to use the phone). Before then I had to go round Schoolchum Kirst’s house to look up hilarious pictures of godknowswhat, but now I had a Freeserve email address and could SIGN UP to things, namely POPEX hurrah (found via its lovely creator being a regular on the David Devant & His Spirit Wife message board, of course). I bought shares in DD&HSW and Elastica but still managed to get a few gongs despite this. Britney Spears was listed as Broccoli Spears and as by now I was at my peak pop-hatorade, I thought this was absolutely hilarious and started referring to her as a vegetable all the time. What a terribly stuck-up teenager I was. I’m sorry for ever dissing you, Britters. 10.

  15. 15
    punctum on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Once I would have given this a 10. But now it seems horribly, horribly wrong. There’s pop for you.

  16. 16
    iconoclast on 29 Sep 2014 #

    We’re by now well into the Third Age of popular music: the battles have finally been won, the bean-counters and marketroids are firmly in control, and the opposition is too demoralised and tattered to offer any credible kind of alternative vision. Add in decades of ruthlessly well-honed marketing know-how, improvements in communications technology, and the growing obsession of a compliant public with “celebrity” lifestyles, and you have an environment in which new “stars” or “icons” can be created virtually instantaneously without first having to go through the lengthy and troublesome process of “artistic development”.

    Of course, in such an environment commercial considerations will always take precedence over musical ones, and so it goes with “Baby One More Time”, a particularly cynical example of the new paradigm for the 21st century: quite simply, when your record is going to be performed by jailbait in a not-kinky-honest school uniform, who is going to care what it actually sounds like? Artistically, its value is almost nil; there’s an obviously can’t-be-arsed programmed drum track, a perfunctory lyric whose infelicities (“hit me one more time”, indeed) nobody saw fit to correct, and seemingly random interjections from assorted instruments (no dice, we are assured, were harmed in the making of this record), all taken at a tempo which it would be kind to describe as desultory.

    Note that “almost”, because in there somewhere there is actually a half-decent melody winding its way through some interesting chord changes, which could have been made into something so much better without too much extra work. Why, we Iconoclasts wonder, was it put outside so badly dressed? Just maybe, was it some kind of protest by the Creative People at the realisation that any further effort would be for nothing? We’d love to think so; it’s more charitable than to dismiss it as a slightly-better-than-usual piece of hack-work thrown together quickly and cheaply enough to keep the bean-counters happy, while managing to be Just Good Enough not to embarrass the marketroids.

    In summary, then, not a record of any musical significance, but a rather depressing Historically Significant Pop-Cultural Event. With an extra point in recognition of What Might Have Been, it gets an entirely forgettable FIVE.

  17. 17
    Mark G on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Blur had spent a little time away, but had returned with what might be considered a brave move: Returning neither to the old cockney lads jumpingupanddownness of “Parklife”, which many other bands had followed up on, nor the brutal guitar stabbing of “Beetlebum” which had also proved a winner, they had issued, as a single, a six minute slow builder about the breakup of the britpop dream couple, with gospel choir and a vignetting of a vocal from the guitarist, Damon had a winner with “Tender”

    However, Britney released her debut single, classic american pop in all respects.

    America was clearly top pop nation, and Britpop came to a .

  18. 18
    sukrat etc on 29 Sep 2014 #

    this^^^ kind of pastiche is hard to pull off in the long haul, and has been patchily routine of late, but the “we Iconoclasts” move is very fine *applauds drily*

  19. 19
    flahr on 29 Sep 2014 #

    “Even fans who have never begun to map the circuitry of contemporary pop have heard of Max Martin…”

    Is that ACTUALLY true though? I suppose you might just have a pretty stringent definition of the word ‘fan’.

    EDIT: Sorry, no, I should really hold myself back from such punctumesque nitpicking over the actual truth value of a rhetorical flourish.

  20. 20
    PurpleKylie on 29 Sep 2014 #

    I’m not such a fan of this, it’s not to my taste but I do kinda appreciate that this has become a modern classic of sorts, and it kinda encapsulates The Sound of 1999, in a sense that big teeny pop was the big thing in this time period.

    I have a friend who’s a big fangirl of the Cheiron sound and Swedish pop in general, I wonder what she’d make of this article, she’d probably enjoy it.

  21. 21
    iconoclast on 29 Sep 2014 #

    @18: It’s not a pastiche; I genuinely disagree with the communis opinio here. What makes you think otherwise?

  22. 22
    Tom on 29 Sep 2014 #

    #19 yes, rhetoric, I basically mean he’s the pop producer/songwriter fans are most likely to have heard of (though maybe now it’s Ryan Tedder?). And in general he’s up there at the bluffer’s guide level with Timbaland and the Neptunes for people wanting to look a bit knowledgeable about the mechanics of 00s pop.

  23. 23
    flahr on 29 Sep 2014 #

    I’ve always found his name disappointingly un-Swedish.

    I think I like the song (by which I mean, I like the riff), though I feel an odd unwillingness to think too much about it on the grounds that my opinion feels even more axiomatically irrelevant than usual.

  24. 24
    Alan on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Where did the puppet<->mecha inversion idea come from? was that on OWOB – I may have missed that. Either way *claps*

  25. 25
    thefatgit on 29 Sep 2014 #

    In 1999, I was 33 years old. And for a while I was totally disengaged with what US teenpop was becoming. A small coterie of boybands marking the same lamp-post was, at the time, my take on US teenpop. The R&B and Rock contingent were getting more airplay. Nu-Metal and Gangsta Rap provided “alternatives” to the “maintstream”. That was my perception of what US music was like back then. So it seemed like, as all the most memorable Pop phenomenons do, Britney emerged from vapour. “BOOM! HERE I AM!” It was quite obvious I had not been paying much attention. But then I must have been paying some attention, because BOMT had similar production hallmarks to “Show Me Love” (the one by a certain Ms Carlsson, not the housey one by Robyn S). So even if I was unaware of Max Martin, at least I could recognise its similarities. And BOMT has quality written through it like rock. The piano breakdown is especially lovely. I’m not entirely bothered about the things that Iconoclast @16 is irritated by. I might have been, when I was 33 and listening to a lot of Rock, but now, I’m responding to spectacular pop hooks and there’s no shortage of them here.

    The video was all over the TV. Unavoidable, even. I’m not sure if I approved of my daughter watching it or not, (who was also constantly glued to Saved By The Bell and Sabrina The Teenage Witch) but I did sense that “something wasn’t right” about it. However, as Tom says, there’s plenty of opportunities to discuss that aspect of Britney Spears sexuality/image further down the road. Although I’d like to mention: in the wake of the career trajectories of Melissa Joan Hart, Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffany Amber Theissen, not to mention many of the Baywatch cast and perhaps many more 90s teen TV stars, could Britney be, to a certain extent, hailed as the 90’s children’s TV star that didn’t succumb to the patriarchal fame mincer on anything other than on her own terms?

    (8)

  26. 26
    punctum on 29 Sep 2014 #

    EDIT: Sorry, no, I should really hold myself back from such punctumesque nitpicking over the actual truth value of a rhetorical flourish.

    Behave yourself, son.

  27. 27
    Tom on 29 Sep 2014 #

    #24 no the mecha thing is mine. Neon Genesis Britney! (NB I have actually read/seen very little mecha stuff, so it was a punt, but I felt a fairly safe one) I doubt I’m the first to have hit on that idea – from a distance the upsurge of interest in anime among American kids, and the ways in which the late 90s, MTV-raised generation of pop stars presented themselves visually and dramatically, seem clearly parts of the same larger story. More on that in future entries, I guess.

  28. 28
    enitharmon on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Same mark for this synthetic drivel that Good Vibrations got? Shame on you Thomas!

    My enduring impression of Britney Spears was when she was interviewed by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour. She mumbled and giggled and yeahliked her way through a series of anodyne questions and then when Jenni slipped in something incisive the interview was brought rapidly to a close by her minders. It was radio of course so we will never know, at least until Jenni Murray writes a memoir, but one had visions of burly, dark-suited men in mirror shades ripping cables out willy-nilly and hustling their precious charge out through the labyrinthine corridors of Broadcasting House (as was, have you ever been there? Knossos had nothing on the old BH!)

    Anything over a 3 for this cheap contrived tripe is an insult to the great days of popular music. Including Motown. Especially Motown perhaps.

  29. 29
    mapman132 on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Excellent review, okay song. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the love this is getting here – it was a landmark hit – but wow, all the 10’s? Whenever I try to play this song in my mind, it – oops – segues into a later bunnied hit. I don’t hate it though – I’ll give 6/10. But I still prefer the previous two #1’s. Call me weird.

    Surprising chart fact #1: Britney wouldn’t have another US #1 hit after this until 2008. She had plenty of US #1 albums though. One interesting aspect of the imperial phase of 1999-2001 US teenybopper pop, esp. the major boy bands, is that marketing and available disposal income combined to make the albums much, much bigger sellers in the US than the singles. A distinct reversal of traditional teen pop trends.

    Surprising chart fact #2: According to Wiki, Britney’s never had a #1 album in the UK. Shocked me at least.

  30. 30
    Tom on 29 Sep 2014 #

    #29 isn’t that a case of the physical singles market basically vanishing in the US around this point? So singles were way more playlist dependent – and I’d guess there were enough people who hated teenpop to make playlisting it less of a sure thing than you might think? But I don’t really know how the playlist system works in the states…

    (Here the great interregnum in Britney #1s is between 2004 and a brief co-starring role in 2013, a shame given some of the stuff I could be writing about from her)

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