The song that sparked the beginning of the pop princess herself, Britney Spears, as well as years of iconic Halloween costumes, started back in 1997, when Spears first tried to join girl group Innosense, and instead was singed to her own record label with Max Martin, where she was given the demo for “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (originally rejected by girl group TLC).
It was shortened later to “…Baby One More Time” because producers were worried it held connotations of domestic abuse. The song “…Baby One More Time” featured on Spears’s debut studio album of the same name, which released in January 1999. But the pop song of the century released in October 1998, and it reached number 1 in every country it charted in.
Before Spears got her record deal she was already an American sweetheart, having performed on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, and it was here that she was discovered as a star. She worked alongside Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling, all of whom became stars in their own right.
But this album marked Britney’s ongoing success. Opening with “…Baby One More Time”, the album introduces a poppy up-beat style, and “makes its presence known in exactly one second”. It’s a great way to grab a listener’s attention for a debut album. The next track, “(You Drive Me) Crazy”, might sound like an unfamiliar version if you listen back. The track was made more popular with “The Stop Remix”, and was used for the music video, giving it more substance a second time round.
As we move into “Sometimes”, we get an airy, romantic-comedy type song. It’s everything associated with a young Britney, with slow, relaxing vocals, accompanied by delicate percussion and soft backup vocals. The song, also a single, made it to her singles collection album, entitled Britney: The Singles Collection, which features 4 other singles from her 1999 album, including “…Baby One More Time”, “Autumn Goodbye”, “(You Drive Me) Crazy [The Stop Remix]”, and “Born To Make You Happy”.
The next song, “Soda Pop”, shows Spears revisiting her countrified vocals a little more, and stepping away from the iconic voice she moulded for herself so carefully. The singer channels her friend Christina Aguilera (XTina), and also her old-self, when she performed alongside Justin Timberlake on the Mickey Mouse Club. With such strong, deep vocals, it was astounding to see that she’d changed her singing style, but thanks to doing so, she stood out.
And so did “…Baby One More Time”’s music video. The schoolgirl singing in the halls became Britney’s most iconic look (after the “Oops!… I Did It Again” red latex suit), and it skyrocketed her career. With her look and voice complete, her first album paved the way for this sweet, innocent new star. But Britney had other plans for her future…
“Born To Make You Happy” was a record that fitted well with “Sometimes”. It was airy and light, with low piano notes playing throughout. However, unlike “Sometimes” and “Soda Pop”, this track used flats and sharps to create a more sorrowful sound. Worried that she’ll lose her love, the song explores this emotion and plays on it, with the song progressing to a happier ending as the tune switches octaves towards the end. Uplifting and reassuring, it’s a love song for the ages.
Surprisingly, upbeat “I Will Be There” and ballad “E-mail My Heart” were never singles, but they were favourites for many from the album. The latter explored a more emotional side of the album, depicting a softer vocal-d Spears, professing her love. It was warm and soothing, perfect for her teen girl audience at the time.
“I Will Be There” could’ve easily been a single, but Britney had other ideas about forwarding her career, even then. This was probably the most bubble-gum, uplifting pop tune on “…Baby One More Time”, but this is definitely not the direction Spears took for her second album.
The drastic change from innocent to all-grown-up came when Britney released Oops!… I Did It Again, her second studio album, with the first song featuring the same name. The single rapidly became one of her most beloved and most associated-with songs, with lyrics like “I’m not that innocent” (perhaps alluding to not getting into the Innosense girl group).
Fortunately for Britney, it was the best thing that happened to her. Only a year later, she’d grown up and defined her music to match her look. No longer was she the cute, innocent girl everybody assumed she was in “…Baby One More Time”.
But that doesn’t mean to discard the album, if anything it should be praised, we were handed the dramatic entrance of the Britney we know and love, and we wouldn’t have gotten that without the transition from “Baby One More Time” to “Oops!… I Did It Again”. The album stands alone in Spears’s career, and it is definitely indispensable.
Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time is out now via Jive Records, purchase it on iTunes here and stream it below.
Words by Nicole Russell