"...Baby One More Time" is not only a song about gaining back the love of your significant other, but rather a nineties anthem that defined and changed twenty-first century pop culture.
She may not have been the first teenage pop star in the music industry, but she sure has been the greatest. Her debut single “...Baby One More Time” made Britney Spears a legend, and the single became a representative classic of pop music and a cultural item of the nineties. A song that changed the way the music industry works for years to come, “...Baby One More Time” celebrates twenty years since its release, and we invite you to go back in time to see how it changed the face of pop forever with these 10 facts about the track that gave a voice to the nineties generation.
1 - Britney was only 16 when she recorded “...Baby One More Time”
Britney's manager offered her the opportunity to record a demo with this new catchy beat that was offered through many different recording labels until Jive Records decided to accept the demo and begin the developing process of making Britney a star.
2 - The song was offered to other bands before getting to Britney
This song was offered to many bands before being offered to Spears. Back then, solo female teenage artists were not that successful in the industry. Boy and girl bands were all over the place, so it was offered to some of these, like TLC. However, they refused to record the song mainly due to its violent tone. The band interpreted the “Hit Me Baby” as an invitation to physical abuse, but it turns out that Max Martin, songwriter and producer, saw “hit me” as slang for “call me back."
3 - The track was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden in March 1998.
After singing lessons in which the record company shaped Britney’s voice to make it distinctive, Jive Records flew her to Stockholm for a ten-day working trip, where they finally recorded half of her first album.
4 - She had a three-month trial period
Once she came back to the US, Britney began what would be her first ever tour in the States. Twenty-six malls across the United States were Britney’s first stages as she promoted the single. This was part of her promotion as a singer and of her first single, since one of the policies in Britney’s contract stated that she had a three month trial period to prove she was “recording artist material.” That was good enough for the record company to realize she was not only a singer, but the ultimate teenage superstar.
5 - October 23rd, 1998, the single finally debuted on the radio.
The track was an instant hit. People asked for it to be played over and over again, as the catchy beat at the beginning and the song's lyrics were like opium for teenagers at the end of the nineties. At the moment, she was already filming her very first video clip. The local star of this small town was about to become an international sensation.
6 - The videoclip aired on November 1998, changing the face of teenage pop stars forever.
A month after her debut on the radio, “...Baby One More Time” debuted on MTV. Nigel Dick was the director for Britney’s first video. It was shot in Venice High School, California, and she came up with the concept. She disliked the original idea and came up with something more appealing for her generation. The signature look of the Catholic school uniform with the knotted shirt, the pig tails, and the dance scenes were all her ideas. Britney wanted the clip to be relatable to all teens who wanted a second chance at love.
7 - The importance of MTV
MTV played a huge role on the process of making Britney a superstar. In contrast to the eighties and early nineties, cable TV was no longer an exclusive service, and Britney’s “Lolita” image could be found in any living room worldwide. Also, TRL was an important TV show that had upcoming stars and focused on the diffusion of new music and artists. On the last episode of the show, TRL aired “...Baby One More Time” as their last video from the history of the show.
8 - "...Baby One More Time" made history as one of the best-selling singles.
The whole album, made up of eleven tracks, was recorded in NYC. However, the single itself sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
9 - The (in)famous Rolling Stone interview
Britney was interviewed after the success of her single. She was quite aware of what the industry expected her to be as a teenage sensation. She was described as a very mature young woman with the mindset of the perfect pop artist: clever, ambitious, perfectionist, and focused. She stated the importance of becoming a role model for young people around the world and that she was aware of the responsibilities of her image and public persona. Yet, it was pretty clear in the interview that she was portrayed like the ultimate “Lolita.” From that moment on, the industry would hyper-sexualize her image, which contrasted with her statements about chastity. Both the narrative in the interview and the famous cover shoot by the celebrated photographer David LaChapelle would mark the beginning of highly sexualized teenage imagery in the media.
10 - Cultural relevance and the change of the industry
The song has been covered many times by many musicians such as Travis, Fountains of Wayne, and Ed Sheeran. It has also appeared in film scores, like Freaky Friday (2003), and even paid tribute to in a special episode of Glee. There are even references to the single in other songs of Britney's. In "Stronger," she sings "my loneliness ain't killing me no more" as a continuation to the single. Also, as a not-so-fun fact, the song has been used as a form of torture in Guantanamo Bay; it's said to be played over and over again for hours (even days) at high volume, until prisoners surrender and give the information security guards may want.
I still remember the first time I heard this single. I was having lunch after coming home from school, and I just could not keep my eyes away from the TV. Kids these days (I know this'll make me sound old) will never know what MTV was. It wasn't a channel full of lame reality shows, but rather a real music channel that cared about the diffusion of music. This song changed the course of pop forever; only Madonna and Michael Jackson had the same cultural impact Britney has had. Boys and girls looked up to her, everybody wanted to learn her dance moves and to sing along to the single. Without her, as The Guardian stated, there would have never been a Katy Perry, a Taylor Swift, or a Camila Cabello. She embodied the image of the Lolita and the girl next door, and she became Miss American Dream by the time she was seventeen.
Of course, after growing up in the limelight, she did find some bumps in the road (who can forget her head-shaving breakdown?), but these days, the Britney we all know and love is back. And we look forward to many more years of her creating music and being our favorite Pop Princess.
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