Late 1998. Ahh, times were free and easy. We knew about Monica Lewinsky, sure, but we could still meet our loved ones at the gate at LAX (or, in my case, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky). Meanwhile in pop-culture land, a fresh-faced Britney Spears exploded all over the scene, uncomfortably sexy and questionably innocent, and … quite frankly … not all that vocally talented, but WHO CARED.
Her first — and still possibly her best — single was written by Max Martin, who arguably has had more influence on modern pop music than Bono, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, and Simon Cowell COMBINED. And I’m barely exaggerating. This Wiki reads like a what’s-what of the Billboard Top 40 from the past 15 or so years. The dude may be formulaic, but he has found the formula for surefire catchiness. Which includes having a slightly unpredictable “Best Part” of every song. (With the possible exception of ‘Slam Dunk [Da Funk]’ by 5ive … eh, it was early in his career.)
Best part? 3:22. This is a rock-solid catchy jam from the three-note electric piano intro forward, and three minutes later, we’re fully on board the Britney Jean train. At this moment toward the song’s climactic conclusion, she hits us (no pun intended) with the first part of the hook — “Hit me baby …” — but leaves us hanging, only to segue into one more last “confession” of her life-threatening “loneliness.” It’s a simple little surprise that keeps the listener engaged through the final “time” (or the school bell, if you happen to be gawking at the video).
Two years later, with her “Stronger” single from sophomore effort Oops! … I Did It Again, she’ll call back to her first single:
My loneliness ain’t killing me no more
Good for you, girl. Way to be a survivor. Of course, there would be miles to go — and by “miles,” I mean marriages, shaved heads, interventions, questionable gas-station-bathroom-etiquette, mental breakdowns, poor fashion choices, very public breakups, need I go on — but we’re all still rooting for you. XOXO.