FFWDing to the Best Part: “…Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears (1998)

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
I’m stronger

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.


4 thoughts on “FFWDing to the Best Part: “…Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears (1998)

  1. Also important as the milestone beginning of another generation of Disney kids having their cotillion; Britney was immediately joined by Justin, JC, and Xtina. I like to imagine them having a sing-off, or perhaps a pie throwing contest, against the “Kids Incorporated” gang of Martika, Fergie, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Maybe that’s just me? Alas, Alanis would be lonely again as the lone popstar survivor of “You Can’t Do That on Television,” at least in my mind. Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion had been teen sensations too a few years prior (and, granted, in Canada), but they made their way more on songwriting and singing prowess (respectively) than burlesque.

    Anyway, music. Aside from the implications of Max and Britney (the latter of whom only showed up to sing karaoke-style over already recorded tracks), this era in pop is also noteworthy for being really bright and trebly, better highlighting the close harmonies in the BGVs of not only Ms. Spears, but the rest of this whole wave of Tiger Beat fodder, male and female.

  2. It’s striking how innocent the video is now…considering all the future antics. Yes the school girl outfits are still pervy but everything else is borderline sweet. Weird.

  3. Pingback: FFWDing to the Best Part: “Pop,” ‘NSync (2000) | Neurotic City

  4. Pingback: A Song That Makes You Happy: “Roar,” Katy Perry (2013) | Neurotic City

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