Album Review: Britney Spears, “…Baby One More Time” (1999)

Once upon a time, I was a huge Britney Spears fan. I listened to all her CDs religiously, watched all of her TV performances (and even taped them), went to see her in concert, ran a fan site about her on the internet, and basically devoted my life to all things Spears.

My musical tastes have clearly evolved since then, and I’m no longer such an avid fan. My collection of Spears’ CDs have been shelved to the back of my racks, where my other “embarrassing” discs sit (all of which I’m writing a series of reviews on), slowly collecting dust and probably wishing that they were played more often.

Still, Spears’ debut isn’t half bad. Released in 1999, the disc is a collection of catchy pop hits, and it’s no wonder why my 12-year-old self enjoyed these songs so much. While I wouldn’t spend most of my days listening to the music on Baby One More Time now, I have to admit that Spears’ debut is at least worth a fun trip down memory lane.

The album begins with the title track, and Spears’ first single, …Baby One More Time. I doubt if there’s anyone around that isn’t familiar with this song; somehow, the combination of the catchy, synthesized beat, and Spears’ sub par vocals made the song a huge hit when it was released. Of course, the “naughty schoolgirl” music video helped with the song’s success, and I’ll even admit to still liking this track a bit. Lyrically, the song is extremely weak (not that you should expect anything profound to show up on a teen pop album), but the singable chorus (“My loneliness is killin’ me, and I/I must confess I still believe/When I’m not with you I lose my mind/Give me a sign/Hit me baby one more time”) is pop music gold.

(You Drive Me) Crazy follows and was also a significantly successful single from the album. The song boasts another catchy chorus with lyrics about falling head over heels for someone (“You drive me crazy/I just can’t sleep/I’m so excited, I’m in too deep/Crazy, but it feels alright/Baby, thinkin’ of you keeps me up all night”). The synthesized melody does become a bit over the top at times, but the overall appeal of the song lies in the fun chorus. Things slow down a bit, with the album’s first ballad, and second single, Sometimes. Spears is certainly not known for her vocal talent (and is often accused of lip-synching, which I was a witness to at the concert of hers that I attended), though she’s not entirely bad. At best, she has a sweet sounding voice, which is highlighted nicely during this song. Producers Max Martin and Rami were the most popular pop music producers at the time, and they add their talent to this song, making it another memorable track on the album.

Born To Make You Happy is a mid-tempo ballad, that’s fairly good. Swedish producer Kristian Lundin gives the song a nice Euro-pop flavor that works quite well, and Spears’ vocals are nicely highlighted. The lyrics, about love gone wrong, are once again pretty unoriginal (“I’d do anything/I’d give you my world/I’d wait forever to be your girl/Just call out my name/And I will be there/Just to show you how much I care”), but the song’s charm lies in the melody. Yet another ballad is next, with From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. This time, the tune is more subdued, with more focus on Spears’ vocals, and the result is decent enough. The melancholy lyrics are probably popular with teenage girls who are worried about their crushes, but anyone over sixteen won’t really take a second glance at the lyric sheet for this track.

Britney Spears

As From The Bottom… marks the end of the singles from the album, it also marks the songs that are really worth listening to. Soda Pop is a truly horrible song, featuring a reggae rapper in the choruses, who actually just makes the song worse. The extremely poorly written lyrics (“Open the soda pop bop shu bop shu bop/The clock is ticking and we can’t stop/…So much time were losing/Sitting watching the clock/Turn the table baby/Lets go over the top/No one else will do, I’m waiting for you”), nonsensical subject matter, and the rapper’s annoying solo towards the middle, make the track one worth skipping and makes me wonder who even thought it was a good idea to include on the album anyway. I Will Be There is a typical and harmless pop song that’s not bad enough to skip, but not good enough to actually want to listen to. I Will Still Love You is quite similar to the song before it, except that it features a duet with Don Philip. Philip was set to be the next teen sensation from Jive Records though, for some reason, his career never really took off. His vocals aren’t anything special either (which might be the reason why he never became famous), and despite sounding like a boy band vocalist, actually sounds pretty good with Spears. Though the song reaches corny territory after the second verse, it’s still a decent addition to the album. Thinkin’ About You is also identical to some of the upbeat songs before it, but has a less addicting melody than the others.

The album comes to an end with E-Mail My Heart and The Beat Goes On. The first of the two begins with a simple piano-based melody, which is the only on the album without a mass of production going on in the background. Though the lyrics are pretty cheesy, the writers still get some credit for trying to be fresh and relatable to my generation (“It’s been hours/Seems like days/Since you went away/And all I do is check the screen/To see if you’re okay/You don’t answer when I phone/Guess you wanna be left alone/So I’m sending you my heart my soul/And this is what I’ll say”). Spears vocals, however, are the worst part of the song. Her voice sounds nasally, and I’m actually hoping that she had a cold when recording the song; otherwise, her voice just sounds really ugly this time around. The attempted runs towards the end of the song sound especially horrible, and now I think it’s clear why all the other songs on the album have so much production going on in them to distract from Spears’ voice.

All of Spears’ albums to date have included a cover on them, and this time around, Sonny & Cher’s classic song is redone. Though Spears’ version isn’t terribly ambitious, it’s not too bad. Again, she probably should’ve left the song in the 70’s, but since I’m not a fan of either her version or Sonny and Cher’s, I don’t have much else to say about it.

Britney Spears’ debut album is actually pretty good, as far as pop music goes. Her producers and songwriters did an excellent job of picking catchy tunes for Spears to sing, and the disc is fairly enjoyable, even now. Though Spears wasn’t (and still isn’t) the most talented singer around, she definitely had the best team behind her to promote her image and choose the best songs, and Baby One More Time is evidence of that.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. …Baby One More Time
2. (You Drive Me) Crazy
3. Sometimes
4. Soda Pop
5. Born To Make You Happy
6. From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart
7. I Will Be There
8. I Will Still Love You – (with Don Philip)
9. Thinkin’ About You
10. E-Mail My Heart
11. The Beat Goes On

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-u5WLJ9Yk4]
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