In a time when pop groups, a majority of which were boy bands, dominated the charts, 17-year-old Britney Spears broke through the trend with her debut album “...Baby One More Time.” She released the 11-track record 15 years ago today. Her bubblegum jams and love ballads dabbed in Euro-pop and funk influences and they charmed audiences on a global scale. Britney spearheaded the teen pop boom of the late '90s which saw many acts rise in her wake like Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. “...Baby One More Time” launched Spears into pop superstardom and she has not slowed down since then.
“...Baby One More Time” became Spears first album of six so far to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard charts in January 1999. The record went on to become the best-selling record by a teenage artist when it sold over 14 million copies in the U.S. It would also lead Britney to producer Max Martin who has crafted many of her timeless hits over the years, including the “...Baby One More Time” single. Among her eight studio albums, Spears' first album features her boldest singing to date as she belted every tune out with attitude and confidence.
The “...Baby One More Time” album became a worldwide phenomenon with Spears' very first single, the Max Martin-produced title track. Three instantly recognizable piano notes open the feisty pop song and Britney follows with her signature pronunciation of the word “baby.” She longs for a lost love, hoping to be hit by some sign of affection. “When I'm not with you, I lose my mind / Give me a sign, hit me baby one more time,” Spears sings during the powerhouse chorus. With the Catholic school girl-themed music video, “...Baby One More Time” set the Britney machine in motion and the single hit no. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Elsewhere on the album, she also packed a punch on “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” another Max Martin song. Spears' infectious pop took on a rock music edge and she rose to the occasion. “Baby, I'm so into you / You got that something what can I do,” Britney slyly sings with teenage swagger. “Crazy” was later re-recorded as the Stop! Remix for the movie “Drive Me Crazy.” On the vivacious “Thinkin' About You,” Spears is at her most soulful with wild vocal runs and adlibs. “I spend my days with you / I spend my nights thinkin' about you,” she playfully croons. Britney kept the fun going on “Soda Pop,” an effervescent slice of Caribbean-tinged pop, and on an experimental cover of Sonny & Cher's “The Beat Goes On.”
Spears promised to be a friend to the end on “I Will Be There,” one of the album's best tracks and an underrated gem in her discography. Over the strum of a guitar and some light synths, she sings, “When you're feeling alone, baby, let me know and I will be there,” with complete power and sincerity. Britney's album also featured a duet with Don Philip (a singer she had an awkward reunion with on FOX's “The X Factor” in 2012). The two joined forces on the celestial ballad “I Will Still Love You” and both singers brought their A-game to the love song. Before Twitter and Facebook, e-mail was the go-to source for communicating in the '90s and Spears laid her heart out on the screen via “E-Mail My Heart.”
The most grandiose ballad on “...Baby One More Time,” Spears' “From the Bottom of the My Broken Heart,” was a real album standout for the singer. She tackled heartbreak with the best vocal performance of her career. “There's a thing or two you gotta know / You were my first love / You were my true love,” Britney emotionally belts. On “Born to Make You Happy,” a gloomy pop track, she looked to right her relationship wrongs with a heartfelt declaration of love. Spears played up the shy girl in love as well on the hypnotic and sweet song “Sometimes” when singing, “Baby, all I need is time.”
With “...Baby One More Time,” Spears' teenage innocence and solid pop songs captivated the world. As her career progressed, Britney shed that wholesome image throughout the years but she kept the fiery attitude from her debut album alive with each future release. Seven albums, many memorable singles and several iconic moments later and Spears is still ready to keep audiences coming with “Britney: Piece of Me,” her current live show at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood. All of this wouldn't have been possible, though, without the young girl kneeling in front of a pink backdrop on “...Baby One More Time.” It all had to start somewhere.
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