...Baby One More Time
Jive / Arista Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/13/2001
I was wondering whether or not I should write this review using the same language the young Ms. Spears was found using at Rock In Rio. (You know, "f**k this and that"). However, figuring that most of her audience is still too young to use said language, I think I will just deliver the more classically demanded review.
Ah, how the years color our perception! There was a time when no one knew where Kentwood, Louisiana was. It was a time before teenage, bubblegum pop ruled the airwaves and boy bands brought images of New Kids On The Block and New Edition-along with a few laughs. Now we can't even consider there not being a Backstreet Boys or *NSync, but there was a time when this was so. And this lil' missy had something to do with that. By the time …Baby One More Time saw the light of day, the teenage girls of America had a new heroine to worship and emulate.
Granted, the idea of a former Mouseketeer dancing in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit and singing pretty pop songs sounds rather tame and unoriginal. Originality was not the point nor the goal here. Britney Spears and her team of producers needed to strike it big and make a case for her before the American public. So, they slowly put out her debut video on secondary music channels like TheBox and Much Music! All the hoopla over this sweet, innocent teenager, dressed in her tiny outfit, helped make her album a success. Eventually, her fan base grew to where big, bad MTV could not keep her away and Spears became its de facto princess - a title she has yet to relinquish.
So, what exactly did …Baby One More Time have that made it so irresistible? Was it the new step in the evolution of pop? Was this new face the next Stevie Wonder or Madonna? Was this a great album? Well, while time will tell on the second question, I think it's safe to say the answer to the first and last questions is no. This is not a great album. What it is then is a well-crafted lite-pop album that works towards a single goal - introducing the young Ms. Spears to the world.
From the notes that start the title track and the "oh, baby, baby" in her voice, you will note that there is nothing serious in this album. These are tales of love, break-up, desire (in a sweet sort of way) and joy. From telling her boyfriend to let her know what's in his heart (title track, "E-Mail My Heart") to saying how she feels about him ("(You Drive Me) Crazy," "Born To Make You Happy," "Sometimes"), this is an album for teenage girls to dream of princes, heartthrobs, and cute guys.
While Ms. Spears stretches her small voice over beats, riffs and rhythms, she tries to establish a presence all of her own. On some tracks (title track, "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart," "Crazy") she manages to do so. On others, like "Soda Pop," "I Will Still Love You," "E-Mail My Heart" and "The Beat Goes On," it proves tougher for her to manage any presence-whether it's loving, desperate or sensual. Perhaps this is due to her age, but Spears does not have the same identity here that she would carve out with years of work.
Now, let me state the obvious. Between Spears wistfully wishing in "Sometimes" and somberly crying about a break-up in "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart," you knew that this was a girl's album for girls. However, unlike her follow-up - which goes in more grown-up lines - none of the tracks in …Baby One More Time can be considered offending or indecent. It's like they went and created ten tracks - the one cover is Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" - that embodied the young Ms. Spears and that age and time. Kudos must go to producer Max Martin and his crew for doing a superb job of crafting a decent pop album.
Still, the warning sign is there for all to see. …Baby One More Time is positively and completely for teenage girls. While Oops! I Did It Again! can be enjoyed by more grown-up girls-even moms and older women-this album is exclusively for the testosterone-challenged female of the species, particularly from ages 11-16. Anyone else listening is in danger of overdosing on its light, syrupy and sweet confection. Take heed, cause you've been warned.
Many of these songs became hits for the young Ms. Spears and placed her atop a field where her competition often has better vocal chops than she does - Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson being prime examples. What …Baby One More Time did was ensure she got in first and staked a claim in the hearts of teenage girls - and the dreams of teenage boys. It is not the greatest album, but if you like her, you probably already have it. If you don't and your daughter wants to buy it, be careful. You'll have these songs playing in your mind till you go nuts.