Like many superstar artists’ signature songs, Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” was actually written for someone else, according to author John Seabrook’s book “The Song Machine,” which explains the process that has created some of the biggest hit songs of the past two decades.
The song, which was initially called “Hit Me Baby,” was written by Swedish music producer and songwriter Max Martin for the the three-woman American R&B group TLC.
TLC singer T-Boz later recalled the group’s decision to reject the song: “I was like, I like the song, but do I think it’s a hit? Do I think it’s TLC? … Was I going to say, ‘Hit me baby one more time’? Hell no!” she said, according to Seabrook.
Because of its misleading and potentially ominous meaning, “Hit Me Baby” was later tweaked to “…Baby One More Time.”
“It’s hard to imagine that anyone for whom English is a first language would write the phrase ‘Hit me baby’ without intending it as an allusion to domestic violence or S&M,” Seabrook wrote.
But, he adds, “that was the furthest thing from the mind of the gentle Swedes [Martin and his collaborators], who were only trying to use up-to-the-minute lingo for ‘Call me.'” Apparently Martin had a misunderstanding of American slang or how the phrase would translate in the song.
After TLC rejected the song, Martin sent the tune to Robyn (the Swedish teen-pop queen, who has since redefined herself as a more adult pop singer), but nothing materialised from that either.
After meeting then-15-year-old Britney Spears, who was newly signed at Jive Records, Martin went back to Stockholm and “worked on the song a little more with her in mind, made a copy, and mailed it to Jive,” Seabrook wrote.
By the time Martin’s demo reached Jive, everyone thought, “Holy s—, this is perfect,” Steve Lunt, an A&R executive for Jive, told Seabrook.
“‘…Baby One More Time’ is a song about obsession, and it takes all of two seconds to hook you, not once but twice, first with the sung triplet ‘Da Nah Nah’ and then with that alluring growl-purr Britney emits with her first line, ‘Oh baby bay-bee,'” Seabrook wrote.
As we all know, “…Baby One More Time” became Spears’ debut single, and it made her an instant superstar. Spears sold 500,000 copies just on November 3, 1998 — the day it was released.
The song spent 32 weeks on the Hot 100 chart and still remains Spears’ longest-charting single, according to Billboard.
In 2011, Spears’ high school-set music video was voted by Billboard readers the best of the 1990s and was honored in the final episode of “TRL” as the most-requested video of all time.
Here’s the song that launched Spears’ career:
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