Culture Re-View: On this day in 1998, Britney Spears releases her first single

Video britney spears 1998

Let’s rewind the clocks back to 23 October 1998.

Pop music didn’t know it at the time, but it was about to get an almighty shakeup – courtesy of a sixteen-year-old by the name of Britney Spears.

Some were already familiar with the name, especially if they’d grown up watching The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1990s. But formost, she was an unknown who was about to deliver a classic jam that went against some of the 90s pop scene, which was largely dominated by boybands and ballad-belters like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.

Enter: Spears and the teenybopper boom.

To mark the birthday of the song ‘… Baby One More Time’, here are four facts you should know about the single that launched Britney’s iconic career…

Not good enough for some…

Spears recorded ‘… Baby One More Time’ in May 1998, having been signed to Jive Records. It was released as the first single from the album of the same name and became an instant triple-platinum hit, and one of the best-selling singles of all time with over ten million copies sold to date. But did you know that the song was reportedly turned down by The Backstreet Boys, TLC, and Robyn before being offered to Britney Spears? TLC apparently turned it down as they were uncomfortable with the “hit me” lyric, interpreting it as referring to domestic violence. Swedish songwriter Max Martin and co-producer Rami Yacoub stated that “hit me” referred to “hit me up” – ie: “call me.”

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Spears Lightnin’

The music video for the single is now etched in pop culture psyche. Directed by Nigel Dick, it was shot at Venice High School, the same high school used for the shooting of Grease, aka: Rydell High. The video faced a great deal of criticism at the time, with some suggesting that Spears baring her midriff would corrupt the youth of America…

Chart topper

It may not have corrupted the youth of the US, but the song certainly made a big impression on the charts. ‘… Baby One More Time’ remains one of the best-selling singles of all time, with over 10 million copies sold. It is still Britney’s biggest Hot 100 hit to this day, having spent 32 weeks on the tally. The track also reached the top spot in the majority of countries in which it charted, and in France alone, it spent two consecutive weeks at number-one on the French Singles Chart and was certified platinum by the Syndicat National de l’Édition Phonographique after selling over 500,000 units in the country. In 2000, the song even won the Guinness World Record for ‘Fastest Most No.1 Singles on UK chart by a Teenage Female Solo Artist’.

That’s a lot of babies…

Britney sings the word “baby” 25 times in the song. Just in case you were wondering.

We listened and counted. A proud moment in the career of any culture journalist.