This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #312: Baby (One More Time) by Britney Spears.
There are certain songs, singers and stories that end up being larger than life. The saga of Britney Spears is one that certainly qualifies in that regard. It seems as though she has been in the public eye her whole life. She began performing on the world’s stage when she landed a role in the revamped Mickey Mouse Club in the early 1990s. As a teenager, she became romantically linked with fellow teen star, Justin Timberlake. The two formed a sort of musical royalty when it came to Pop music; she of the debut single, “Hit Me Baby (One More Time)….that went on to be a #1 smash hit, selling tens of millions of singles. Timberlake shot to superstardom as a member of the hugely successful boy band called, “N’Sync”. Both Britney and Justin appeared to have it all….they were both beautiful, physical specimens, their careers were off to the best start possible, they had all of the fame and money two young people could want for a hundred lifetimes and they had each other….or, so it seemed.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that their relationship was not as rosy as the public had been lead to believe for the four years that Justin and Britney were a couple. In the end, that shouldn’t be too surprising. They were teens when they met and barely out of their teens when they split. It couldn’t have been easy to develop a loving relationship when every move you make as a couple is choreographed and scrutinized by a media machine with an insatiable appetite. In fact, there is an argument to be made that, with the death of Princess Diana at the hands of paparazzi, Britney Spears became the world’s most hunted celebrity. Her relationship with Justin Timberlake and their subsequent breakup all happened to coincide with a time in our society when the Internet was becoming an integrated part of all of our lives and social media was just beginning to shape our view of the world. Like a car accident in slow motion, we couldn’t look away as Britney attempted to go on with her career and her life. As we all know, it hasn’t gone so well.
The song, “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was a huge hit when it was released. The song is, somewhat, misunderstood due to the sexual implications of a scantily-clad teen girl asking her man to “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. In reality, she was using a gambling reference, from the game, “Blackjack” that uses the phrase, “Hit Me” to request another turn or chance. But, the sexual innuendo implied by dancing about in a barely-there Catholic School girl outfit (which, if you are not aware, is one of the single-biggest male sexual fantasy costumes of all-time) was hard to ignore or explain away. Female empowerment via objectification has always been a dicey road to navigate successfully. For every Madonna, who played that game like a Boss, there is a Britney Spears-type who appears, in the end, to have been used and discarded when it all became inconvenient for those in charge.
I don’t know Ms. Spears, personally, so I could be mistaken in what I am about to say next and, if so, I apologize. But, my impression is that there has been little about her whole life that Britney Spears has been in charge of. Early on, she became a part of an entertainment machine that is run, mostly by men, and is fuelled quite often by the sexual objectification of beautiful, young women. It is not surprising to me that many of her music videos from early in her career have a sexual slant to them. Eventually, it all became too much for her and, as many of you know, she went through a series of very public episodes of mental distress that were made front-page tabloid news. In the course of the psychological examinations that followed, Spears was deemed to not be mentally-competent and, as a result, she lost custody of her children and she lost control of her life, in the form of being placed under the conservatorship of her father. A Conservatorship ruling is usually something that happens to the elderly when they can no longer make rational decisions for themselves. In Spears’ case, she was deemed to not be competent enough to make any further decisions regarding her career, her finances nor her children. After almost a decade of living under the complete legal dictates of her father and her business manager, Britney Spears has gone to court to seek the formal cancellation of the conservatorship agreement so that she can, at last, be in charge of her own life. That court case is on-going (as I write these words). Many celebrities have rallied to her defence. In social media circles, the hashtag, #FreeBritney has been trending.
***UPDATE: Britney Spears has been successful in her court case and the conservatorship using has been overturned in her favour. She is now free to make her own decisions and live her life as she sees fit. I wish her the best of luck going forward. I think that she will need a lot of support to successfully live a healthy and fulfilling life. Life isn’t easy at the best of times but, for someone who has been through as much as she has, well, it definitely will be tricky. I hope that the media give her the space she needs to grow into the person she wishes to become. I know that a lot of folks are rooting for her. Regardless of how her personal journey plays out, that same journey really began with a song called, “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (which was shortened to “Baby One More Time” to avoid anyone thinking she actually wanted to be hit as a turn-on.) So, without further delay, here is Britney Spears and the song that started it all. May she find peace. #FreeBritney
The link to the video for the song, “Baby (One More Time)” by Britney Spears, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Britney Spears can be found here.
The link to an article about her court case can be found here.