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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Britney Spears: Oops!... I Did It Again


1) Oops! ... I Did It Again; 2) Stronger; 3) Don't Go Knockin' On My Door; 4) (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction; 5) Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know; 6) What U See (Is What U Get); 7) Lucky; 8) One Kiss From You; 9) Where Are You Now; 10) Can't Make You Love Me; 11) When Your Eyes Say It; 12) Girl In The Mirror; 13) Dear Diary.

Contrary to rumors, Britney's sophomore release is not a carbon copy of ...Baby One More Time — it is more like a slightly genetically modified clone. After all, "hit me baby one more time", unless viewed as a submissive / masochistic statement in the light of violent polysemy of the verb ʽto hitʼ, is a fairly cuddly hook next to "I'm not that innocent" — the coming-down line that really constitutes the true hook of ʽOops!... I Did It Againʼ (along with the moans and groans that hint at an already better understanding of one's bodily powers and wishes than the "oh baby baby" trick on ʽOne More Timeʼ).

Then again, Britney did turn 18 during the recording sessions for the album, which explains a few things. In general, the record is still quite strictly targeted at bubblegum teen-pop audiences: rose-colored ballads, Disneyworld-ish dance numbers, and pseudo-schoolgirl-scribbled lyrics form the bulk of it — but already the industry is trying to sex the girl up, starting from the album cover (bellybutton on the loose, and that strange wallpaper bears a suspicious resemblance to a bee­hive... beehive, get it?) and ending with the more-than-obvious choice of «obligatory classic rock cover» — no less than ʽSatisfactionʼ itself. (Or perhaps that was the condition under which Jann Wenner would allow Britney to appear on the cover of his respectable magazine).

Funny thing is, ʽSatisfactionʼ in Britney's hands actually sounds interesting, if not exactly good, for the first fourty seconds — the acoustic intro, where the chorus is re-imagined as a teen girl's complaint at not being able to satisfy her... oh never mind. Then, as the plastic soul rhythms come in and the song becomes a cruddily programmed anthem to «finding your own self», we quickly plunge into the depths of the ridiculous, such as hearing the line "I've got my own identity!" from Ms. Spears (because she doesn't care much for tight skirts, apparently).

Just as before, Britney's worst enemy here is not even the song material, but the production — we are supposed to be taking this in as «live» music, with acoustic guitars, (occasionally) real drums, and played rather than programmed keyboards manning the melodies. But most of the melodies are trivial slow or mid-tempo grooves that require real hot playing to be effective, whereas here there is absolutely no player involvement anywhere in sight — just a bunch of probably well-paid professionals wasting their lives on fluff and letting us all know that they know it, too.

In another age, in another world, a song like ʽLuckyʼ, contributed by the ever-present Max Mar­tin, could be a source of inspiration — written with a clear nod to classic Motown conventions, so much that, with a little imaginative effort, you could envisage it done by a Mary Wells or a Diana Ross... okay, at the very least — by an ABBA or someone like that. But the drums are crappy, the synthesizers' only point is to provide tonal accompaniment, the lyrics are trite even for the pop level of a 1962 (although, granted, probably just right for the level of the average 12-year girl), and the hook-forging process involves making one out of "she cry-cry-cries in her lonely heart" which might be embarrassing to sing along to even for certain 12-year olds.

Other than the «retro-potential» of ʽLuckyʼ and those amusing forty seconds of the intro to ʽSatis­factionʼ, there is nothing of interest on the album whatsoever — ʽOops!...ʼ is a stylistic clone of ʽOne More Timeʼ, but without the cool piano notes it is even less redeemable; and its companion piece, ʽStrongerʼ, makes the best of Britney's vocal abilities (her lower notes always sound more authentic and realistic than her higher ones), but completely misses its point — there is nothing about her performance that truly suggests getting "stronger than yesterday, now it's nothing but my way" (if one of your idols is Janet Jackson, this does not automatically mean that Max Martin can make you into a Janet Jackson with one wave of his songwriter's pen).

Worse, towards the end of the album they really blow it with a set of never-ending adult contem­porary and / or power ballads, including a donation from devil lady Diane Warren and a song called ʽDear Diaryʼ, co-credited to Britney herself — and it shows, it shows! not even a federal grant-supported sociological survey into the blogging activities of middle school teenage girls could have yielded such an authentic reconstruction on behalf of a middle-aged professional song­writer. I wonder if Steve Tyler would still insist that pink is his favorite color, having heard this particular song?

So, overall, even though the choice is altogether pathetic, this is probably the worst album in Britney's entire career — generic mainstream bubblegum pop from the late 1990s is bad enough as it is, but recycled generic mainstream bubblegum pop brings «regurgitated spam» to mind, or maybe even more horrendous things than that. Cute bellybutton, of course, but we'd already seen it in her videos anyway.


  1. 'Lucky' is probably the most unfortunate autobiographical song in modern-pop history (except that she didn't write it), for how much the third-person she sings here completely mirrors the Britney that she'd eventually become. The confused bald Britney whose life crashes and burns (too bad that didn't make an Amy Winehouse out of her).

    Anyway, I can definitely see how this album is an even greater crime to good taste in relative to the boring-bland-forgettable debut.

    But I'll give this album a slight edge over the debut if only because there are less ballads here, so it makes for a less painful listening.

    Nonetheless, 'Stronger' is the only track here that I'll salvage (the general public might argue for 'Oops!' instead).

    Sadly for you, her third album is more of the same. Although with the ballad cut down to only one ('I'm Not A Girl', which for once sounds like it does have meaning for Britney) and a surprised donation from The Neptunes ('Slave 4 U', which at least makes the production somewhat distinctive, if not good), it's my pick for the best among her three bubblegum albums.

  2. For some deconstructionist fun, check out Richard Thompson (yes, Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson) performing Oops I Did It Again on his 1000 Years of Popular Music tour. Actually makes it enjoyable.

    1. Exactly! I loved that one. While the whole album was a bit patchy overall (still wildly enjoyable), Thompson's take on "Oops I Did It Again" is an absolute knockout.