Britney spears’s ‘oops!

Twenty years ago, Britney Spears did it again with her sophomore album, the final classic of the teen-pop era and a goodbye to the gilded years of the record industry. This is the story of how it was created—and its planetary impact.


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In the spring of 2000, the American Dream demanded to lớn go to Mars. The instructions were simple: The new blond ruler of the Red Planet wanted lớn dance in a cherry latex catsuit; she wanted to lớn meet a hot astronaut; there would be no rocket ship. The rest was up to whatever a $150,000 budget và fate could afford.

Oops. You can already fill in the blank, a Mad Lib automatically answered. Britney was back. By that point, “Spears” was superfluous. “Britney” wasn’t just an icon; she’d become an idea. & this idea had a mind of its own, which envisioned with vague but unyielding rigor a video clip that doubled as an interstellar fairy tale. But make it sexy.


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There was a lot to lớn consider, but no one had time for that. The ’90s were only a few months gone, & a lacquered mirage of peace, prosperity, và maximal pop gleamed on the infinite horizon. In the middle of May, at the dawn of the millennium, Bill Clinton was still president, unemployment limboed to lớn its lowest rate since the late ’60s, and Survivor was still two weeks away from ushering in the reality TV takeover. Stock in both America Online và peroxide manufacturers was at an all-time high. Gladiator, an anachronistic swords-and-sandals epic, dominated the box office. Monica had just spurned Tom Selleck to lớn accept Chandler’s marriage proposal. The Billboard singles charts were a game of musical chairs between ’NSync, the Backstreet Boys, Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Destiny’s Child, Eminem, và Nelly. Sisqó introduced the globe khổng lồ the concept of underwear minimalism. Santana drank the blood of the hàng hóa G&B for eternal youth, and no one has heard from them since.

Towering above all pop culture totems was a 5-foot-4 ex-Mouseketeer turned teenaged Marilyn, who sold more first-week albums than any female artist ever had—1,319,000 copies—nearly triple that of the previous record-holder (Alanis Morissette). The eponymous lead single shattered ’NSync’s freshly set record for most radio station adds in a single week. In this never-ending prom of frosted-tip and puka-shell pop, Britney Spears was the queen, barely legal và the biggest star in the world. She was the vestal pseudo-virgin at the center of that neon helix between impeachment and implosion in a perfumed Abercrombie và Fitch nation, soundtracked by Swedish pop shamans và their sparkling American veneers.


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A hit is a hit, but lượt thích anything that seeps into the collective memory, the “Oops! ... I Did It Again” shock và awe defined that moment. The single & album—the latter of which was released trăng tròn years ago on Saturday—were the last successful world-conquering acts of the exhausted American century (even if the songwriting và production were already outsourced), the final classic album of the teen-pop era, a goodbye lớn the gilded years of the record industry. The iPod would enter the world shortly thereafter, followed by social media and forever wars. Britney would go on to lớn produce better songs (“I’m a Slave 4 U,” “Toxic”) and remain essential to lớn the pop culture industrial complex until this day (though her public struggles with mental health have often overshadowed the music). But this was the peak of blood-rush hysteria, the last time the illusion could be sustained. Americans are gratefully duped into believing what they want to believe, & this was the last gasp of willful delusion. Nothing would ever be that innocent again.

To be fair, it was easy khổng lồ be entranced. The “Oops!” đoạn phim had fire eaters, interplanetary travel, shirtless-yet-suspendered synchronized laborers, và a jiggy phalanx of silver-suited backup dancers gyrating inside a Martian space dungeon commanded by one Britney Spears, sadistically taunting a rocketeer boy toy, chained and dangling from the ceiling. An atom smasher of adolescent sexuality. Bruce Weber directing Barbarella—except this time, Jane Fonda had a motor in the back of her Honda.

No rules applied. The 25-minute gap that would theoretically delay communications between mission control and Mars? Who needs science, nerd?! Wouldn’t Britney Spears, flesh-and-blood Louisiana native, need an oxygen suit to effortlessly breathe and thrust in the cosmos? Or risk messing up the sleek space-age coif that she’d ordered styled lượt thích Elizabeth Hurley in Austin Powers? Don’t even bother asking about the arbitrary ban on rocket ships. That would’ve just been bizarre.

None of these are even the weirdest arcana about the video, which TRL tattooed into the memory of anyone who ever wore a tattoo choker (and those Accutane’d bros who pretended lớn watch only for the view). That would go lớn the Titanic interlude that doubles as the bridge two-thirds the way through the song—before the beat drops even harder, detonating back into an even more nitroglycerine hook, reminding you of the perils of getting lost in the game. Sorry Chad, your princess is in another castle.

Titanic was obviously big và we needed a bridge,” explains Rami Yacoub, who cowrote & coproduced “Baby One More Time,” “Oops!,” & the rest of the second album’s hit singles, alongside Max Martin, the Smokey Robinson of Swedish pop, who has now racked up more no. 1 hits than any producer save Sir George Martin. “Because MTV was so massive at the time, we were always imagining the clip as we wrote the song. The idea was pretty simple: Let’s make the bridge have a Titanic reference where Britney gets the stone from the old lady.”

“Oh, it’s beautiful. But wait a minute, isn’t this—?”

“Yeah, yes it is.”

“But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end?”

“Well, baby, I went down and got it for you.”

“Aww, you shouldn’t have.”

And yet he did. In the Nigel Dick–directed video, the cloned Rivers Cuomo who mans the space station somehow triggers Britney lớn frontflip through outer space. She changes clothes in midair into something a little more conservative, a little less aerodynamic. When the American Eaglenaut removes his space explorer’s helmet, his head expands và then shrinks to a Beetlejuice size (the astral climate and such). Still, he gives her the coveted jewel, she still graciously accepts it, and rips his beating heart out lượt thích Scorpion. It’s unclear how and why the astronaut spelunked lớn the bottom of the North Atlantic back to lớn Mars, all just lớn bestow a fictional stone from a three-year-old blockbuster to lớn a girl who isn’t even that into him (even if the girl was Martian Britney circa the fin de siècle). These are logical frameworks that can’t be answered. Just know it was shot on the Universal Studios backlot. In real life, the astronaut is now a Phoenix trauma surgeon.

Somehow, this perfectly explains the late ’90s. If the ’ludes và stagflation anomie of the ’70s caused a Happy Days revival for ’50s homespun corniness, the first years of the Britney Spears era applied a glossy sheen to black & white repressiveness. The boomers in charge simultaneously fetishized the rebellion of the Aquarian years & the pre–Kennedy assassination stability of their childhood. This is how you get Britney, who contained both polarities, even if the Janis Joplin dissipation was still a few years away. Of course, she wanted astronauts in the video. What else but that ultimate symbol of mid-20th-century crew-cut heroics?

Her gifts extended beyond the panting tigress “oh bay-bee, bay-bee” vocal timbre, flawless looks, and seductive-but-still-PG-13 dance moves. It was more than the Scandinavian pop Odins who wrote và produced her anthems, và the shrewd Jive A&R and kinh doanh machine. If it was that easy, there would be another Britney Spears every year. A slew of alternative Britneys followed—Christina, Jessica, Mandy—but none could replicate the enduring stranglehold on the imagination. She was her own target audience, summoning pure brilliance from the middle-of-the-mall basic.

There are no monuments or museums consecrated to lớn Cheiron, the greatest hit factory since Motown. It wouldn’t mesh with the Swedish concept of lagom, which translates to “just the right amount.” It’s baked into an underlying social contract that stresses teamwork, balance, & a communal approach. This partially explains why the taciturn Max Martin gives one interview every trăng tròn years. The rest of the disciples of Cheiron are almost equally reticent. Even in recent years, no one has ever exploited the brand, tried to steal credit, or launched an ill-fated career revamp as an EDM DJ.

The name Cheiron is largely obscure to lớn the average pop fan, who at best knows that all the immortal Britney Spears, ’NSync, and Backstreet Boys songs were written by a bunch of long-haired Scandinavians. The most well-known is Max Martin, once the lead singer in the Stockholm glam-metal band It’s Alive, whose album art exuded big Spinal Tap energy, but whose songs bore a subtle creative debt khổng lồ Prince, KISS, & ’80s synth-pop. The Berry Gordy of Cheiron was a smiling, gap-toothed clip game devotee who chain-smoked Marlboro Menthols và looked like a Viking bassist for Bon Jovi. His name was Dag Volle, but he rechristened himself Denniz Pop around the time of his first hit (“It’s My Life”) with the Nigerian-Swedish dentist turned hip-house fusionist, Dr. Alban. In 1992, it played about every eight minutes on the music-request TV channel The Box, usually alongside A.B. Logic’s “The Hitman.”