By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
November 3, 1998, was the release date of the " . . . Baby One More Time" CD single and 12-inch (w/ "Autumn Goodbye" on the B side). For diary purposes, this pegs September1998 as definitely my first encounter with Britney: I dug her pre-single promo cassette teaser ("Baby" plus three short samples) out of a 50-cent junk bin at the record store, andconvinced she was a black girl trying to sing whitesent it to my niece (age 10), saying, "Hey! This is good!" Well, she's obviously not black. That's the only thing we know for sure.
December 21, 1998: (Written on the back of a postcard featuring Bud Walton Arena, Fayette-ville, Arkansas"Home of the Razorbacks"): Britney Spears is cool. Great lite soul early-'70s vocal sound. The B side is really good. The LP comes out January 12. If Debbie Gibson had been this good, maybe we would've been spared the grunge era.
March 30, 1999: The game is over. Set, point, and match. Once ex-Mouseketeer Britney is unleashed on any WB-TV show, forget it. Her busted knee has only postponed the day of reckoning until next fall. But the CD'll go 3-4 million easy; the second single is a lock. Face it, this is scary, but she is the first Annette ('50s Mouseketeer sex bomb, yuck) since, well, Annette. Her doll collection is lame city, and her slut-makeup needs mucho work. But the girl is a SAGITTARIUS, which is 100% cool (unless you're drunk dead asshole Jim Morrison); she played varsity basketball (which is 1000% cool). Still, with Lolita-Britney (see the Rolling Stone kiddie-sex-bomb photo that just came outnot the cover pic), it's 20% music, 50% TV-career-to-be, andGod help us all30% s-e-x. I dunno, is she the male gender's revenge on all the lame dippy crappy boy bands?
March 31, 1999: OKnow that Britney's slut look is out of the closet, I can see the appeal to 16-year-old boys. Duh! But what is her appeal to 14-year-old freshman girls? They want to be sluts too, want to . . . what? I give up! For instance, if you combine "Britney + Spears" and "Dawson's + Creek" on an AltaVista search, the very first site is "Welcome to Debbey!" Yes, a 14-year-old freshman. Whose very favorite things in the whole wide world are: Dawson's Creek. And Britney Spears. Pages and pages worth, out of control. Now, Deb-girl "writes stories" (except those pages are "screwed up," so you can't read them); I mean, she could be literate. But WHATWHYHOW is the Britney role model worship thing? I just DON'T GET IT. Musically, OK, "Baby Whomp Me One More Time" is a killer song and production. The second single, "Sometimes," is hellacatchy and will be huge. "I Won't Be There" is a hooky, dramatic ballad. "Thinkin' of You" is lame but hooky, the melody stolen from some early-'70s soul song. But that's it, the rest of the CD is nada, zippo, nothing, does not even exist. (I own one, have heard it, can testify. "Autumn Goodbye" is her second-best song; what corp doofus decided it didn't belong on the CD proper?) (Brit's original vision: to do something kinda "Sheryl Crow" style, yikes.) Brit is guileless, raw naked ambition combined with a wacko Southern Baptist upbringing. (South Park"sacrilegious"?whoo! I guess that means the cussin'! Or just the Satan vs. Jesus boxing match? BritneyJESUS WON! Figure it out, girl!)
April 28, 1999: Britney on Leno was pretty damn weird. The good/bad news: She didn't explode. She was wearing yellow jeans and a yellow jacket thing, a white half-top, and must she insist on airing her sweaty midriff every time she gets on a stage? Looks like she ate a lot of road food on tour; her bottom half on down was decidedly non-anorexic, and this is a healthy thing. The choreography [sic] was actually pretty good; she is a way decent dancer. Guess that Mouse Geek training stuck. And she can really sing. OK, it's that chirpy-twerpy Mariah Carey-on-helium bubblepop voice, but I guess she's been doing it for 10+ years, and her intonation is quite goodnot always the case for hit singers live, of all types. The backup vocals were canned (off the record), but it was just her voice naked doing the lead. The musicians (her tour people?) were heavy-dutya black rhythm section that was waaayy funky; I mean, the drummer had a groove and a half (wonder what they think about playing for a lightweight no-brain like Britney).
Now it gets interesting. They send her over to the talk couch . . . well, she only gets 120 seconds, so she doesn't have time to hang herself. She plays with/twirls her hair a LOT. Makes very disconnected facial expressions, which if I were to slow them down someday (I'll get the stomach eventually) would include a lot of "I'm better than you and you're boring me" SMIRKS. Has the creepiest phony smile I've seen in years; you can see her brain cell lighting up, almost . . . OK . . . SMILE! Does her brain feed that far? It's safe to say our girl is not Rhodes scholar material. Did Madonna have a baby by Lucifer back in 1981 and put it up for adoption, with this as the result? I have NEVER seen someone uptight or unspontaneous while singing and dancing on nat'l TV. Maybe she just likes dancing like a robot. . . . OH, her (alleged) boob job! I'm no expert on the original size of Britney's thingies; I guess it looks like a minor Tori Spelling-size plastic surgery. Like, who cares? She certainly does insist on semi-displaying them through her white top, though. GIRL, cover your bod back up! No one but gullible 15-year-old boys wants to see it! You should be ashamed of exploiting those innocent young men!