On its 20th anniversary, Britney and the team behind “…Baby One More Time” have spoken to the Guardian.
“The whole song is about that stress that we all go through as teens. I knew it was a great song. It was different and I loved it – I don’t think you can anticipate how a song is going to be received. I was pretty young at the time, so I was nervous, but Max was so nice and put me right at ease. I remember being so in awe of Stockholm. I was out there for, like, 10 days, but we were so busy in the studio I didn’t have time to go out and explore on that first trip. I really respect his perfectionism when I’m working with him. I think Max is a genius. It all just came together and felt right. In my opinion Max is the greatest songwriter of all time.”
Max Martin, who wrote the song and sent it to TLC, said, “I remember listening back to the tape after it blew up and you can hear me sort of go: ‘Hit me baby one more time’, then I hear myself say, Yeah, it’s pretty good’.”
TLC declined the single and Simon Cowell tried to secure it for 5ive, who had worked with Max Martin on their debut single; Cowell even offered Max a £95,000 Merc 500SL for it, but he declined.
Steve Lunt began to A&R Britney’s debut album after she originally wanted to make a Sheryl Crow-esque album, and the rest is history. Nana Hedin, backing vocalist, said: “I remember I thought the song was for teenagers but the production was filled with a grown-up attitude and sounds that I really liked. I was so impressed by how a guy like Max could write lyrics that got into the hearts and spoke to the teenage thinking. I tried to sound exactly like her. It was hard, but a lot of fun. I’m like a parrot in many ways. I try to get the same vibe and use the exact same pronunciation as the artist. In one harmony, each take is different; I sing very high, in another I use powerful belting, the next I’m whispering and sometimes I even pinch my nose for a sharper sound.”
How does Britney feel about the song almost 20 years later? “Wow, that went quick. It was such a fun and crazy time, it was a bit of a blur.”