Britney Spears – “Oops I Did It Again”

Released: 3.27.00

Peak: #9

Straddling exploitation and empowerment, Lolita corroborates Humbert’s testimony, warning of the mortal threat her flirty allure poses to a mankind too preoccupied with peeping up her skirt to take heed. The tuff gal didst protest too much–“not that innocent” if you say so, Britney was still plenty naïve, virgin or no (well, OK, no), as a decade of biography attests. But “Oops I Did It Again” came at a time when that slice of a generation which had accepted the collective commodification of its desires ab ovo could still wink at our lurid fascination with teen sexuality and sigh “But to lose all my senses/ That is just so typically me” with airhead élan.

Musically, “Oops” is just “… Baby One More Time” one more time, except, how you say, harder better faster stronger, its aggro synth-taunt matched deftly to the wide-eyed Martian tease of the video (was she ever cuter?), as evil genius Max Martin melodically paraphrased Barbra Streisand’s “A Woman In Love” and offered titular meta-commentary on the production line ethos, a la “It’s the Same Old Song.” And Britney had improved as a singer too (insert quotation marks where you will). Her personable drawl remained an easy target for Christina adorers who cherish “good singers” and earned American Idol as their reward, but she tightens more confidently around vowels and her growled “yeah”s emanate from a spot south of her diaphragm.

The remaining string of singles from Britney’s second album lacked the same punch. She never really got the hang of yearning balladry, with “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know” miles ahead of “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” or, ick, “Born to Make You Happy,” and yet still barely past the starting line. And with “Stronger” a too tepid “I Will Survive” and the poor-little-rich-girl lament “Lucky” less prescient than premature, only her (non-single) cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” rising from a cool finger-pop to a slow grind, reflected the same image-conscious awareness.

Re-listening to “Oops I Did It Again” and its presentation of Mecha-Britney the indestructible nymphet, makes the defiant off-the-ropes counterpunch of Blackout seem far less of a surprise than it did coming at the end of Britney’s worst year ever. She delivered the non-answer to did-she-or-didn’t-she? that we all deserved. Whatever effect it’s had on her life, consumer prurience has energized her from the start.

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