In June 1997, Spears was in talks with manager Lou Pearlman to join female pop group Innosense. Lynne asked family friend and entertainment lawyer Larry Rudolph for his opinion and submitted a tape of Spears singing over a Whitney Houston karaoke song along with some pictures. Rudolph decided to pitch her to record labels, which required a professional demo. He sent Spears an unused song from Toni Braxton; she rehearsed for a week and recorded in a studio with a sound engineer. Spears traveled to New York with the demo and met executives from four labels, returning to Kentwood the same day. Three rejected her, arguing audiences wanted pop bands such as the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, and "there wasn't going to be another Madonna, another Debbie Gibson or another Tiffany." Two weeks later, executives from JIVE Records returned calls to Rudolph. Senior vice president of A&R Jeff Fenster stated, "It's very rare to hear someone that age who can deliver emotional content and commercial appeal. [...] For any artist, the motivation—the 'eye of the tiger'— is extremely important. And Britney had that." They appointed her to work with producer Eric Foster White for a month, who reportedly shaped her voice from "lower and less poppy" delivery to "distinctively, unmistakably Britney." Spears recorded ten songs with White, including "Autumn Goodbye", "E-Mail My Heart", "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart", "I'm So Curious", "I Will Still Love You", "Luv The Hurt Away", "Soda Pop", "Thinkin' About You", and "You Got It All". The singer also recorded a cover of Sonny & Cher's 1967 single "The Beat Goes On". White was responsible for the vocal recording and song production, while additional production was done by English electronic music group All Seeing I.
After hearing the material, president Clive Calder ordered a full album. Spears flew to Cheiron Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, where half of the album was recorded from March to April 1998, with producers Max Martin, Denniz Pop and Rami Yacoub, among others. Martin showed Spears and her management a track titled "Hit Me Baby One More Time", which was originally written for American R&B group TLC; however, they rejected it. Spears later claimed that she felt excited when she heard it and knew it was going to be a hit. "We at JIVE said, 'This is a fuckin' smash'," revealed the label's A&R executive, Steven Lunt; however, other executives were concerned that the line "Hit Me" would condone domestic violence, and later revised it to "...Baby One More Time". The singer revealed that she "didn't do well at all the first day in the studio [recording the song], I was just too nervous. So I went out that night and had some fun. The next day I was completely relaxed and nailed it. You gotta be relaxed singing '... Baby One More Time'." By June 1998, the album was done, and Spears embarked on a promotional tour sponsored by L'Oreal. ...Baby One More Time was released as Spears' debut album on January 12, 1999.
Spears originally envisioned "Sheryl Crow music, but younger more adult contemporary", but felt all right with her label's producers, since "It made more sense to go pop, because I can dance to it—it's more me." The album opens with the first single "...Baby One More Time", a teen pop and dance-pop song that begins with a three-note motif in the bass range of the piano. The opening was compared to many other songs, such as "We Will Rock You" (1977), "Start Me Up" (1981) and the theme song of the film Jaws due to the fact the track "makes its presence known in exactly one second". According to magazine Blender, "...Baby One More Time" is composed by "wah-wah guitar lines and EKG-machine bass-slaps". Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, authors of Girl Culture: Studying girl culture : a readers' guide (2008), observed that the lyrics of the song "gesture toward [Spears] longing for the return of an ex-boyfriend." The next song and third single, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" runs through a moderately slow dance beat, and has a rhythm and blues melody mixed with edgy synthesized instrumentals. The third track and second single "Sometimes" is a ballad, that Spears begins with "You tell me you're in love with me/That you can't take your pretty eyes away from me/It's not that I don't wanna stay/But every time you come too close I move away". Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic noted the song has "a catchy hook and endearing melody, with a reminiscent euro-dance rhythm."
After "Sometimes" is ...Baby One More Time's fourth track, "Soda Pop", a song that draws influences from bubblegum pop and dancehall, and features background vocals from co-writer Mikey Bassie. Spears' vocals on the fifth track and fourth single, "Born to Make You Happy", span more than an octave. Its lyrics allude to a relationship that a woman desires to repair, not quite understanding what went wrong, as she comes to realize that "I don't know how to live without your love/I was born to make you happy". The sixth track and final single, "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart", is a sentimental slow-tempo teen pop ballad. "I Will Be There" features a guitar riff similar to Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" (1997), with a "rousing chorus about standing by your man (or a best friend or a house pet)", as noted by Kyle Anderson of MTV. The eleventh track, "E-Mail My Heart", is a sensitive piano ballad where Spears sings, "E-mail me back/ And say our love will stay alive". The cover of Sonny & Cher's 1967 single "The Beat Goes On" is influenced by bossa nova and trip hop, and features a similar sound to spy movies themes.
...Baby One More Time received mixed reviews from critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars, and commented that, by the time Spears launched her career, "everything old was new again", comparing the album to Hangin' Tough (1988) by New Kids on the Block. Erlewine further complimented the quality of the singles while praising Max Martin, "who is also the mastermind behind Spears' debut." Entertainment Weekly's Beth Johnson noted the singer "sounds remarkably like the Backstreet Boys' kid sister", saying, however, that this was "not surprising, since BSB hit-meister Max Martin wrote the candy-pop-with-a-funky-edge smash debut." Robert Christgau commented Spears portrayed a "Madonna next door" in the album with songs like "...Baby One More Time" and "Soda Pop", while Craig McDennis of The Hamilton Spectator said the album "offers a glib compendium of soul/pop cliches, served with a giddy, uptempo verve that recalls Debbie Gibson on a chocolate high." Amazon.com's Rickey Wright gave ...Baby One More Time a mixed review, saying that "a few of the disc's cuts are pleasantly catchy", noting, however, "neither does the 17-year-old Spears's debut album contain anything else that remotely approaches that instant hit single ['...Baby One More Time']." Billboard's Paul Verna considered the album "a top 40-ready workout filled with hook-laden songs from the same bag as the title cut".
Kyle Anderson of MTV said he "was surprised in more ways than one "with his first listening of ...Baby One More Time, commenting he "expected there to be a lot of filler (there sort of is), though I didn't expect it to be as odd (at least sonically) as it ended up being. There has never been any mystery to why Spears became such a superstar, but these songs probably would have been huge even if Britney wore burlap sacks in all of her videos." Barry Walters of Rolling Stone gave the album two stars out of five, and compared the album's sound to early hits of Debbie Gibson, Mariah Carey, and Samantha Fox. Walters also said that "while several Cherion-crafted kiddie-funk jams serve up beefy hooks, shameless schlock slowies, like 'E-Mail My Heart', are pure spam." A NME reviewer rated ...Baby One More Time 1 out of 10, saying that "we seem to have reached crisis point: pubescent pop is now so rife that 17-year-old Britney 'lizard-lounge' Spears is already halfway through her lucrative showbiz career". He also found the album premature, commenting, "hopefully, if she starts to live the wretched life that we all eventually do, her voice will show the scars, she'll stop looking so fucking smug, she'll find solace in drugs and we'll be all the more happier for it. Now grow up, girl. Quick!" Amanda Murray of Sputnikmusic felt that, "with the exception of the terrific title track, ...Baby One More Time is a collection of either competent pop songs underwhelmingly executed or underwhelmingly written pop songs competently executed."
...Baby One More Time debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 selling 121,000 units, replacing DMX's Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998). Spears broke several records by doing so. The singer became the first new female artist to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one album on the Billboard 200 at the same time; the first new artist (male or female) to have a single go to the number one spot the same week that the album debuted at number one; and the first new female artist to have the first single and first album at number one the same week. Spears is also the youngest female in Billboard history to have a simultaneous single and album at number one in the same week. After four weeks since its release, the album had sold more than 500,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan sales data. After dropping to the top five, the album went back to number one in its fourth week, with a total of 804,200 units sold. On its fifth week it reached its highest sales week with 229,000 copies sold. ...Baby One More Time spent a total of six non-consecutive weeks at number one, and sold more than 1.8 million copies in its first two months of release in the country. In its forty-seventh week on the Billboard 200, the album held strong at number three, and with sales of over of ten million copies in the United States alone. The album was later certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), making Spears the youngest artist to receive that award, breaking Alanis Morissette's record, who was twenty-one years old when she released Jagged Little Pill (1995). The album was the fourteenth album since 1991 to sell over ten million copies in the United States, and Spears became the best-selling female artist of 1999. ...Baby One More Time spent a total of fifty-one weeks in the top ten of the Billboard 200. The album spent a total of one-hundred-and-three weeks on the chart. ...Baby One More Time landed at number three on BMG Music Club all-time best-sellers list, selling 1.6 million units, behind Shania Twain's Come on Over (1997).
The album debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, totaling nine non-consecutive weeks at the top. On December 12, 1999, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) certified it Diamond, for sales over one million units. ...Baby One More Time spent two weeks at number two on the European Top 100 Albums, and sold over four million copies within the continent, being certified quadruple Platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). The album reached number two on the UK Albums Chart, number four in French Albums Chart and was certified triple Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), double Platinum by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP), triple Gold in Germany by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), and decuple Platinum (Diamond) by the Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry (ZPAV). ...Baby One More Time debuted at number nine in May 1999 on the ARIA Albums Chart in Australia, reaching number two nine weeks later, placing behind the Dawson's Creek soundtrack. The album became the seventh highest-selling of 1999 in the country, and was certified quadruple Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) the following year after shipping 280,000 copies to retailers. The album debuted at number three on the RIANZ Albums Chart in New Zealand, placing behind Shania Twain's Come on Over (1997) and The Corrs' In Blue (2000). The album was later certified triple Platinum in the country by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).
"...Baby One More Time" was released as Spears' debut single on October 23, 1998. The song received generally favorable critical reviews, mostly praising its composition. "...Baby One More Time" attained worldwide success, reaching number one in every European country where it charted. It received numerous certifications around the world, and is one of the best-selling singles of all time, at over ten million copies. An accompanying music video, directed by Nigel Dick, portrays Spears as a student from a Catholic high school, who starts to daydream that she is singing and dancing around the school, while watching her love interest from afar. In 2010, the music video for "...Baby One More Time" was voted the third-most influential video in the history of pop music.
"Sometimes" was released as the second single on April 30, 1999. "Sometimes" achieved commercial success worldwide, reaching number one on Ultratop Flanders Singles in Belgium, Mega Single Top 100 in Netherlands and RIANZ Singles in New Zealand, while peaking inside the top five in four countries. In the United States, "Sometimes" missed the top-twenty, peaking at number twenty-one on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video for the song was directed by Nigel Dick. During rehearsals, on February 11, 1999, Spears injured her left knee and needed surgery. After recuperating in Kentwood, Louisiana, the music video was shot on April 9–10, 1999 at Paradise Cove in Malibu, California. It was released on May 6, 1999, on MTV's Total Request Live.
In May 1999, Max Martin and Spears went to the Battery Studios in New York City, New York, to re-record the vocals of "(You Drive Me) Crazy", due to the fact that a remixed version called "The Stop! Remix" was going to be included on the original motion picture soundtrack of the film Drive Me Crazy (1999). "The Stop! Remix" of the song was released as the third single on August 23, 1999. The remix had the addition of a stanza where Spears yells "Stop!", then all sound cutting out, followed by a transition. It also omits the lines "Lovin' you means so much more, more than anything I ever loved before". The music video was directed by Nigel Dick, and featured actors Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier.
"Born to Make You Happy" was released on December 6, 1999, as the fourth single, and received mixed reviews from music critics. The song achieved commercial success, peaking inside the top-five in eleven countries. The music video for it was directed by Billie Woodruff and produced by Geneva Films, choreographed by Wade Robson.
"From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" was released on December 15, 1999, as the final single. The song also received mixed reviews, finding the song a classic hit and competent single, despite considering it as an unremarkable song that refers only to kissing. "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" achieved moderate success, peaking at number thirty-seven in Australia, and twenty-three in New Zealand. Through imports, the song reached one hundred seventy-four in the United Kingdom. In the United States, "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" reached number fourteen on Billboard Hot 100, and seventeen on Pop Songs, and was later certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on March 28, 2000, for selling over 1,000,000 physical units of the single. The music video, directed by Gregory Dark, was released on December 17, 1999. It was highly criticized due to the fact that Dark had previously directed porn films.
Promotion began in 1998, when Spears did a small tour in malls and food courts that were located mostly in larger cities around the United States and Canada. Each show lasted around thirty minutes, and Spears had two male dancers with her on the stage. The promo tour is also known as the L'Oreal Mall Tour, after its sponsor. The singer made several promotional appearances including talk shows and live performances around the world. On December 1998, Spears' first showed up on MTV's and the Box's most-requested video charts. She also appeared on the Ricki Lake Show, the Howie Mandel Show, and was the presenter of the 1999 American Music Awards, prior to the release of the album. The singer also appeared on MTV's Spring Break and on the hundredth episode of Nickelodeon's All That. However, after hurting her knee, she had rescheduled appearances several shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. After recovering, Spears embarked on another promotional schedule. The singer appeared on 12th Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on May 1, MTV's FANatic on May 12, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee on May 3, and The Rosie O'Donnell Show on May 25.
Outside the United States, Spears visited German talk show Wetten, dass..? and Top of the Pops on June 25, 1999. She also went to the United Kingdom, making appearances on programmes such as This Morning, CD:UK and National Lottery. She visited a music variety show called Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ in Japan, and performed at the Festival Bar in Italy. Spears was also featured on an episode of ABC television sitcom, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, where she played herself. Spears was returning a favor to actress Melissa Joan Hart, who played a cameo role in Spears' video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy," according to People. The episode aired on September 24, 1999. The same month, Spears performed on The Rosie O'Donnell Show on September 27, and visited Carson Daly on MTV's Total Request Live the following day. She had a mini-Disney concert titled "Britney Spears & Joey McIntyre in Concert." Spears and Joey McIntyre performed live in the taped concert event. Promotion for the album continued in early 2000, where Spears performed at the 2000 American Music Awards, and also performed "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" in a medley with "...Baby One More Time" at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards.
On March 5, 1999, it was reported that Spears was planning her first headlining tour. She announced that the tour would start in July. On May 12, Tommy Hilfiger was announced as the main tour sponsor. During the time of the announcement, Spears was being featured in the company's "AllStars" campaign. On December 17, during the premiere of the music video of "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" on TRL, Spears called the show to announce March 2000 United States tour dates. The extension, entitled Crazy 2K Tour, was considered a prelude to her future world tour, Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour. The leg's main sponsor was Got Milk?. Media director Peter Gardiner explained, "Britney is magic with teen-age girls, and that's an absolutely crucial target for milk". Spears shot an advertising campaign to be shown before her performances began. The secondary sponsor was Polaroid and the corporation released the I-Zone as the tour's official camera. Spears used the I-Zone onstage to take pictures of the audience and further promote the product. The show was divided into segments, separated by interlude, ending with an encore. The set list consisted of songs from her debut album and several covers. Some changes were made during the 2000 leg, with the covers replaced by songs from her second studio album, Oops!... I Did It Again. The tour received positive critical appreciation. During the tour, Spears was accused of lip synching, although she denied these claims. On April 20, 2000, the concert at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii, was taped. It was slightly altered from its Crazy 2K incarnation and featured different costumes. On June 5, 2000, it was broadcast on Fox. The special was aired several times during the year. On November 21, 2000, JIVE Records released the Live and More! DVD, which included the Fox special. It was certified triple Platinum by the RIAA for shipping 300,000 units.
Spears was credited with leading the revival of teen pop. The Daily Yomiuri reported that "critics have hailed her as the most gifted teenage pop idol for many years, but Spears has set her sights a little higher-she is aiming for the level of superstardom that has been achieved by Madonna and Janet Jackson." Rolling Stone wrote: "Britney Spears carries on the classic archetype of the rock & roll teen queen, the dungaree doll, the angel baby who just has to make a scene." Rami Yacoub who co-produced Spears's debut album with lyricist Max Martin commented, "I know from Denniz Pop and Max's previous productions, when we do songs, there's kind of a nasal thing. With N' Sync and the Backstreet Boys, we had to push for that mid-nasal voice. When Britney did that, she got this kind of raspy, sexy voice." Chuck Taylor of Billboard observed, "Spears has become a consummate performer, with snappy dance moves, a clearly real-albeit young-and funkdified voice ... "(You Drive Me) Crazy", her third single ... demonstrates Spears' own development, proving that the 17-year-old is finding her own vocal personality after so many months of steadfast practice." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic referred to her music as a "blend of infectious, rap-inflected dance-pop and smooth balladry." Sputnikmusic writer Amanda Murray noted the album "offers a marker for Spears' progression as an artist, as a celebrity, and as a woman." In 2010, the album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Spears became an international pop culture icon immediately after launching her recording career. Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "One of the most controversial and successful female vocalists of the 21st century," she "spearheaded the rise of post-millennial teen pop ... Spears early on cultivated a mixture of innocence and experience that broke the bank". She is listed by the Guinness World Records as having the "Best-selling album by a teenage solo artist". Melissa Ruggieri of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "She's also marked for being the best-selling teenage artist. Before she turned 20 in 2001, Spears sold more than 30 million albums worldwide". Barbara Ellen of The Observer has reported: "Spears is famously one of the 'oldest' teenagers pop has ever produced, almost middle aged in terms of focus and determination. Many 19-year-olds haven't even started working by that age, whereas Britney, a former Mouseketeer, was that most unusual and volatile of American phenomena — a child with a full-time career. While other little girls were putting posters on their walls, Britney was wanting to be the poster on the wall. Whereas other children develop at their own pace, Britney was developing at a pace set by the ferociously competitive American entertainment industry". ...Baby One More Time is Spears' most successful album to date, with worldwide sales over 30 million copies, and also the best-selling album by a teenage solo artist.
NotesIn North America the album was issued as an Enhanced CD which allowed access to bonus videos, photos and more when inserted into a computer.
The very first pressings of the album feature a hidden spoken message by Spears after "The Beat Goes On". In it, Spears thanks fans and promotes the then-upcoming Backstreet Boys album, Millennium, with snippets of songs featured on the album.
^a signifies a co-producer
^b signifies an additional producer
^c signifies a remixer
Credits for ...Baby One More Time adapted from the album liner notes.