"Sometimes" is a song recorded by American singer Britney Spears for her debut studio album, ...Baby One More Time (1999). Written by Jörgen Elofsson and produced by Elofsson himself, Per Magnusson and David Kreuger, the song was released as Spears' second single on April 30, 1999 by JIVE Records. "Sometimes" is a teen pop song that is influenced by bubblegum pop, and alludes to a relationship where a shy girl is reserved on expressing feelings to her lover. The song received generally mixed reviews from contemporary critics.
"Sometimes" attained worldwide success, peaking inside the top ten in eleven countries. In the United States, the song peaked at number twenty one. The song reached number one in Belgium (Flanders), Netherlands and New Zealand, while reaching number two in Australia. In the United Kingdom, the song reached number three, and is also Spears' third best-selling single in the country. An accompanying music video, directed by Nigel Dick, was shot at the Paradise Cove in Malibu, California. It portrays Spears watching her love interest from afar. Spears has performed "Sometimes" in four of her concert tours, including at the ...Baby One More Time Tour (1999), the Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour (2000–01), and the Dream Within a Dream Tour (2001–02).
Before recording her debut album, Spears had originally envisioned it in style of "Sheryl Crow music, but younger [and] more adult contemporary". However, the singer agreed with her label's appointment of producers, who had the objective to reach a teen public at the time. She 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. "Sometimes" was written by Jörgen Elofsson, and produced by Per Magnusson and David Kreuger. Spears recorded the vocals for the song in May 1998, at Cheiron Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. It was also mixed at Cheiron Studios by Martin. Esbjörn Öhrwall played the acoustic guitar, while bass guitar was done by Thomas Lindberg. Keyboards and programming was done by Kreuger, and additional keyboards by Magnusson. Background vocals were provided by Anders von Hoffsten. Spears also co-wrote and recorded a track called "I'm So Curious", produced by Eric Foster White, that was released as a b-side to "Sometimes". The track was recorded in 1997 at 4MW East Studios in New Jersey. "Sometimes" was released as the second single from ...Baby One More Time on April 30, 1999.
The song created controversy over the writing credits. Steve Wallace, an Indiana songwriter, claimed he wrote "Sometimes" in 1990, but didn't copyright it until 2003, four years after Spears registered the song's copyright. Wallace claimed Spears confessed he wrote the song, by showing to the court a possible e-mail from the singer, which said, "I now know for a fact that you wrote ['Sometimes']. But there's nothing I can do about it. That's all I can say about it." The e-mail was considered fake and the lawsuit was dismissed on October 31, 2005, when Judge John D. Tinder claimed the singer didn't steal the song.
"Sometimes" is a romantic teen pop song that is influenced by bubblegum pop, with a length of four minutes and four seconds. The song is composed in the key of B♭ major and is set in time signature of common time with a moderately slow tempo of 96 beats per minute. After the bridge, it transposes to B major. Spears' vocal range spans almost two octaves from the low note F3 to the high note E5. The song has a sequence of Cm11–F7sus–B♭–B♭(9)/D–F/A–F as its chord progression. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic noted "Sometimes" has "a catchy hook and endearing melody, with a reminiscent euro-dance rhythm."
Lyrically, the song is a "heartbroken ballad", where Spears declares on the introduction, "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". According to musicologist Melanie Lowe, "Spears shows a different side of her personality [with 'Sometimes'] than she does in her other songs." Both of them also commented the song "lacks rhythmic drive and the backing track is fuller, with smoother and rounder synthsized instruments", while describing Spears' vocals as more natural when compared to "...Baby One More Time" and "(You Drive Me) Crazy".
"Sometimes" received mixed reviews from music critics. A reviewer from CD Universe commented that the song "warns a potential love of [Spears] need for time and patience, rolling along nicely with a slow groove and a big beat." Amanda Murray of Sputnikmusic considered "Sometimes" a competent single, but claimed the song as unremarkable. Kyle Anderson of MTV said that the song "introduces the first sorta-ballad to [...Baby One More Time]," and considered it "reasonable enough, though through three songs Spears' lyric approach appears to be entirely about guys. Like, she never stops thinking about them." Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone called "Sometimes" a "further hit" from ...Baby One More Time, along with "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" and "(You Drive Me) Crazy". Spence D. of IGN considered "Sometimes" a "[Max Martin] glossy grown-up pop" song, while Annabel Leathes of BBC Online said the song "represent the innocent years when Britney annoyed and titillated in equal measure." During the 2000 BMI Pop Awards, "Sometimes" was honored with the award of Most Performed BMI Song.
"Sometimes" achieved commercial success worldwide. The song reached number one in Belgium (Flanders), Netherlands and New Zealand, and was certified Gold in the latter by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), for selling more than 7,500 physical units of the single. It also peaked at number two in Australia, where it was later certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), after shipping over 70,000 units, and number four in Finland and Sweden, while reaching the top ten on other five music charts. "Sometimes" was also successful in the United Kingdom. It entered and peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart on June 26, 1999. According to The Official Charts Company, "Sometimes" is Spears' third best-selling single in the United Kingdom, with sales over 456,000 physical units. In the United States, the song peaked at number 21 on Billboard Hot 100 on the week of July 24, 1999, while reaching number 11 on the Adult Contemporary and number 29 on the Adult Pop Songs charts. Even the song receive a highly airplay rotation, the song was not able on physical Cd, cause Jive Records wanted the fans buy the complete album (Baby One More Time), for that reason "Sometimes" just reached the #21 position on the Hot 100. It also managed to peak at number six on Pop Songs. "Sometimes" was also certified Silver by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP), for sales over 125,000 units of the single in France, where it peaked at number 13.
Spears started rehearsing for the music video for "Sometimes" in February 1999. However, during the rehearsals, the singer injured her knee and was forced to start sessions of physical therapy. A month later, Spears released in a statement: "I want to thank my wonderful fans and all of the people who have offered their love and support during this time," while revealing she wouldn't be able to shoot the music video until April 1999. The music video was later directed by Nigel Dick, who also directed her previous video for Spears' 1998 debut single "...Baby One More Time". It was shot at the Paradise Cove in Malibu, California. The music video was released on May 6, 1999 on Total Request Live.
According to MTV, the initial concept for the music video was to portray Spears on the porch of a beachfront home watching a group of kids having fun, prompting flashbacks about her former boyfriend. The video begins with Spears going to the telescope, and Spears is looking through a telescope, The concept was later changed a man and a dog walk on the beach, portraying the singer as the girl next door, watching her love interest, played by model Chad Cole, from afar. The beach location was kept, and the music video intercuts with scenes of Spears' dancing on the Paradise Cove pier with her dancers dressed all in beach-friendly white attire, then Spears sits near a car. A writer of Rolling Stone noted the video is best known for "purifying the sexy persona Spears introduced in the '... Baby One More Time' video", while describing it as "a virginal Britney in a long, flowing white dress (and other demure outfits) gazes at a clean-cut boy on the beach, then she walks on the balcony with a pink ball, then does some chaste choreography that features her dancers forming a heart while she sings that she only wants to "hold you tight, treat you right." Spears is sitting on a picnic blanket wishing she was there with him. She leaves alone." On February 20, 2012, behind the scenes footage of the music video leaked online.
Spears performed "Sometimes" in four concert tours, with the first time being on the ...Baby One More Time Tour (1999), where she performed a cover of "Open Arms" by Journey before following into the performance of the song. The song was also performed in a medley with (You Drive Me) Crazy at the Teen Choice Awards in 1999, at the Summer Music Mania in 1999, at the UK version of Top Of The Pops in 1999 and at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kid's Day in 1999 along with ...Baby One More Time, (You Drive Me) Crazy and I Will Be There. It was performed again on 2000s Crazy 2k Tour before the show's encore, and, in the same year, on the Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour (2000–01), wearing an outfit similar to the one she wore in the music video of the song during the performance. "Sometimes" was performed for the last time on Dream Within a Dream Tour. Right after the performance of "Overprotected" (2001), a giant musical box was raised on the stage, and Spears emerged from the middle as a ballerina to perform the song in a medley with "Lucky" (2000) and "Born to Make You Happy" (1999). the song was briefly sung at The Onyx Hotel Tour. She sang the lines sometimes I run sometimes I fall. "Sometimes" was covered by hardcore punk band Reach the Sky for the compilation album Punk Goes Pop (2002). Jamaican singer Sanchez also covered the song in a reggae form for his album Simply Being Me (2000). Australian musician Anthony Callea covered the song for his album Backbone (2016).
Credits for "Sometimes" and "I'm So Curious" are taken from the single's liner notes.