Monday (Sept. 30) marks the 15th anniversary of the release of Britney Spears’ debut single, “…Baby One More Time,” and oh baby, baby, what a decade-and-a-half it’s been. Although the lead single from Spears’ first album of the same name was simply the beginning of Spears’ iconic career and remarkable run of smash hits, the song remains a defining moment in the teenybopper boom within mainstream music of the late 90s. Every pop fan knows the words to “…Baby One More Time” and has seen the high school-set music video, but how many Britney diehards know which group could have made “…Baby” their own hit, or who played Spears’ love interest in the music video, or which song Britney’s first No. 1 replaced at the top of the Hot 100 in early 1999?
To celebrate “…Baby One More Time” turning 15 years old, check out this list of little-known facts relating to the first of Britney Spears’ many, many hits.
1. Britney Spears signed a Jive deal thanks to a Whitney Houston song. In this Billboard interview with Spears from 1998, Spears described being “so nervous” when she was invited to Jive Records to audition. “It’s easy to sing in front of a thousand people, because you can’t see their faces,” said the former “Mickey Mouse Club” star. “But then you got into a room, and there are 10 people staring at you.” Spears performed Whitney Houston’s challenging classic “I Have Nothing,” blew everyone away, and signed to Jive on the spot. “…Baby One More Time” was soon to follow.
2. “…Baby One More Time” was originally offered to TLC, but the R&B trio turned it down. Hey, these things happen — after all, Spears turned down “Umbrella” years later, and it eventually became a smash for Rihanna.
3. Britney knew “…Baby One More Time” was going to be a hit. “I had been in the studio for about six months listening to and recording material, but I hadn’t really heard a hit yet,” said a 16-year-old Spears. “When I started working with Max Martin in Sweden, he played the demo for ‘Baby One More Time’ for me, and I knew from the start it was one of those songs you want to hear again and again. It just felt really right.”
4. Max Martin worked on Britney’s “…Baby One More Time” album more than originally intended. The Swedish producer-songwriter was set to work on two songs for Spears’ debut album, but ended up submitting eight — three of which, including singles “…Baby One More Time” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” made the final track list. “In 10 days, I never even saw Sweden,” says Spears. “We were so busy.”
5. Britney Spears sings the word “baby” 25 times in the song. In case you were wondering.
6. In the music video for “…Baby One More Time,” Britney’s cousin Chad Spears portrays her love interest. Chad was an Abercrombie & Fitch model at the time, but still, they couldn’t have found another model that, you know, wasn’t related to Spears? Ah, well.
7. The “…Baby One More Time” director, Nigel Dick, later helmed the “2gether” movie for MTV in 2000. The veteran music video director also scored some writing credits on the fictional boy band’s self-titled debut album, released the same year.
8. The “…Baby One More Time” music video was shot at the same school used in “Grease.” Venice High School in Los Angeles is the setting for iconic musical numbers from two distinct generations.
9. Britney stuck with “…Baby One More Time” — and *N SYNC! — for her first MTV Video Music Awards performance.
Prior to Spears’ flesh-colored “Oops!… I Did It Again” get-up, the “I’m A Slave 4 U” snake, the Madonna lip-lock or the questionable “Gimme More” dance, Spears made her VMAs debut in 1999 with a relatively tame performance of “…Baby One More Time,” alongside Justin Timberlake and the rest of *N SYNC. Before her …Baby One More Time debut headlining tour kicked off in 1999, Spears had served as an opening act for the boy band on the road.
10. “…Baby One More Time” lost to a Sarah McLachlan song at the Grammys. Long before Esperanza Spalding angered Beliebers at the Grammy Awards, the Canadian singer-songwriter’s live version of “I Will Remember You” trumped Spears’ debut single in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category. Also nominated? Christina Aguilera’s debut radio hit, “Genie in a Bottle.”
11. “…Baby One More Time” is still Britney’s biggest Hot 100 hit. The song spent 32 weeks on the tally, and is her longest-charting single. After debuting at No. 17 on the Hot 100 chart dated Nov. 21, 1998, the song hit No. 1 in its 11th week, in January 1999.
12. “…Baby One More Time” bumped Brandy’s “Have You Ever?” out of the top spot on the Hot 100. Oddly enough, after “…Baby” spent two weeks at No. 1, the song moved down when Brandy’s “The Boy Is Mine” partner, Monica, hit No. 1 with “Angel of Mine.”
13. The “…Baby One More Time” video was named “Total Request Live’s” most iconic video ever. In the MTV video countdown show’s final episode in November 2008, “TRL” named Spears’ first music video as the most legendary clip to grace their 10-year run. The rest of the Top 5: Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady,” Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” *N SYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” and Aguilera’s “Dirrty.”
14. Fountains of Wayne released an awesome “…Baby One More Time” cover in 2005. There have been scores of different takes on Britney’s debut single in a variety of genres, but power-pop group Fountains of Wayne’s cover, included on their compilation album “Out-of-State Plates,” has remained the most memorable.
15. Britney shouted out her “…Baby One More Time” video in the 2009 “If You Seek Amy” clip. Watch the end of the video, and check out the outfit that Britney’s “daughter” is sporting. Fifteen years later, those pink ribbons cannot be forgotten.