Brace yourself and prepare to feel old: Britney Spears’ debut album, …Baby One More Time, has turned 20.
Released on Jan. 12, 1999, the LP instantly crowned Spears as the princess of teen pop. It would go on to be certified diamond, with more than 14 million albums sold, while the title tune became a classic that defined a generation of schoolgirls.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this landmark album, we rank every single track.
11. “The Beat Goes On”
Britney makes Cher sound like an Adele-esque powerhouse on this electro-infused update of Sonny & Cher’s 1967 hit that closes the album. This also gives you a new appreciation for Spears’ cover of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll” on 2001’s Britney (and, notably, one scene in 2002’s Crossroads, her big screen debut).
10. “Soda Pop”
While Max Martin and a posse of other Swedes were behind the highlights of …Baby One More Time, the lion’s share of the album features writing and production by Eric Foster White, who had previously penned the decidedly more soulful “My Name Is Not Susan” for Whitney Houston. Suffice to say, this “Soda Pop” is all flat, no fizz.
9. “E-Mail My Heart”
Guess “Add Me on Snapchat” or “Tag Me on Your Instagram Stories” wouldn’t have the same ring to it. Still, this piano-led plea — one of three ballads on the album — belongs in the last millennium.
8. “I Will Still Love You”
Trivia question: Who was the only feature that Britney Spears had on her debut album? Answer: Don Phillip, who Spears would later go on to judge as a contestant on The X Factor 13 years later. Unfortunately, that little footnote is about the most interesting thing about this meh duet.
7. “Thinkin’ About You”
That first verse almost sounds a bit like U2’s “All I Want Is You,” but the intense, borderline-obsessive desire of that Rattle and Hum track is replaced by a bubblegum sweetness here. You can just imagine 17-year-old Brit-Brit dotting her I’s with little hearts.
6. “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”
Ballads have never been Spears’ forte — there’s just not enough depth or texture to her voice. But the little quiver in her chirp does serve her well on the final single from the album, a weepie one about losing your first love.
5. “Born to Make You Happy”
The old-fashioned sentiment of this song — that a girl is born to please her guy, as if that would be enough of a reason to live — feels even more antiquated 20 years later. Still, this song, which hit No. 1 in the U.K. (although it was not released as a single in the U.S.), is a teen-pop dream.
4. “I Will Be There”
In some poor sequencing on …Baby One More Time, “I Will Be There” and “I Will Still Love You” are situated back to back — and this is easily the superior declaration of devotion. With some chugging rhythm guitar and a chorus made for bear-hugging your boo, this track, from the same Max Martin and Rami production duo that gave us the title tune, could have been another single.
Somehow “Sometimes” was picked as the second single from the album, ahead of the more obvious choice, “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” But there is a wistful melancholy to this diary entry of a song that digs deeper into the doubts and insecurities below the bubbly surface of both “Crazy” and the title track.
2. “(You Drive Me) Crazy”
The third single from “…Baby One More Time” proved that the success of the title song was no fluke, hitting No. 10 on the Hot 100. Sparkling with the Midas touch of Max Martin, it perfectly captures the crazy giddiness of young love — the kind that keeps you up all night.
1. “…Baby One More Time”
With the gurgling of an “Oh baby, baby,” a star was born. Spears’ debut single was the first of her three No. 1 singles as a lead artist, but it was even bigger than that: It was was one of the defining songs of the golden teen-pop era that gave us Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync and Christina Aguilera. The tune, another Max Martin masterstroke, still makes you believe in the magic of pop every time you hear it.