August 9, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my means up into the current.

The chosen one. The princess who was promised. The kid of future who was not in Future’s Youngster. It’s Britney, bitch.

The rise of Britney Spears was a product of its second. It got here out of the convergence of sure developments and selections and fortunate breaks. However her arrival, smashing into public consciousness like a comet into the earth, felt inevitable on the time. Right this moment, trying again, it feels simply as inevitable — as if Britney Jean Spears might’ve been born wherever, in any circumstance, and he or she nonetheless would’ve turn out to be one of the well-known folks on the planet earlier than reaching maturity. That type of feeling can solely come out of an earthshaking pop second, and “Child One Extra Time” is nothing if not that.

At this level, the small print of Britney Spears’ adolescence really feel just like the stuff of a comic-book origin story. McComb, Mississippi after which Kentwood, Louisiana. Daycare-supervisor mom. Building employee father. Southern baptist church choir. Dancing classes. Expertise reveals. Boundless ambition. A failed Mickey Mouse Membership audition. A transfer to New York, studying her commerce on the Fame faculty and serving as an understudy on an off-Broadway musical. A televised efficiency, singing the Judds’ “Love Can Construct A Bridge” on Star Search and dropping. (On the time of Britney’s delivery, the #1 track in America was Olivia Newton-John’s “Bodily.” How might it have been anything?)

In that Star Search video, Ed McMahon asks the 10-year-old Britney Spears if she has a boyfriend. She doesn’t as a result of boys are imply. McMahon says that he’s not imply, so how about him? I don’t know if this was the primary time Britney Spears was made to really feel uncomfortable about some type of intrusive public query relating to her love life, however it actually wouldn’t be the final. Years later, Britney Spears would sing that each one of us have a look at her like she’s slightly woman. (She didn’t write that line, in fact.) The actual downside was that the world by no means checked out her as slightly woman, even when she was slightly woman. Then, when Britney Spears was a grown lady with youngsters of her personal, she had her grownup rights stripped away from her for years on finish. However that’s a fucked up story for an additional column.

In 1992, simply after her eleventh birthday, Britney had her second audition for The Mickey Mouse Membership. The primary time, the present’s producers thought she was too younger. After the second audition, although, Britney grew to become a Mouseketeer. She joined a category of performers that included future pop stars Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and JC Chasez, all of whom will seem on this column, in addition to future display screen stars Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell. This forged of photogenic youngsters would spend a few years singing and dancing for his or her screaming friends. For a couple of of them, this was apply.

The Disney Channel cancelled The Mickey Mouse Membership in 1994, when Britney Spears was 13. Britney and her mom moved again to Louisiana. Britney performed high-school basketball and briefly flirted with changing into a standard teenager. It didn’t stick. Britney’s mom contacted Larry Rudolph, the high-powered New York leisure lawyer who would ultimately turn out to be Britney’s supervisor, after which her conservator. One in every of Rudolph’s shoppers was Lou Pearlman, the odious determine who assembled the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. Britney auditioned for Pearlman, who was placing collectively a woman group known as (yeesh) Innosense. Pearlman provided Britney a spot within the group, and he or she nearly took it, however she determined on the final second that she needed to be a solo artist as an alternative. Larry Rudolph might assist with that. (Britney selected properly. Innosense was a bunch for six years, and so they by no means made any hits.)

Larry Rudolph arrange auditions with three labels, and a 15-year-old Britney flew to New York together with her mom. The primary two labels handed. The third was Jive Data, which was nonetheless principally a rap and R&B label on the time. At her audition, Britney sang Whitney Houston songs a cappella. In John Seabrook’s ebook The Tune Machine, the previous Jive A&R exec Steve Lunt has a gross quote that foreshadows lots of issues that might occur later: “Her eyes had been rolling behind her head as she was singing, and I keep in mind pondering to myself, ‘That’s actually bizarre, however it’s going to look nice on video.’ It was old-school church meets modern-day intercourse. However the truth is it was as a result of she was so nervous.” (Once more: 15 years outdated.)

Jive didn’t simply signal Britney Spears as a result of she had voice. The folks at Jive knew that issues in pop music had been altering. There was an entire new technology of shoppers, youngsters and preteens, who needed the form of huge, vibrant, proudly plastic pop music that had fallen out of favor within the ’90s. Two 1997 chart-toppers, the Spice Ladies’ “Wannabe” and Hanson’s “MMMBop,” served that demand, and an entire new precision-bubblegum meeting line was simply beginning to take form in Sweden.

Karl Martin Sandberg got here from Stockholm. His mom was a instructor, and his dad was a cop. Within the early ’90s, Sandberg bought his begin because the frontman of an unsuccessful Swedish onerous rock band known as It’s Alive. It’s Alive arrived too late to essentially capitalize on the entire glam steel factor, however their timing was good in different methods. In 1994, It’s Alive recorded Earthquake Visions, their second and closing album, at Cheiron Studios in Stockholm. Cheiron founder Denniz Pop, the person who primarily invented the Swedish teen-pop meeting line and who co-produced Ace Of Base’s “The Signal,” observed that Sandberg had a present for melody. He took Sandberg on as a protege, and he gave him a brand new title: Max Martin.

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Max Martin bought his first manufacturing credit score on “Want You Have been Right here,” a 1994 monitor from the goofy-ass Swedish dance-pop group Rednex. (Rednex’s solely Sizzling 100 hit, the deathless 1994 novelty “Cotton Eye Joe,” peaked at #25.) In 1995, Max Martin co-produced Ace Of Base’s single “Stunning Life” with Denniz Pop and Ace Of Base member Jonas Berggren. “Stunning Life” peaked at #15 within the US, and it grew to become the primary of many, many hits to characteristic Max Martin’s title within the credit.

A 12 months after “Stunning Life,” Lou Pearlman despatched the Backstreet Boys to Sweden. Pearlman, a con man who’d made a fortune leasing out personal jets, had put collectively this group of toothy and handsome American youngsters. Denniz Pop’s complete concept with Cheiron Studios was to mix huge rap and R&B-style beats with vibrant, dizzy melodies, and the Backstreet Boys, who considered themselves as R&B singers, had been an concept automobile for that sound. The Backstreet Boys’ self-titled 1996 debut album caught on in Europe first, and so they broke out within the US a 12 months later. That’s when “Stop Taking part in Video games (With My Coronary heart),” a track that Max Martin co-wrote and co-produced, reached #2. (It’s a 7.)

“Stop Taking part in Video games (With My Coronary heart)” is nonetheless the Backstreet Boys’ highest-charting US single. However even when Backstreet couldn’t get to #1, they nonetheless grew to become a sensation. The melodies from the Cheiron group had been clear and sharp and explosive, and so they powered Backstreet to cultural-phenomenon standing. The group’s debut album ultimately offered 14 million copies within the US alone. On the similar time, Max Martin additionally had large success with the Swedish teenager generally known as Robyn. In some methods, Robyn was nearly a European reply to all of the younger American R&B stars of the late ’90s — Usher and Aaliyah and Brandy and Monica. In 1997, two completely different Robyn singles reached #7 within the US — first “Present Me Love,” then “Do You Know (What It Takes).” (They’re each 8s.) Robyn co-wrote each songs with Max Martin.

When Jive signed Britney Spears, Clive Calder, the South African businessman who based the label, had the concept that Britney Spears could possibly be an American Robyn. (Britney hasn’t gotten there but, however she nonetheless has time.) Britney thought she’d be making music that was extra within the grownup modern zone; The Tune Machine quotes her saying that she’d imagined one thing like “Sheryl Crow, however youthful.” Jive had different concepts. The label already had the Backstreet Boys on its roster, and it noticed cash in persevering with to mine that Swedish pop sound. In a single assembly, Calder mentioned, “If the Backstreet Boys are the New Youngsters On The Block, then that is Debbie Gibson.”

Max Martin didn’t write “Child One Extra Time” for Britney Spears. When Martin wrote the track that he known as “Hit Me Child (One Extra Time),” he thought it was R&B, and he thought that the track ought to go to TLC. They rejected the monitor. Years later, T-Boz instructed MTV, “I used to be like, ‘I just like the track, however do I believe it’s a success? Do I believe it’s TLC?’… Was I going to say, ‘Hit me child yet another time’? Hell no!” Martin additionally provided the track to Robyn, however she didn’t report it, both. Britney Spears, 16 years outdated and simply signed, was not ready to show songs down, however she wouldn’t have turned down “Child One Extra Time” anyway. She cherished it. Britney flew to Sweden — her first time abroad — and recorded that track and some others with Max Martin.

Max Martin had sung on the “Child One Extra Time” demo himself, multi-tracking his personal harmonies. The track is a gleaming, lovely instance of the Max Martin methodology. It’s the toughest type of ear sweet, and it pronounces itself instantly: These three pounded-out piano notes, the cruel thump of the drum machines, the squelchy guitars and bass-pops that indicate funk with out ever transferring away from the mechanistic thud of the beat. Martin co-produced the monitor with Rami Yacoub, a Palestinian-Swedish musician who was a part of the Cheiron Studios braintrust; Martin credit Rami with including the R&B touches that don’t in the end sound R&B in any respect. On “Child One Extra Time,” the melodies hit like serotonin bursts, and the lyrics barely make any sense in any respect.

Martin has referred to his method as “melodic math” — the scientific artwork of selecting phrases that may undergo his melodies. Martin didn’t develop up talking English, however he did develop up listening to pop music in English, so the which means was all the time secondary to the sound. That’s how he writes, too. Martin often mangles English-language grammar and slang as a result of it’s not vital to him. With “Child One Extra Time,” he figured that everybody would perceive the entire “hit me, child, yet another time” chorus meant “name me,” that it wasn’t about violence or S&M. Jive modified Martin’s title to “Child One Extra Time,” making an attempt to keep away from controversy. (Technically, the title is “…Child One Extra Time,” however I’m not typing one million ellipses into this column.) It didn’t work. Perhaps that bizarre S&M frisson helped the track turn out to be indelible, inescapable. With all the pieces else that we learn about Britney Spears’ profession, would you doubt it?

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“Child One Extra Time” just isn’t a track about violence. It’s about outright romantic desperation, and Martin’s lyrics are written in near-mythic phrases: “My loneliness is killing me, and I have to confess, I nonetheless imagine.” It’s easy pop stuff, and it sounds elemental. A few of that’s the sheer blinding focus of Martin’s songwriting and manufacturing, and a few of it’s the means that Britney Spears sings it.

Britney Spears by no means met Denniz Pop, who died of abdomen most cancers in 1998, on the age of 35, although Pop was nonetheless credited as one of many producers on Britney’s debut album Child One Extra Time. The night time earlier than she recorded “Child One Extra Time,” Britney didn’t sleep a lot. As a substitute, she listened to Delicate Cell’s “Tainted Love” again and again, utilizing it as a type of information. (“Tainted Love” peaked at #8 in 1982. It’s a 9.) In a while, Britney instructed Rolling Stone, “I needed my voice to be type of rusty… I needed my voice to simply be capable of groove with the monitor. So the night time earlier than, I stayed up actually, actually late, so after I went into the studio, I wasn’t rested. Once I sang it, I used to be simply laid again and mellow — it sounds cool, although. , the way it sounds actually low within the decrease register — it sounds actually horny. So I stored telling myself, ‘Britney, don’t get any relaxation.’”

Britney Spears’ pure singing voice was all the time deep and intense; you may hear that way back to her Star Search efficiency. On “Child One Extra Time,” she leans into her decrease register onerous, and he or she additionally weaponizes her Southern drawl. The result’s a kind of good metaphysical pairings of singer and track. As a melodic development, “Child One Extra Time” is sharp and chilly and immaculate. The bridge alone is a marvel of engineering. However “Child One Extra Time” wouldn’t work if it didn’t have a singer who might lean into the track, focusing and grounding it. Britney Spears is that singer. Britney invests “Child One Extra Time” with pressure and persona. She makes the track hers. It’s powerful to think about anybody else recording the track. (Attempt to think about the TLC or Robyn variations. It’s baffling to contemplate.) On the similar time, it’s onerous to think about Britney utilizing every other track to introduce herself to the world. Britney Spears and “Child One Extra Time” had been all the time meant to be collectively.

“Child One Extra Time” is all about feeling another person’s energy over you, about ready for an indication. However on “Child One Extra Time,” Britney sounds totally in management. On the refrain, Britney sings a few of her personal back-up vocals, harmonizing with Max Martin. Collectively, they sound like a military. However even when Britney is on her personal, even on the voice-and-piano breakdown at the start of the bridge, she by no means sounds weak. She seems like she understands her personal energy utterly.

Within the video, she seems to be like she understands that energy, too. The “Child One Extra Time” video stays the only most iconic picture of Britney Spears — the high-school hallway, the pigtails, the Catholic faculty uniform. That was all Britney. Jive employed the veteran music-video director Nigel Dick, who’d finished clips for Tears For Fears and Weapons N’ Roses, amongst many others. (He’d simply made a few Backstreet Boys movies.) Dick thought he was making a video for teenagers, so he proposed a type of live-action anime concept. Britney wasn’t into it. In an Leisure Weekly oral historical past, Dick tells the story: “She mentioned, ‘I need to be in a college with a bunch of cute boys and do some dancing.’” She bought what she needed. The costumes within the video all come from Kmart. Britney was the one who had the concept to tie her shirt up and present her midriff.

The “Child One Extra Time” video is an odd and uncomfortable artifact. Britney Spears was 16 when she made “Child One Extra Time” and shot the video, and he or she was 17 when the track reached #1. The tales about that time in Britney’s profession present a degree of autonomy; it was, in spite of everything, her resolution to rock that specific outfit within the video. On the similar time, the video is completely a case of a kid being sexualized. Folks had been utilizing this child to get wealthy, depicting her in ways in which would benefit them and doubtlessly drawback her. That prefigures complete unhappy saga of Britney’s profession, from the Rolling Stone cowl shoot that got here out a couple of months after “Child One Extra Time” to the conservatorship that stored her from exercising any diploma of management over her private or skilled life till she was deep into maturity.

Within the “Child One Extra Time,” Britney stares down the digicam with whole confidence, to the purpose the place it’s nearly unnerving. She’s a born star. However confidence just isn’t the identical factor as energy, and questions of energy are an entire lot extra related to the Britney Spears expertise than questions on confidence. The girl’s story is a grotesque parody of a music enterprise that income from younger folks’s sexuality. That information doesn’t take away from the enduring standing of the video, however it complicates it. I all the time thought I noticed energy and management within the “Child One Extra Time” video, and I’m not so certain now. Britney Spears was slightly child who was simply getting began within the music enterprise. How a lot energy or management might she have probably had?

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The “Child One Extra Time” raises every kind of gross questions that most likely don’t have solutions, however that didn’t make it any much less efficient. That video nonetheless discovered its meant viewers. Jive actively offered Britney to the identical young-girl demographic who already cherished the Backstreet Boys; Britney’s debut album actually ends with a Backstreet business. To advertise “Child One Extra Time,” Jive used the Tiffany teen-pop playbook. Britney toured malls, performing the track in meals courts with a few backup dancers after which trying to allure radio hosts and program administrators in several markets. However “Child One Extra Time” actually took off due to that video. Britney’s timing was good. The only got here out in September 1998, two weeks after MTV aired the primary episode of its after-school video countdown present Whole Request Stay. “Child One Extra Time” dominated the early days of TRL; viewers voted it the #1 video of 1998.

The Child One Extra Time album got here out in January 1999, and it debuted at #1, promoting greater than 100,000 copies in its first week. Just a few weeks later, the only reached #1. The only offered one million copies, and people gross sales, greater than radio play, pushed it up the charts. The album was double platinum inside a month, and it was diamond inside a 12 months — the biggest-selling album of 1999. To this point, Child One Extra Time has offered a staggering 14 million copies within the US alone. Its second single, the ballad “Generally,” peaked at #21, however Britney made it again into the highest 10 when “(You Drive Me) Loopy,” one other track that Max Martin co-wrote and co-produced, peaked at #10. (It’s a 9.)

The numbers are enormous, however they solely inform a part of the story. “Child One Extra Time” was the massive bang for the TRL period, the final golden second proper earlier than the report business’s internet-era crash. (Clive Calder is the richest man within the historical past of the music enterprise, and “Child One Extra Time” is a large a part of the explanation why.) The only kicked off the limitless public Britney Spears psychodrama, which remains to be very a lot occurring right now, and it additionally marked a second when pop bought larger and bolder and brighter and dizzier. My ebook The Quantity Ones, which is popping out in November, is concerning the 20 most pivotal chart-toppers in Sizzling 100 historical past. There’s a chapter on “Child One Extra Time” in there, and its inclusion was apparent. I didn’t even have to consider it.

“Child One Extra Time” had an affect that went means past millennial teen-pop and the entire Britney Spears story. It’s additionally the primary chart triumph for Max Martin, who’s now one of many towering figures in the entire saga of widespread music. At this level, Max Martin has written or co-written 25 #1 hits — greater than anybody in historical past who wasn’t a Beatle. (John Lennon, who is available in at #2 on the all-time listing, has 26 chart-toppers; it’s all however sure that Martin will catch as much as him. All-time champion Paul McCartney, who has 32, is protected for now.) Max Martin’s method, so mathematical and calculated, could have a big impact on this column, and never simply due to his personal songs. This century, pop music just about seems like Max Martin.

Pop music seems like Britney Spears, too. Britney’s complete life story is so fucked-up and unhappy for thus many causes, however that story additionally has loads of triumphs. “Child One Extra Time” introduced Britney Spears as a generational determine, a born pop star. She made good on that promise. Britney Spears received’t return to this column for a surprisingly very long time, however we’ll see her once more.

GRADE: 10/10

BONUS BEATS: Just about for the reason that second of its launch, there’s been an entire marketplace for quasi-ironic “Child One Extra Time” covers — from Fountains Of Wayne, Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, the Marías, and any variety of others. Travis bought there first. Right here’s the UK band’s reside acoustic model of “Child One Extra Time,” launched because the B-side of their 1999 single “Flip”:

BONUS BONUS BEATS: One other of these quasi-ironic “Child One Extra Time” covers, from the Texan pop-punk band Bowling For Soup, confirmed up on the soundtrack of the 2004 film Freaky Friday. Right here’s the scene the place Jamie Lee Curtis and Chad Michael Murray sing together with it:

(Bowling For Soup’s highest-charting single, 2004’s “1985,” peaked at #23. Lindsay Lohan’s highest-charting single, 2005’s “Confessions Of A Damaged Coronary heart (Daughter To Father),” peaked at #57.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s the scene from 2013’s Spring Breakers, an insane film that I actually loved, by which Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine all sing “Child One Extra Time” collectively:

(Vanessa Hudgens’ highest-charting single, the 2006 Zac Efron duet “Breaking Free,” peaked at #4. It’s a 7. Selena Gomez will ultimately seem on this column.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s Baltimore noise-rap nice JPEGMAFIA singing the “Child One Extra Time” hook on his 2021 monitor “Thot’s Prayer!”:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: On an episode of The Boys that got here out only a few weeks in the past, there’s an incredible flashback scene the place a younger Starlight sings “Child One Extra Time” at some type of baby-superhero pageant. Right here it’s:

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 by way of Hachette Books. You possibly can pre-order it right here.