There might be other albums to start Bubble-gums & Lollipops section in the Rubber Axe webzine‘s music reviews, but one thing is for sure – with an exception of the undiscovered and uncontacted tribes from the jungle, I think almost everyone on the planet Earth is aware of Britney Spears. Nope, we can‘t start with anyone else.
Britney‘s debut album from 1999 has produced the international hit #1 in the „…Baby One More Time“. Quite a surprise, listening to the album in the end of 2018 it‘s really hard to find out why the single has clicked that much with the audience (although my theory is, with considerable length of time and constant rotation in TV and radio one can manufacture a hit even from the mooing cow, no offense), with minimal drum beat and slight funky guitar slowly getting full blown with the background choir…but it has. Not for the first time, but the teen pop princess has been born, ladies and gentlemen.
The album opens with this song, followed by „(You Drive Me) Crazy“, which exploits the same format – simple beat, funky guitar, multiple choruses and – in the accompanying video – nicely choreographed dancing of the teen crowd. Tank tops and cleavages, blonde hair – all calculated and produced to get the maximum effect. Well, you evidently can step into the same river twice…Britney‘s producers approve.
Dear Lord…I do remember also the third track, another single and video, entitled „Sometimes“. Now that‘s the pure essence of American lolli-pop. Why can‘t I be a teenager again…but again, from a selling point of view, we all need to agree that this song is spotless. Britney in white, bright colors, innocent looks and appealing lyrics…and at least no funky guitars this time (it‘s more Latino), although the basic drumbeat survives. I don‘t expect technical death metal in teen music, so this is not really a biting comment. I like this song, folks, I really do. There is indeed a romantic soul down deep in my body.
„Soda Pop“ is not only another fitting description of the style, but also track number 4. Light reggae sound is amplified by Mikey Bassie providing the classic reggae vocals, and let‘s be honest, he‘s nothing special, but also probably just enough for a pop album.Someone should call Shabba Ranks, but that‘s just my opinion.
And another single with a video, „Born To Make You Happy“ and Britney looks better than before. Shorter hair and shiny blond gave way to a dark blond – brown color, what‘s not to like here. From the reggae experimenting we are back firmly in the lolli-pop and classic, familiar, setting. And I have to admit, this was another earworm, but it also has had quite a rotation, so that‘s why. It‘s a nice tune, predictable, calculated…but nice. And sometimes I don‘t want anything but that.
If you suffer from diabetes, you should definitely avoid „From the Bottom of My Broken Heart“, because the amount of sugar is dangerously high here. Yep, we are in the „pop ballad“ territory and although there are some I can enjoy, this one it certainly ain´t. I‘m trying desperately recall where I did hear the tune before, because it sounds very familiar (at least the first verse of the chorus), but nevertheless…for ballads, I’m gonna look to some other artists. (Unless I am back in my post-teen years dancing with some girl…then it can be on repeat, lol).
Luckily, we are back in the fresh rhythmic tune with “I Will Be There” and I’ll be damned, but this is – at last in the beginning – a sibling of “Quit Playing Games” by Backstreet Boys! Indeed, the similarity doesn’t end with the acoustic guitar…give it a listen and tell me you don’t hear it. But this one is faster and I guess I like it more. It just more-less proves the conveyor-belt production of modern mainstream music. But if it’snot broken…you know.
Can we miss a duet? No, we really can’t. So “I Will Still Love You”brings up Don Phillip, who I don’t know, and I am pretty sure I’m not going to try to find, anyway, the song is quite forgettable. Well, I have my favorites in duets and this just didn’t cut it. Sorry.
But the very next one, “Deep in My Heart” is something Whitney Houston could sing, and it reminds me – just a little – of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” remake by the late great singer. Finally some fresh beats, the hi-hat sounds just great, keyboards and strings replacing guitar makes this song quite a nice treat. I’m actually surprised this one didn’t make it to a single, as it’s absolutely above the level of the other songs on this album.
Although the next one, “Thinkin’ About You” is also way different from the others, I can’t really get into it, so I don’t have much to say about it. Great beats, tho. No, wait. It’s actually interesting, although it takes its time to grow on the listener. And it’s quite funny to hear this whizzing line many of the hip-hop artists used in their stuff back in the day (remember Nuthin’ But a G Thang?).
Experimenting’s over. “E-Mail My Heart” is another awful ballad and a complete filler. Do yourself a favor and skip that one, there is no redeeming quality init.
And why the airwaves never played “The Beat Goes On”? That’s one hell of dirty sounding track here! Now we’re talkin’, baby! Fantastic beats, great sounding bass-line, fitting Britney’s vocals (indeed, nothing of the sugary-sweet teen voice we all know), interestingly used effects. This should be a hit – but it was not,unfortunately.
Another ballad and just kill me now. “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” is probably good for making love (no doubt about that), but as a song, it’s awful. Obviously, ballads heal broken hearts, but here they just hurt my ears. Fast forward to…
“Autumn Goodbye”. And this one is nice, reminding me of Janet Jackson’s “Together Again”, so I can’t complain. Nope, this is not a ballad, we’re safe here. Actually uplifting tune this one is, and a nice ending for this album.
Last two tracks are remixes of “…Baby One More Time”. First comes Davidson Ospina Radio Mix, then Boy Wunder Radio Mix. I hate most of the remixes, but I hate with passion “faster” remixes of originally mid-tempo or slow songs. But at least Boy Wunder’s stuff is quite listenable, but Davidson Ospina remix…let’s just move on, shall we?