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Saturday, May 13, 2000
Britney hits us one more time
By DAVE VEITCH
OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN
We'll soon have an answer to that nagging question about Britney Spears. (No, not that question -- she's already explained it was a growth spurt!)
The other one: Will Britney be able to match or surpass the success of her 13-million-selling debut album, ... Baby One More Time?
We'll find out starting Tuesday, when her hotly anticipated sophomore album, Oops ... I Did It Again, arrives in record stores across North America.
This 12-track, 45-minute album was assembled by mostly the same crew of writers, musicians and producers that worked on ... Baby One More Time. No surprise, then, the new CD marks no drastic change in musical direction, although many of the lyrics come from a post-fame perspective. And Britney still loves to sing the word "baby."
Here's a song-by-song preview:
1. OOPS! ... I DID IT AGAIN (3:31, 13 babies): The first single. If you haven't heard it yet, turn on Power 107 and, if it's not playing, wait five minutes. You can't miss it: It's the one that sounds just like ...Baby One More Time, her breakthrough hit, from the not-so-subtle come-ons ("I'm not that innocent," she informs the poor sod who, one assumes, is wrapped around her finger) right down to the ellipses in the title. Should have been named Oops ... I Did The Same Song Again! The dialogue before the final chorus makes a jokey reference to the movie Titanic, which works better in the video. Besides, Titanic is so 1998.
2. STRONGER (3:23, three babies): Another boom-bastic upbeat track, this time a declaration of independence, although its lyric ("I'm not your property ... I don't need nobody") could be directed at a possessive beau or at her handlers in the music biz. Of course, Britney didn't write the lyric, so it's probably best not to read too much into it. Notable for its foghorn synth, fabulous rhythm track and heavy effects applied to Britney's voice. Why she's panting at the end of the bridge is anybody's guess.
3. DON'T GO KNOCKIN' ON MY DOOR (3:14, zero babies): A mid-tempo number with an awkward gait, this one is almost a stalker tale as Britney tries to convince an ex to go away, get a life and leave her alone. An entirely synthesized production complete with fake strings, fake bass and fake Spanish guitar. Ends with a terribly acted, giggly chat between Britney and a girlfriend. "It's like you're never satisfied," the girlfriend tells Brit. Which leads to ...
4. (I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION (4:28, four babies): You might know this one. There's this band that plays guitar and stuff and, like, they're all old enough to be Britney's grandfather and, like, they wrote it and stuff. Yesiree, Brit does The Rolling Stones -- c'mon, not in that sense -- although one could argue the lyric's jabs at consumerism don't exactly suit a performer who has her own lines of sunglasses and bubblegum. Mick Jagger's white shirt has become Britney's tight skirt; the cigarette line also has been changed; and at no time is Britney "trying to make some girl." She sounds like Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to JFK on the first verse, before a metronomic robo-beat picks up the pace. Charlie Watts will have no sleepless nights.
5. DON'T LET ME BE THE LAST TO KNOW (3:50, two babies): A song from the pens of Robert John (Mutt) Lange and Shania Twain, although one suspects this so-so ballad just wasn't good enough for inclusion on Twain's Come On Over. Britney begs her man to say the 'L' word, as backing vocalists interject with nicely old-fashioned shoo-be-doo-doos. Interestingly, Britney snubs Shania in the liner notes, thanking only Lange for "the beautiful song you wrote for me." Diva fight! Diva fight!
6. WHAT U SEE (IS WHAT U GET) (3:14, three babies): Another potential single-in-waiting that closely follows the ... Baby One More Time/Oop ... I Did It Again formula. Britney cautions a jealous boyfriend not to attempt to change her. She likes to wear makeup and tight clothes "and I like the way I am," she says. Not a word of it was written by Spears herself. For all we know, she could have a passion for baggy, oversized sweatshirts. On second thought ... naaahhhh!
7. LUCKY (3:25, zero babies): "This is a story about a girl named Lucky," Britney says in the intro but, in all likelihood, it's a story about her. A sweetly melodic mid-tempo song in the mould of Sometimes, Lucky is about a young superstar who can't escape the fact she's miserable even though everyone thinks she's living a dream. "If there's nothing missing in my life/ Then why do these tears come at night?" she sings in the chorus. We feel her pain.
8. ONE KISS FROM YOU (3:23, zero babies): To this point in the record, most of the songs were recorded in Sweden with her European team of writers and producers. Four of the record's final five songs were cut in New York City, starting with this mid-tempo love song which is significantly more funky and urban than what preceded it. The lyrics, however, are quintessential Hallmark greeting card: "You give me strength/ You give me hope/And when you hold me in your arms you make me whole," she gushes.
9. WHERE ARE YOU NOW (4:39, six babies): When this one gets played in concert, Britney's fans surely will be holding their glowsticks in the air and swaying in unison. Yes, this is the album's hyper-emotional ballad, starting pensively before building to a sweeping, over-the-top choir finale where Britney belts it out Mariah- and Celine-style, albeit not to the same overpowering effect.
10. CAN'T MAKE YOU LOVE ME (3:16, five babies): Another fame-isn't-all-it's-cracked-up-to-be song, along the lines of Lucky, only more uptempo. "I should be happy with the life I live/And the things I do/Seems like I have it all." But she doesn't. You see, there's this boy she's liked for a really long time but her staggering fame frightens him off. Bummer, eh? So Britney is willing to make a sacrifice: "Baby, I'd trade the fancy cars for the chance to date," she generously offers.
11. WHEN YOUR EYES SAY IT (4:06, zero babies): Diane Warren, the queen of the middle-of-the-road pop ballad, penned this pillowy-soft slowie ideally suited to Britney's limited vocal range. There are whispered passages, plenty of breathy cooing and a few moans, as Brit looks deep into her lover's eyes to discover the true depth of his affections. From the craftsmanlike songwriting to the gauzy production (which makes good use of sawing cellos and weepy violins), this is the best track on the disc. Too bad it fades away to more poorly scripted, terribly acted banter between Britney and her girlfriends about some "cute" boy.
12. MY DIARY (2:46, zero babies): Oops ... ends with a historical moment in pop music -- the first Britney co-writing credit. To the backing of strings, chimes and electric piano, Britney bares her soul to reveal that, well, there's a boy who leaves her breathless and makes her heart feel like it could fly. Have I mentioned she's dating 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake again? "I've got a feeling we'll be so much more than friends," she swoons as her sophomore album fades away.
Let the marriage rumours begin!
1. Oops!...I Did It Again (3:31)
2. Stronger (3:23)
3. Don't Go Knockin' On My Door (3:14)
4. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (4:28)
5. Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know (3:50)
6. What U See (Is What U Get) (3:14)
7. Lucky (3:25)
8. One Kiss From You (3:23)
9. Where Are You Now (4:39)
10. Can't Make You Love Me (3:16)
11. When Your Eyes Say It (4:06)
12. Dear Diary (2:46)