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“If Britney Spears’ first single “ … Baby One More Time,” released in fall 1998, was a perfect piece of sweet, pink bubblegum, then the arrival of her debut album of the same name a few months later was a full pack of the stuff, promising more where that came from: 10 additional sugar hits for the teeny-bopper in training. The album came out almost exactly 20 years ago, on Jan. 12, 1999, and as these things go, it contained a fairly typical mix of hits and filler—for every “Sometimes,” Spears’ second single, listeners also got an “I Will Be There,” the kind of song you wouldn’t be able to pick out of an audio lineup.
But one track stood apart from the rest, even at the time. “E-Mail My Heart” was a love ballad with a digital twist: “Email me back and say our love will stay alive,” Spears crooned in the song’s chorus. In 2016, NME called it “the weirdest song [Spears] ever recorded,” elaborating, “What’s weird is that email and online culture weren’t even that nascent in 1999.” If the song already felt like a relic when it came out, the intervening decades have transformed it from a somewhat clumsy deep cut into a Web 1.0–era curiosity and shibboleth, the musical equivalent of that 1994 Today show clip where Bryant Gumbel asks earnestly, “What is internet?” It lives on in a famous GIF that depicts a wide-eyed Spears explaining the song’s genesis (“Everyone has been doing emails”) and in internet lists like the Ringer’s “Antiquated Tech Pop Lyrics Museum.” But the strangest thing about it might be that, even after all these years, no one can quite decide whether it’s good or not. When the matter came up in an episode of Rolling Stone’s Music Now podcast about “ … Baby One More Time,” writer Rob Sheffield declared, “Love that song.” “You do not love that song,” host Brian Hiatt shot back.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."
"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."
"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"
"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."
"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."
"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"
"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."
"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."
"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."
"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."
"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "
"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."