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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 Picks
"On Christmas Eve of 1966, Paddy Roy Bates, a retired British army major, drove a small boat with an outboard motor seven miles off the coast of England into the North Sea. He had sneaked out of his house in the middle of the night, inspired..."
"The book that changed lecturer, activist, and current presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s life, A Course in Miracles, is not available for free online, but its workbook is. You can find it on the website for the Foundation for..."
"Here are two sets of statements from far-distant opposites in the climate change debate. The first is from Naomi Klein, who in her book This Changes Everything paints a bleak picture of a global socioeconomic system gone wrong: “There is a..."
"Voters who trust their government — and each other — are more supportive of ambitious welfare states than those who do not. Across nations, high levels of social trust correlate with high levels of social spending. The relationship between these..."
"With the presidential campaign under way, expect to hear a lot more about a shiny new toy of progressive economic thinking, “modern monetary theory.” It seems to be the only intellectual contortion that might allow candidates to promise..."
"“We don’t want to fight y’all. We’re not trying to go to jail.” That’s what A$AP Rocky, the 30-year-old New York City rapper, can be heard saying in a video of an encounter with strangers in Sweden that has ballooned into an international crisis."
"Israel’s top officials are considering denying Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib entry to their country due to their outspoken, controversial criticism of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians, not to mention their slurs against American Jews as..."
"For most of our lives, we have been conditioned to share a piece of personal information without a moment’s hesitation: our phone number. We punch in our digits at the grocery store to get a member discount or at the pharmacy to pick up..."