This was Britney's first hit, and it propelled her to stardom. The slick sound earned plenty of radio play, but it was the image of the schoolgirl Spears, just 16 when the song was released on October 23, 1998, that made her a sensation. MTV played the video, but it was the internet that gave her the most traction, as teenage girls and guys of all ages logged into their AOL accounts and typed some variation of "Britney Spears" into Alta Vista to see more of the starlet.
Over the next 10 years, Spears led the world in celebrity news, with one incident after another documented by eager paparazzi. But it all started with this: a very slick pop song about a girl who wants another chance with the guy she broke up with.
Max Martin wrote this song and produced it. Martin is a Swedish citizen with a knack for catchy pop songs. He created hits for The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC in addition to Spears.
The song is written from the perspective of a young girl whose boyfriend has left her. She is lonely and desperate to win him back, so she implores him to give her another chance. When she pleads, "hit me baby one more time," she's asking him to call her back - to hit her up with a phone call.
Many interpreted "hit" in a more literal sense, but John Seabrook's pop history book The Song Machine explains that Swedish songwriter Max Martin thought "hit" was American slang for "call," thus squelching the domestic violence angle.
When Spears went on her first world tour, this was a centerpiece of the show, with two cannons at the front of the stage blasting confetti all over fans in the first few rows. The tour was a showcase for Spears' dancing, which critics appreciated a lot more than her singing.
The album has sold over 14 million copies in the United States and over 25 million worldwide. It is the biggest-selling album ever recorded by a teenage girl.
The video was shot at Venice High School in Los Angeles, which was the setting for Rydell High in the movie Grease.
This was first offered to the group TLC, who turned it down. It was later accepted by Britney. TLC's "T-Boz" Watkins explained to MTV News that the trio passed on the song as they didn't feel it represented the band appropriately. "I was like, I like the song but do I think it's a hit? Do I think it's TLC? I'm not saying 'hit me baby.'"
"No disrespect to Britney," she added. "It's good for her. But was I going to say 'hit me baby one more time'? Hell no!"
In the UK, this was the biggest-selling single of 1999.
Spears performed this alongside *NSYNC at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards in a skintight outfit. She also performed it at a Nickelodeon special wearing a midriff-showing top without a bra, which made people wonder if she had her breasts augmented. Parents began wondering if their kids should be watching Spears.
Some people hear a backwards message in this: if you play the part where it says "With you I lose my mind give me a sign" backwards, it supposedly says, "Sleep with me I'm not too young."
Spears performed this at the 2000 Grammy Awards along with the ballad "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart." She was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal (for this song), but lost both. Christina Aguilera won Best New Artist and Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" was awarded Best Female Pop Vocal.
When Spears was booed by crowds outside a Leicester Square cinema for walking straight in and ignoring autograph hunters at a premiere, the Daily Mirror
headline was "Hiss Me Baby, One More Time."
In a 1998 interview with MTV, Britney revealed that she wanted the video to reflect the lives of her fans, so she wanted to set it in a school. "The first idea we had for the video was so off the wall," she said. "I was like, 'I want something a lot of kids can relate to.' It's just a fun video."
In a 2009 interview with MTV News, the director of the video, Nigel Dick, gave full credit to Spears for coming up with her schoolgirl look. "My idea originally was just jeans and T-shirts, and we were at the wardrobe fitting and Britney holds up the jeans and T-shirts and says, 'Wouldn't I wear a schoolgirl outfit?'" he said. "Every piece of wardrobe in the video came from Kmart, and I was told at the time not one piece of clothing in the video cost more than $17. On that level, it's real. That probably, in retrospect, is a part of its charm."
The Scottish group Travis covered this in 2000. Bowling For Soup also recorded it in 2003 for the Disney film Freaky Friday
staring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis.
When asked by Out Magazine what the worst advice is that she ever received from a record executive, Britney replied: "Someone once told me that the '... Baby One More Time' video should be me as a superhero fighting a giant robot monster."
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Britney insisted the lyrics have nothing to do with domestic violence. "It doesn't mean physically hit me," she said. "It means just give me a sign, basically. I think it's kind of funny that people would actually think that's what it meant."
Not many people paid attention to the interview at the time, given the then-scandalous cover of the teen lying on a bed, clad in a bra and hotpants while, oddly, cuddling a Teletubby.
It was rumored that Spears got breast implants around this time. A common spoof of this song was "Make My Boobies One More Size."
In 2005, a TV series called Hit Me, Baby, One More Time aired on NBC. The show featured pop stars of the past competing against each other, with each performing their biggest hit and also a modern hit of their choosing. Contestants included Tommy Tutone, Wang Chung, Vanilla Ice and Juice Newton.
When MTV's video countdown program Total Request Live ended in 2008, the "...Baby One More Time" video was named as the most requested video of all time.