When the music video for Britney Jean Spears’s debut single “…Baby One More Time” premiered on Total Request Live in 1998, the budding pop icon was but 16 years old. Her first foray into the world of Top 40 music was an instant and colossal success; both the song and its video catapulted the singer into the eye of the zeitgeist hurricane. Man, that video. Shot at Venice High School, aka Rydell High, “…Baby One More Time” is arguably the superstar's most iconic video of all time.
When Miss American Dream since she was 17's first music video stepped on the scene, I was immediately enamored. I dug the song, I dug the dancing, I dug that she was only a few years older than me (I guess I thought it increased our chances of being friends? Flawless reasoning, Tween Kristie!). I was a Godney fan from day one. My reaction: I LOOOOOVE IT ALLLLLL.
The critics' reactions, however, did not exactly align with Tween Kristie's reactions. (I know, right? I am as shocked as you are.) For starters, Tween Kristie (and Adult Kristie, for that matter) never called 16-year-old Spears "sexy." So, there's that.
Ready to read some excerpts from ye olde articles?
This trip down memory lane is now in session.
From an interview with Rolling Stone (1999):
...Admittedly, that trap is carefully baited by a debut video that shows the seventeen-year-old singer cavorting around like the naughtiest of schoolgirls. But, as Spears points out, nothing is actually revealed.
"All I did was tie up my shirt!"... "I’m wearing a sports bra under it. Sure, I'm wearing thigh-highs, but kids wear those — it's the style. Have you seen MTV — all those in thongs?"
"Trap" and "baited", eh? That's, uh... something. I feel like that entire line is trying to "trap" and "bait" me. Instead, I will move on.
From an interview with CNN (1999):
And the rest, as they say, is Spearstory. Because unless you've been stranded on a desert island these past few months without — gasp! — MTV, you couldn't have missed "...Baby, One More Time"'s astonishing vault directly to the top of the charts —as much on the strength of Spears' bubbly, glossy pop songs as her adorable, irresistible sexy girl-next-door persona.
As far as her sexy attire in her video goes, Spears insists that "It was my idea because at first we were wearing boring Catholic outfits and I didn't want it to be boring and cheesy. I mean we were dancing and I wanted it to be edgier."
"SPEARSTORY." And yeah, if you were alive in '98/'99 and somehow missed this video, I will assume it was because you were floating around in an empty, TRL-less void at that time.
From an interview with Newsweek (1999):
She's treated like a normal girl at home, but a recent MTV appearance in New York was a different story. Teenage girls mimicked the naughty Catholic-school uniform she wears in the video for "...Baby One More Time": unbuttoned white shirt, sexy black bra and a gray miniskirt hiked so high it makes Ally McBeal look like a nun.
There's a recurring theme, and the recurring theme is: people couldn't stop talkin' about the schoolgirl uniform. I knew that ensemble was a big deal, but DANG. I wish that back handspring Brit Brit executed flawlessly in the music video got more credit.
Oh, hold up. Here's something from the previously mentioned Rolling Stone 'terview:
...but most [of the trophies atop the Spears family's TV cabinet] were won by Britney at talent shows and gymnastics meets (that's Britney back-flipping in the "...Baby One More Time" video).
Ask and you shall receive, I guess.
Given its insta-fame, I wonder what ever became of that schoolgirl uniform. I wonder if it went on to pursue a showbiz career of its own. [Does quick Google search.] Oh, what do you know! It has its very own Las Vegas residency, too!
Here's Britney's reaction to everyone's reactions to the video wardrobe (2000):
Me showing my belly? I’m from the South; you’re stupid if you don’t wear a sports bra [when you] go to dance class, you’re going to be sweating your butt off.
I don't know if this answer was crafted by her PR team or not, but as someone who took dance classes growing up, I get this. Her "...Baby One More Time" outfits looked like typical dance recital costumes.
Here's another Britney reaction to the reactions, from the aforementioned Rolling Stone interview (1999):
"They had this really bizarre video idea, this animated Power Ranger-y thing," [Spears] explains. "I said, 'This is not right. If you want me to reach four-year-olds, then OK, but if you want me to reach my age group ...' So I had this idea where we're in school and bored out of our minds, and we have Catholic uniforms on. And I said, 'Why don't we have knee-highs and tie the shirts up to give it a little attitude?' — so it wouldn't be boring and cheesy."
A POWER RANGER-Y THING? BRB, too busy picturing an alternate universe where the "...Baby One More Time" music video was a Power Rangers-inspired cartoon.
And here's Britney's reaction to the music video's success on TRL (1998):
Carson Daly: "Have you felt the aftermath of your video doing so well?"Britney Spears: "Yeah, I saw it on MTV three days ago. It was really cool, it was really cool."Kristie Rohwedder: "The year is 2015, and the video has yet to stop being really cool. It is really cool."