A lot of people think pop music is supposed to be ephemeral, disposable. I guess that’s one reason I don’t like so much of it. One of my criteria for deciding whether or not something is “great” is transcendence. And, if pop music is supposed to be disposable, it should be very hard for it be be transcendent (on purpose, anyway).
The second thought that popped through my head when first listening to this album was how utterly stuck in the moment the title track is. (The first was “Wait, is this the first or second album? Because, yes, I didn’t remember listening to …Baby One More Time at the time. It’s supposed to be disposable, right?) The title track implicitly references the success of her first hit – and how obsessed some males got with her – while also pretty explicitly referencing Titanic a movie that was the biggest movie of all time (by some metrics) at the time but which is hardly revered like it was at the time. (Even at the time, a lot of people – like me! – were insisting there were many better movies that came out at the same time.) The point is that the title track is horribly dated and it’s pretty hard to make sense of it outside of the spring of 2000. That’s a bad thing in my eyes. Sure, the song is catchy. But the stupid mini skit in the middle of it is a huge flaw.
As for the albums other big hits: “Stronger” sounds way too much like a Backstreet Boys song, doesn’t it? And though “Lucky” makes me feel bad for Britney, I can’t say I want to hear it again.
The rest of the material is not as strong, ahem, as those songs. The worst thing here is the Rolling Stones cover (seriously!) but the rest of the material is forgettable enough that I have trouble remembering it.
The vibe is very much trying to sound like a “harder” sound than on her debut, a little bit like how *NSYNC tried to sound like a harder Backstreet Boys. There’s at least one song that, production wise, seems trying to sound like Destiny’s Child, but it fails. Much like many of the white stabs at R&B during the ’90s, there’s something missing here – namely, soul – and dressing this music up in R&B clothes does not make it R&B.
(Oh and speaking of copying other people: the last single – “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know”, the one I don’t remember at all – sounds like sub Shania Twain when she went pop. It’s an outlier on the record but it’s very clearly trying to find Shania’s audience.)
Honestly it feels weaker than the debut. Maybe that’s because my standards were so low for the debut or maybe it’s because that title track really drives me nuts. (Or the Stones cover.)
Holy Sophomore Slump Batman!