You can ignore all the nonsense about “but she doesn’t write all her own songs” - Elvis only ever co-wrote a handful, and nobody has a go at him. At the end of the day, a good song is a good song - and the likes of “Gimme More”, “Womanizer”, “Everytime” and “Toxic” are as good as they get. This is the first of a two part blog looking at Britney’s career - primarily, we will be concerned with her UK releases, but mentions of important overseas releases will be included. Next month, we shall look at Britney on DVD, but this month, it’s a look at her albums and greatest hits collections, and the singles taken from each.
For each album, a scan of the standard UK CD edition is shown, along with details of each of the singles taken from it. Because Britney has always appealed to the collectors scene, every one of her albums listed below have also been issued somewhere in the world in a limited edition format, and for each LP, I have selected one such item (UK or otherwise) that I would suggest you try and track down first. I have also listed important single releases - any formats which include nothing of interest are not listed. In the odd instance where a single was issued on both CD and Cassette with identical track listings, this is noted where relevant.
UK Singles: ...Baby One More Time, Sometimes, Crazy, Born To Make You Happy
Britney’s debut appeared in early 1999, although the promo campaign for the record kicked off in the US late in 98. It had a very notable “sound”, created by Max Martin, quite heavy on synthesized keyboards, which was apparent on both the fast and the slow songs. Some critics have pointed out that this worked brilliantly on the up tempo numbers, but not so well on the ballads. The title track, regularly referred to accidentally as “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, after the line in the chorus, came with an iconic “Britney The Schoolgirl” video, and represented the Max Martin sound at it’s very best.
The album was issued in a bewildering number of editions worldwide - the basic UK edition featured 12 tracks, ending with a cover of “The Beat Goes On”, but most “collectors pressings” featured extra songs, either at the end of the CD, on a second disc - or both. The title track was the first single, and was issued on two CD’s, each with different track listings and artwork - the second CD was done in a limited run, and sold out quite quickly, making it one of the premier UK Britney rarities. If you are not too fussed about the artwork, you might be able to find both the B-sides of this edition more easily on the French CD Maxi Single, which includes them both along with the video on the CD-Rom section of the disc. “Born To Make You Happy” was issued on both CD and Cassette, with different tracks on each format - the first such single to do so. In some overseas countries, “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” was issued as a single (and a video was filmed) but all of the B-sides were taken from otherwise available 45s from across the globe.
Trying to pick just one of the numerous foreign pressings is difficult - although the album was issued in the same sleeve as the UK one (referred to as the “International” sleeve, as the US one was completely different), each were then usually housed in a slipcase with a different photo. The best one is probably the Hong Kong double disc edition, the outer slipcase using a picture of Britney lying on the grass, arms folded, smiling for the camera - it includes two extra tracks on disc 1, and also includes a 4-track edition of the “You Drive Me Crazy” single, which includes “Autumn Goodbye” as the final track.
Recommended Version: Jive ROD 9153-4
…Baby One More Time (LP Version)/(Sharp Platinum Vocal Remix)/(Davidson Ospina Club Mix) (CD1, Jive 0521692)
…Baby One More Time (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/Autumn Goodbye (CD2 in diff p/s with poster, Jive 052275)
Sometimes (Radio Edit)/(Soul Solution Mid Temp Mix)/I’m So Curious (CD, Jive 0523202 - some, if not all copies, play B-sides in wrong order)
(You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop! Remix)/(Spacedust Dark Dub)/(Spacedust Club Mix)/(Video) (CD, Jive 0550582)
Born To Make You Happy (Radio Edit)/(Bonus Remix)/(You Drive Me) Crazy (Jazzy Jim’s Hip-Hop Mix) (CD, Jive 9250022)
Born To Make You Happy (Radio Edit)/(Bonus Remix)/…Baby One More Time (Answering Machine Message) (Cassette, Jive 9250024)
Oops!...I Did It Again (Jive 9220392)
UK Singles: Oops!...I Did It Again, Lucky, Stronger, Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know
The first signs of a slightly more “grown up” Britney were evident on album number two, although the Max Martin sound was still in evidence. There was the slightly mental “I found it at the bottom of the ocean” middle eight of the title track, issued as the first single, whilst “Stronger” saw a bit of a pop culture reference to her first single, with the line “my loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, more or less being lifted from "Baby".
The title track was heavily remixed overseas, with a US CD single offering up a good 30 odd minutes of mixes, and came housed in a slightly different sleeve - same photo, but given a bit of what looked like a ‘Photoshop’ make over. Most of these mixes have never been released in the UK. All four of the singles issued in the UK appeared on at least two “essential” formats, with different track listings. Soon after the album’s release, Britney undertook her first world tour, and in the UK, the album was reissued as a new “Special UK Edition” to coincide, which added the B-side of “Lucky”, “Heart”, and a new song, “You Got It All”. These appeared before the final track on the CD, rather than after it.
Again, there are more “rare” formats of this LP worldwide than you can shake a stick at, but if you have to own just one, make it the superb French double CD. This includes the original 13 track record, but comes in a thick card case with a free CD Single. The CD Single is unique - it includes just one audio track, “You Got It All”, plus the videos for “Oops”, “Lucky” and “…Broken Heart”. The photo is a zoomed in version of the normal album cover, and original copies featured both the CD, CD Single and the slipcase in sealed shrinkwrap.
Recommended Version: Jive 6385 9220808 7
Oops!…I Did It Again (LP Version)/Deep In My Heart/From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart (Ospina’s Millennium Funk Mix) (CD, Jive 9250542)
Oops!…I Did It Again (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart (Ospina’s Millennium Funk Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9250544)
Lucky/Heart/Lucky (Jack D Elliot Radio Mix) (CD, Jive 9251022)
Lucky/Heart/Oops!…I Did It Again (Jack D Elliot Club Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9251024)
Stronger/Walk On By/Stronger (WIP Remix) (CD, Jive 9251502)
Stronger/Walk On By/Stronger (Instrumental) (Cassette, Jive 9251504)
Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know (Album Version)/(Hex Hector Radio Mix)/(Hex Hector Club Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9251984 - also issued on CD but with photo cropped at bottom of sleeve)
Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know/Oops!…I Did It Again (Rip rock ‘N’ Alex G. Oops! We Remixed Again! Radio Mix)/Stronger (MacQuale Mix Show Edit)/Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know (Video) (Enhanced CD, Jive 9252032)
Britney (Jive 9222532)
UK Singles: I'm A Slave 4 U, Overprotected, I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman, I Love Rock 'N' Roll, Boys
So, depending on whether you refer to her as “Britney Spears” or “Britney”, makes this third album a self-titled affair - just like Deep Purple’s third record, for those of you who like to know these things. Britney was now properly grown up - the Neptunes produced lead single, “I’m A Slave 4 U”, sounded nothing like anything she had taped before; all bump and grind breathless raunch, complete with an equally steamy video. Interestingly, even though Britney was now maturing, her label in the UK still went ahead with issuing all her singles on the now-dying Cassette format, a format that at the time was primarily aimed at younger music fans, who could not afford Compact Discs. Unlike earlier Cassettes, the track listings for releases from this album matched the accompanying CD format.
There was still a Max Martin sound on the likes of “Overprotected”, but songs such as “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”, was an obvious sign of a girl/woman starting to move onwards in life. The track became the “unofficial” theme tune to Britney’s movie issued at the same time, “Crossroads”, although several Britney songs were featured in the film. One such song, a cover of “I Love Rock N Roll”, at first looked like it would not get a UK release, and import copies turned up in the shops, but a UK version was eventually issued, with the same cover but different coloured text on the front - and different bonus tracks.
The original UK edition of the album was a 14 track affair, which “officially” ended on track 12, with a song called “When I Found You”. Track 13 was a “bonus” track, “I Run Away”, which later surfaced on the B-side of “I’m Not A Girl”, whilst track 14 was “What It’s Like To Be Me”. Overseas editions varied both in terms of track listings and artwork - pick of the bunch is the Australian CD/DVD set, which comes in a white and red slipcase, replaces “I Run Away” with “Before The Goodbye”, and also adds remixes of the first three singles from the LP as bonus tracks. There is also a DVD/CD edition - same content, but in a bigger box, and with a “longer” version of this picture on the cover.
Recommended Version: Jive 9223872 PAL
I’m A Slave 4 U (LP Mix)/Intimidated/I’m A Slave 4 U (Instrumental) (Cassette, Jive 9252894, also issued on CD)
Overprotected (Album Mix)/(JS16 Remix)/I’m A Slave 4 U (Thunderpuss Mixshow Edit (The Remix)) (Cassette, Jive 9253074, also issued on CD)
I’m Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman (Album Version)/(Spanish Fly Remix Radio Edit)/I Run Away (Cassette, Jive 9253474, also issued on CD in slightly diff p/s)
I Love Rock N Roll (LP Version)/(Karaoke Version)/Overprotected (Darkchild Remix Edit)/I Love Rock N Roll (Video) (CD with free postcards, Jive 9254202)
Boys (Co-Ed Remix featuring Pharrell Williams)/(Instrumental)/(LP Mix) (CD, Jive 9253912 - 12” also available in unique p/s with LP Mix of “Boys” replaced by “I’m A Slave 4 U”)
In The Zone (Jive 82876 576442)
UK Singles: Me Against The Music, Toxic, Everytime
Don’t quote me, but “In The Zone” really marked the move away from “teen idol” to “pop star”. A lot of Britney’s earlier releases had been issued in exotic packages to try and give the younger fans a bit of VFM, but “In The Zone” was pretty much issued in the same sleeve everywhere, no more free stickers or posters for the pre-teens to stick all over their walls. The UK edition did have three extra tracks - the 12 basic tracks were followed by the “Rishi Rich’s Desi Kulcha Remix” of “Me Against The Music”, “The Answer” and “Don’t Hang Up”.
“Me Against The Music” was the lead single - the last Britney “45” to be released on Cassette in the UK. In the US, it was issued on various formats including a 12” which featured mixes unavailable in the UK. The track featured the Princess and Queen of Pop together, as Madonna sang a short section in the bridge, and featured in the video. But despite this, “MATM” is a bit of a long lost Britney single - the follow ups, “Toxic” and “Everytime” seemed to garner greater adoration, and became bigger hits. It’s easy to see why - “Toxic” was just pure pop perfection, complete with an ingenious video, featuring Britney as a sexy air hostess, whilst “Everytime” was little more than Britney and a piano, a beautiful record, complete with a controversial but spot on video of “Britney” supposedly attempting suicide as she battles with the madness of the paparazzi. In a momentus moment near the end, an autograph hunter shoves a magazine towards her as she is carried off, semi unconscious, on a stretcher. Pop culture at it's most perfect. “Everytime” was the point at which Britney started to show, on record, the down side to fame, just as Madonna poured her heart out on the “Like A Prayer” LP.
Soon after the album was released, a DVD also titled “In The Zone” was released, including promo videos and TV spots - and a free 4 track CD single (more info next month). In France, a box set housing the CD, DVD and CD Single was issued, and is probably the most interesting version of “ITZ” available - although “Don’t Hang Up” is absent from this edition.
Recommended Version: Jive 82876 620219
Me Against The Music (Video Mix)/(Rishi Rich’s Desi Kulcher Remix)/(Peter Rauhofer Radio Mix)/(The Mad Brit Mixshow) (Cassette, Jive 82876 576434 - also available on CD)
Toxic (Album Version)/(Lenny Bertoldo Mix Show Edit)/(Armand Van Helden Remix Edit)/(Felix Da Housecat’s Club Mix)/(Album Mix Instrumental) (CD1, Jive 82876 602092)
Toxic (Video)/In The Zone Special (Video)/Toxic (Lenny Bertoldo Mix Show Edit) (DVD, Jive 82876 603669, blue p/s)
Everytime (Album Version)/(Hi Bias Radio Remix)/(Above & Beyond’s Radio Mix)/(The Scumfrog Vocal Mix) (CD, Jive 82876 626202)
Everytime (Video)/Breathe On Me (TV Performance - Video) (DVD, Jive 82876 626209, slightly “zoomed in” p/s)
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (Jive 82876 666162)
UK Singles: My Prerogative, Do Somethin'
On first glance, it might seem strange that Britney should issue a “best of” after only five years in the biz. After all, it took Madonna about seven years to do hers. But, a quick scan of the track listing, and you realised just how many hits Britney had had up to that point. As is now commonplace, there were some new songs on the set, although one of the “new” songs listed on the sleeve wasn’t actually new at all, as “I’ve Just Begun” was included on the free CD that came with the “In The Zone” DVD.
Both the other two new songs were then issued as singles. The song which gave the collection it’s name, a cover of Bobby Brown’s so-so “My Prerogative” came first, although Britney struggled to make it into a classic. The video, featuring Britney rolling around in bed in her underwear, was more exciting than the song itself, so it was no surprise that the label issued a DVD single featuring the video. The single was also issued on two CD’s with different bonus tracks - a common practice in the UK since the early 1990’s, but this was Britney’s first UK single to go down this path. Each of the three formats came in slightly different covers, although the photo used was the same on each.
The other new song, “Do Somethin’”, was more impressive, and was issued on two CD’s. The second one played just one audio track, but had both the video for the single and a “Video Megamix” on the enhanced section of the disc.
When first released, the UK edition also appeared as a double disc set, with a slab of remixes on CD2. Most of these mixes had not been issued in the UK before, whilst the “Megamix” included was a longer version than those issued on the “My Prerogative” and “Do Somethin’” singles. This double disc set is an essential purchase.
Recommended Version: Jive 82876 652602
My Prerogative/Megamix (CD1, Jive 82876 652572)
My Prerogative (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/(X Press 2 Vocal Mix)/(Armand Van Helden Remix)/(X Press 2 Dub) (CD2, pink p/s, Jive 82876 652582)
My Prerogative (Video)/(Album Version) (DVD, unique p/s, Jive 82876 661529)
Do Somethin’ (LP Version)/(DJ Monk Radio Edit) (CD1, Jive 82876 682132)
Do Somethin’ (LP Version)/(Video)/Megamix (Video) (CD2 in diff p/s, Jive 82876 681922)
Blackout (Jive 88697 190732)
UK Singles: Gimme More, Piece Of Me, Break The Ice
The period from 2004’s “Greatest Hits”, to 2007’s “Blackout” saw a few odds and ends being released (a remix album, and a DVD with a free CD of four new songs), but the period was more notable for Britney’s private life - marriage, babies, divorce, and of course, that head shaving incident. But all that paled into insignificance with the release of “Blackout”, the subject of excitable reviews which saw Britney push her music further into the left field.
There was some mumbling about the lead single, “Gimme More”. The video, which saw Britney playing a pole dancer, was deemed to be indiciative of ‘Britney’s fragile state’, according to the tabloids, but this was of course a load of nonsense. The single was a thrilling, minimalist, electro rumble, opened with the brilling “It’s Britney, Bitch” scowl. Follow up, “Piece Of Me”, was even better - a knowing two fingered salute to the press, which was pure pop at it’s most subversive, with the most brilliant chorus - “I’m Mrs Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I’m Mrs ‘Oh My God, That Britney’s Shameless’, I'm Mrs Extra Extra This Just In, I’m Mrs She’s Too Big Now She’s Too Thin” - sheer brilliance.
Of the three “Blackout” singles, only one featured a new song on the B-side, with was the third and final release, “Break The Ice” - the previous singles featuring remixes of the A-side instead. This new song, “Everybody”, was one of four songs Britney taped for “Blackout” that failed to make the cut - in the UK at least. In Japan, all four were added on to the end of a limited edition version of the CD as bonus tracks, and it is this edition which is the most desirable to collectors.
Recommended Version: Jive BVCP 21572
Gimme More (LP Version)/(Kaskade Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 186762)
Piece Of Me (LP Version)/(Boz O Lo Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 221762)
Break The Ice/Everybody (CD, Jive 88697 290262)
Circus (Jive 88697 406982)
UK Singles: Womanizer, Circus, If U Seek Amy
Britney was seen by some parts of the media, by now, as a bit of a “faded” star and when it was revealed that she was going to release an album in 2008 with a similar title to one being issued by Take That, the tabloids went into overdrive. When Take That’s album was revealed to be selling quicker, it was seen as some sort of sign that Britney was past it. Not a jot of truth. Whilst the Take That album was a load of overblown, airbrushed, MOR tosh, Britney’s LP was a continuation of the exhilarating sound of “Blackout”, exemplified none more so than on lead single, “Womanizer” - as exciting a single as any she had made up to this point. In the US, the single hit the number one spot.
“Circus” rather unusually featured an “old” track, as the “Blackout” song “Radar” was re-recorded for inclusion on the LP. The title track was issued as single number two, with a remix of “Womanizer” on the B-side, although Britney blotted her copybook a bit on the promo campaign for the single, as her mimed performance of the song on “The X Factor” saw her receive a fair bit of criticism. The follow up single, the cheekily titled “If U Seek Amy” (say the title fast, you should be able to work out the joke), came backed with a remix of the previous single - yet again. “Radar” was then issued as a promo only single, having originally been planned to have been a commercially released single when it had appeared on “Blackout” a year previously. Promos of that version of the song also exist.
As well as being issued as a standard 14 track edition, “Circus” was also released at the time in the UK with two extra tracks (“Rock Me In” and “Phonography”), along with a free DVD. The colours used on the artwork of this edition differed very slightly, and it’s extra material make it one of the most desirable editions of the album released worldwide.
Recommended Version: Jive 88697 407752
Womanizer (LP Version)/(Instrumental) (CD, Jive 88697 409422)
Circus/Womanizer (Mike Rizzo Funk Generation Radio) (CD, Jive 88697 455282)
If U Seek Amy/Circus (Joe Bermudez Radio Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 487822)
The Singles Collection (Jive 88697 623422)
UK Singles: none
Another greatest hits? Even though there was a five year gap from Britney’s debut single to “Greatest Hits”, and another five year gap from that to this, Britney was nowhere near as productive in this second five-year period, which did make the idea of another best-of collection a bit strange. It was almost as if she had recorded another song, and not knowing what to do with it, decided to stick out a singles collection with it tagged on.
There was only one new song on this set, which despite it’s title, didn’t actually include all of Britney’s singles. “3”, a rather risqué number about the good/bad concept of a threesome, was another blistering piece of electro pop, but despite being issued as a single in some countries, it remained promo only in the UK. Unusually for a greatest hits set, the song appeared at the start of the CD, before the remainder of the record continued in normal chronological order.
“The Singles Collection” was issued in a variety of formats. In the US, it was released as a multiple CD Box Set, with each song coming in it’s own picture sleeve, using the same cover as the original single release. There were more "hits" on the boxset version, as every Britney single ever released (including tracks not on the UK CD) made an appearance. The only snag was that each CD only included one bonus track, so singles which had previously featured multiple B-sides appeared here with most of these missing. If you had never bought a Britney single in your life, the box set was a worthy purchase, but it did seem to offer less than it could have done (compare it to the gargantuan Girls Aloud Singles Box). It did include non-UK singles like “Outrageous”, “Radar”, and “3” - but it sold for a LOT of money. Finding a copy for less than £100 is not that easy.
A DVD featuring Britney’s videos was included in the box set, whilst in the UK, the limited edition version of the release came in a different coloured sleeve with the DVD as a freebie, although not all of the videos that could have been included were included. Whilst the DVD had been housed in it’s own picture sleeve in the box set, it was simply included sleeve-less in the UK double disc edition. Still, the OTT price structure of the boxset, in lieu of it’s lack of material, make it - in my view - less impressive than the double disc set, and that’s the edition that I would suggest you go for if you have all of Britney’s singles already.
Recommended Version: BMG 88697 62345 2
In addition to all of the above, there are a series of other interesting Britney items, some of which have only ever been available on import.
In 2000, Jive put their two star names at the time - Britney and N Sync - on a split 8 track CD titled “Your #1 Requests And More!”, which was sold exclusively through McDonalds. At the time, N Sync’s leader Justin Timberlake and Britney were the subject of much “are they or aren’t they dating” talk, giving the release a bit more intrigue than if it had just been Britney and another Jive Records act. The four Britney songs all originated from the “Oops” album, and although the title track was included on the set, it appeared in a remixed form.
At around about the same time, a series of Britney dolls were issued - and several of them came with free CD Singles. There was (more or less) a doll for each of the singles Britney had released from her first two records, with each doll coming in a different outfit with different accessories. The free CD included just the one song, the radio or album version of said single, and was housed in a plain white sleeve. Suffice to say, copies of the dolls sold intact with the CD as well are now worth a few quid. There was also a “play stage” - this was basically a big stage with a Britney doll in the centre, and if you pressed a button, it played a bit of an old Britney hit! Mental - suffice to say, I own this ridiculous item…
Also issued earlier in her career were a series of MCD’s - never heard of the format? Well it stood for (almost) “Musical Key Chain” and was exactly that - a key ring made of a big slab of plastic, which could either play a short burst of a Britney song, or the whole thing. Pressing different buttons played the edit or the full song. The MCD's originally came housed in some tough plastic packaging, packaged like a toy rather than a record. I am not sure how many different ones were issued, but I do know that at least one such MCD used a track that had never previously been issued as a single. Each MCD used a photo of Britney on the box, and where the song had previously been issued as a single, the original artwork from said single release was used for the pack.
2005 saw the release of the most forgotten of all of Britney’s releases - the “B In The Mix” remix album. A mixture of old and new mixes, the album rather strangely featured a new Britney song - albeit in remixed form, “And Then We Kiss”. The song has not appeared anywhere else since, and most certainly not in it’s un-remixed form, although I am sure the masters are locked away somewhere at BMG.
Next month, we shall look at Britney on Video and DVD - the format which she was born to exist on.
Britney's official site: http://www.britneyspears.com/