The 3 groups who turned down Britney Spears hit ‘Baby One More Time’

On this day in 1998, 16-year-old Britney Spears shot onto the scene (and into our hearts) with her debut song Baby One More Time.

Featuring innocent vocal tones, schoolgirl outfits and iconic "oh baby baby" lyrics, the Princess of Pop’s debut single had a special place at all school discos.

And although Britney’s life was filled with equal parts success and turmoil, fans have stuck by her for 23 years.

But her hit song almost wasn’t hers.

What almost was

In 1997, Britney was in talks with manager Lou Pearlman, about joining a female pop group called Innosense, although she still continued to pitch to labels as a solo act.

A solo career was initially out of reach for Britney, as many record labels believed that female pop stars were a thing of the 80’s - citing Madonna; and saying that girl groups, like the Spice Girls were more likely to make sales.

Britney Spears in 2003. Source: Reuters/Fred Prouser
Britney became an instant success and household name after Baby One More Time was released. Source: Reuters/Fred Prouser

In fact, girl and boy groups were at the height of their fame, and record labels intended to capitalise on that public interest.

So, when a new track called Hit Me Baby One More Time was written by Max Martin, labels scrambled to secure the song for their signed groups.

However, Martin only had one group in mind to sing the hit track - The Backstreet Boys. But, when they passed, it was offered to English group Five, who also passed.

R&B group TLC was also offered the hit, but they turned it down. Fourth time’s a charm as Martin showed Britney’s team the track, and they agreed to record it.

Fame, fame, fame

Baby One More Time was released as Britney’s debut single on October 23, 1998, as part of her debut album of the same name.

The equally iconic schoolyard-esque music video was shot on August 7, 1998 at Venice High School, which was the same setting as the movie Grease.

The hit song won two awards in 1999 - MTV Europe awards’ Best Song and MuchMusic People’s Choice Award for Best International Artist.

Britney Spears getting an award in a silver dress. Source: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
Baby One More Time has 439 million listeners on Spotify. Source: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

From there, Britney’s career soared. By 2002, Britney had dipped her toes into the world of acting, starring in the movie Crossroads, which prompted a number of acting appearances throughout her career including guest spots on How I Met Your Mother and Glee.

From 2013, Britney also secured a Las Vegas residency, performing regular concerts at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas strip.

Today, Britney has released nine studio albums, eight compilation albums, nine box sets, three EPs, 48 singles, nine promotional singles, and two charity singles.

She also has an impressive 702 award nominations and 372 wins under her belt.

But unfortunately Britney’s life hasn’t been all positive.

Toxic undertones

Being in the spotlight unfortunately meant that Britney was often scrutinised in the media. Being followed by paparazzi didn’t sit well with her either.

Britney spears papparazzi photo in car. Source; Reuters
Britney was constantly harrassed by papparazzi in the lead up to her 2007 breakdown. Source: Reuters

After ending a tumultuous relationship with ex husband Kevin Federline, Britney learned that he wouldn’t let her see her two children Sean and Jayden, and she broke.

In 2007, Britney famously shaved her head. News outlets reported on the matter with the headlines like Britney Shears and things got worse for the singer.

Weeks later, Britney was photographed attacking paparazzi with an umbrella.

Later that year, she was further scrutinised in the media after an upskirt photograph was taken of her exiting a vehicle.

This public scrutiny prompted the famous video by Chris Crocker (now Cara Cunningham), where she pleaded with people to ‘leave Britney alone’.


The breakdown also prompted her father Jamie Spears to step in as Britney’s conservator from February 2008 - something that Britney was not happy with.

Although she continued to perform until early 2019, Britney put her career on hiatus to focus on challenging her conservatorship.

Free Britney protest outdoors. Source: Getty Images
Fans also took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest Britney's conservatorship in late September. Source: Getty Images

By mid-2020, a fan movement called #FreeBritney had appeared on TikTok, attracting the support of famous women like Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and Cher.

In September of 2020, Britney publicly endorsed the movement for the first time. And, for the next year, Britney struggled behind the scenes to regain control of her life.

On September 7, 2021, news outlets reported that Britney was finally free, as Jamie Spears officially filed to terminate the conservatorship.

However, a temporary conservator has been appointed until an official hearing takes place on November 12 of this year.

Onwards and upwards

All-in-all, Britney has publicly stated that she is grateful for her fame, stating on Instagram: “It’s definitely been the journey of a lifetime, full of ups and downs, but I’m grateful for every single moment of it all.”

She has also said that Baby One More Time and Toxic are her two favourite songs from her catalogue.

Her most recently released song, Swimming in the Stars, was released in 2020 as an offshoot from her 2016 album Glory.

It's clear her 22 million monthly Spotify listeners just can’t get enough of Britney.

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