Released: 17th January 2000
Writers: Kristian Lundin / Andreas Carlsson
Peak position: #1
Chart run: 1-2-4-6-9-15-24-30-36-46-54-68
1999 was a busy year for Britney Spears. Not content with delivering one of the most iconic tracks of all time, she deftly followed it up with two further hit singles and a debut album, imaginatively titled …Baby One More Time.
Whilst Britney may have avoided ‘one-hit-wonder’ status, her album was proving to be a harder sell in the UK. Due to lukewarm reviews (not entirely undeserved, it has to be said), …Baby One More Time had failed to emulate the success it enjoyed in America, where it spent an entire year firmly wedged in the top ten. Jive Records wasn’t giving up though, and as the new millennium dawned, they pulled one final killer single from their sleeve: Born To Make You Happy. Curiously not released in America (they got From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart instead), this single was exclusive to Europe, where it proved an enormous success.
The early plan for Britney’s debut album was an adult contemporary sound before the decision was made to opt for poppier songs. Although Born To Make You Happy was a product of later recording sessions with Cheiron, the track notably straddles that transition in style – Britney recorded the song twice, with her original vocals retained for a later remix (more on that later). The final product stands as a testament to the quality of Cheiron Studios and was further proof that there was more to their oeuvre than squelchy beats and engineered guitar riffs. Although it’s laden with cool synths and drum kicks, Born To Make You Happy also sounds much more organic than anything preceding it. The song builds gradually towards its climax – arguably perhaps a little too slowly considering how immediately Britney’s previous uptempos had thrust themselves into the public’s psyche.
It’s from the middle-eight onwards where Born To Make You Happy really comes alive, as Britney is joined by a host of backing singers and the final smackdown is delivered: a massive key-change. Everything reveals itself fully – the beautiful melody is exposed within the instrumental breakdown before the final chorus Britney performs with an effort and sincerity that elevates the song far above its foundations.
I’d do anything
I’d give you my world
I’d wait forever to be your girl
Just call out my name
I will be there
Just to show you how much I care
On Born To Make You Happy, she isn’t trying to be “Britney Spears” with all of her accentuated and exaggerated oral tics. Here she is simply the girl-next-door selling a pop song for all it’s worth – and boy does she deliver some vocals (no, really). This was further evident in the bonus remix, which was favoured by many radio stations at the time.
Utilising the abandoned early vocals, Born To Make You Happy was reproduced with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. It’s an interesting glimpse at what might have been, had the original premise for the debut album stuck. There are new vocal arrangements, additional ad-libs and of course the iconic throat-clearing intro.
What we really need to talk about here is the accompanying music video for Born To Make You Happy. On the surface, a pleasantly unremarkable affair, apparently choreographed by someone oblivious to the actual tempo of the song, since Britney and her dancers move at double the speed of the vocals – and of course, we all spent hours perfecting that shoulder-shimmy into a twirl. But the music video hides rarely mentioned secret: few people noticed that Britney is shown PREGNANT at the start of the video.
In the abandoned video concept, an 18-year old Britney would lament the loss of her beau whilst secretly carrying his unborn child (hey, it was the ‘90s – we took things literally back then). Now you’d think that fairly quickly, someone at Jive Records would have pointed out the myriad of potential issues this could cause for an act aggressively marketed towards teens and pre-teens. Yet remarkably that concept made it all the way to filming before being abandoned. The opening and closing shots nonetheless snuck into the final cut – the former clearly showing a visibly pregnant Britney lying on the bed daydreaming. HOW DID WE MISS THIS?
Whilst the attention on Britney’s early success is understandably dominated by the …Baby One More Time single, Born To Make You Happy was an important bookend to this phase of her career. Its success drove sales of the debut album, which achieved a new peak of #2 in the UK, eventually going on to sell 1.2 million copies. With four top-five singles in the space of a year, it was a period of consistent commercial success quite unlike any that Britney would enjoy in the UK again.