By Kirsten Coachman
Britney Spears’s sophomore release, Oops!…I Did It Again, turned 20 on May 16, and don’t worry: I feel old af, too. I couldn’t help but revisit the album this past weekend, and when I think back on albums that definitely helped shape the person I am through its music and message, the Oops! album is definitely up there. Upon listening, I have a far better understanding of why some of these songs meant so much to me as a 17-year-old high school senior figuring out her next move.
I have never been one to shy away from my love and adoration of pop music, and I remember this being an album I couldn’t have been more excited for. I loved, loved, loved the title track, and I devoted many after-school hours to learning the dance moves from the video and live performances. Britney was an artist–second to only Janet Jackson–whose dance moves I would work on constantly to try and mimic to perfection.
Part of my appreciation of this album is the physical release it provided me. In high school, I was rather shy, and not that that has changed, but the times where I felt I could kind of let go and be myself was during performances. Going full out–whether dancing or acting in a play–it allowed me to release the daily stresses of being an awkward teen who had zero ideas about what the future would hold. But Britney’s music allowed me to step into pop star mode and channel what I was feeling into performances that only the posters on my bedroom wall had the opportunity to witness.
With the themes on Oops! ranging from growth, strength, and identity to love, loneliness, and frustration, I can see now why this album made the impact it did on me. Back in high school, while I very much enjoyed boppin’ along to the album, I’m not sure if I fully realized at the time why certain songs on the album meant more to me than others.
As I reflect back on some of my favorite tracks, I realize that “Lucky” wasn’t just a story in a song. The lyrics struck a chord, especially as I was trying to work out why I felt sad or just off some days when things otherwise were relatively okay. I feel like I was drawn to “What U See (Is What U Get),” because I was working out my identity as a young adult and the different pressures and expectations I was hopelessly trying to live up to when I just wanted to be accepted as I was. The lyrics of “Stronger” served as my rallying cry: “Stronger than yesterday/Now it’s nothing but my way/My loneliness ain’t killing me no more/I-I’m stronger.” Even Britney’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was a vehicle that I feel helped me cope with what seemed like a revolving door of emotions as I transitioned into my next phase of adulthood.
Is Oops!…I Did It Again a perfect pop album? In short, not really. The back half is hit or miss, which can be said for a lot of pop albums during the TRL era and even a lot of pop albums of today. However, it is the album that proved that Britney had staying power–she wasn’t going to be defined by “…Baby One More Time.” The newly minted pop princess (and ellipses stan) was making the next leap in her career as I was making the next leap in figuring out mine.
I still can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I took my first movie theatre paycheck to go purchase this album. It’s quite jarring to think about all of the different pop albums that defined different moments of my life that are crossing the 20-year threshold. Oops!…I Did It Again will always be an album that I am grateful for. It was there for some key growing pains and helped me sort out and express the person I was becoming: Just me.