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Britney Spears makes a false move with her first single

Kristen Baldwin explains why repeating a successful formula is a bad idea

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Britney Spears makes a false move with her first single

Lord knows, there’s a lot of pressure on Britney Spears these days. On May 16, she’ll release ”Oops!… I Did it Again,” the follow-up album to her 12-times-platinum debut CD, ”…Baby One More Time” (what is it with this kid and ellipses?). Topping such a successful Act One is a daunting task at any point, but it’s going to be especially challenging now that the 18-year-old divette has ‘N Sync’s recent record-breaking first-week sales of 2.4 million albums staring her in the face.

All of these overwhelming expectations could explain the completely disappointing title track — the album’s recently released first single. It takes just one listen to ”Oops!… I Did it Again” to hear that Britney wants to replicate (literally) her past successes: The song is practically a beat-for-beat remake of ”…Baby One More Time,” right down to the moaning vocals and ”ooh baby baby” in the chorus.

”Oops!” even oozes with the same inappropriate sexual overtones, as a sly Britney coos about toying with men (”I made you buh-leeve/we’re more than just friends”) and emphatically announces, ”I’m not! that! innocent!” About the only thing that separates ”Oops!” from ”Baby” is the confounding dialogue interlude -? Britney receiving the Heart of the Ocean jewel from a suitor (creepily voiced by producer Max Martin) — that essentially serves as the song’s bridge. (”Aww, you shouldn’t have,” she trills. No, Brit-Brit, YOU shouldn’t have.)

Of course, nobody’s expecting the poor girl to show White Album musical range before she hits 20. But in producer Martin’s frenzy to duplicate the pop flavoring of ”…Baby One More Time,” he’s left ”Oops!” so digitally fussed and fiddled-with that it’s impossible to tell if Spears or her vocals have evolved at all.

In fact, ”Oops!” could easily be a single from any number of the myriad Britney wannabes out there — and Spears isn’t going to do her career longevity any good by impersonating herself circa 1999. Just as popster Christina Aguilera insists her next album will experiment with R&B, rap, and rock, Spears should figure out what she’d want to be recording if she didn’t have the weight of the Teen Pop Universe on her shoulders — and then go to it. Hit us, baby, with something new.