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Throwback Thursday: Britney Spears at the 1999 VMAs

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly series showcasing an album, single, music video or performance of a bygone era and its personal and/or cultural significance.

From the bottom of my broken heart, Britney Spears changed my life. That’s not hyperbole talking. That is fact. I was just hitting puberty and questioning where I truly belonged⎯read my coming out story here. But more to the point: during the 1999 VMAs, the pop up and comer beamed down like a dazzling android from another planet for “…Baby One More Time.” Her brand of bold anthemic pop redefined an entire generation after her. From the cheesy classroom opening⎯I mean, come on, who didn’t want to rebel and say “present” when everyone else responded “here”⎯to her electric and sharp dance moves, the performance is forever cemented in the pantheon of pop music forever.

That night, she was up for Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Best Choreography in a Video, all for the school-centric visual. She might not have won any hardware her firs go ’round, but it didn’t matter, she staked her claim that night and forevermore.

The song serves as the titular track to her 1999 debut album, and it has become one of the most important records for modern pop music. During a backstage interview from the shoot of the video, the bubbly, then-17-year-old spoke openly about what it was like getting waited on hand and foot. “It’s so cool because everyone’s just like ‘oh, do you need this? Do you need that?’ I’m like ‘no, I’m fine. It’s alright.’ Everyone’s really nice and all these people are really cool to work with. I’ve never had anything like this.”

She later talked about blazing a trail for women. “There’s not like a young female [right now]. My song, for one thing, is totally different from anything out there. The dancing and the whole thing is different from anyone else.”

On the album, she worked with producers Max Martin, Rami Yacoub and a slew of others. It was released in early 1999, and it would also spawn such hits as “Sometimes,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” “Born to Make You Happy” and “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart.” The LP was last certified 14-times platinum in 2004 by the RIAA, setting the pace for one of the best-selling debut records of all time.

Revisit her performance below:

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Jason Scott

Editor-in-Chief of the Badlands, spinning those B-Sides. Love Parks & Rec. Addicted to high-priced coffee drinks, alt-country and synth-pop, and never know when to quit. Got a cat named Jake--and she doesn't like you very much.