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Ever since its release in the fall of 1998, we’ve wondered what Britney Spears actually meant when she sang “Hit me, baby one more time.”
We no longer have to wonder. This 17-year-old mystery has finally been solved—American journalist John Seabrook’s new pop music history book, The Song Machine, answers the question.
The track was written by Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Rami Yacoub who were both employed at the Cheiron Studios, a huge hit-making factory in the ’90s.
In The Song Machine, Seabrook writes that the two Swedish men thought that “hit” was American slang for “call”. So the song was actually just 16-year-old Britney pining for an ex-lover to call her back. As in, he used to hit her on her cell phone, late night when he needed her love.
The track was never about physically being hit or anything else improper. But that didn’t stop Jive, Spears’ record company, from dropping “Hit me” from the single’s title.
Seabrook also noted that the smash hit was originally meant for R&B group TLC, who rejected it before it was given to Britney. TLC still stands by the decision despite its huge success that essentially launched the young starlet’s career.