Remember enhanced CDs?
Not too long before Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube became the go-to destinations for music fans, record labels released albums with exclusive bonus content. And the now defunct Jive Records—home to Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and 'N Sync—executed them with precision. When Britney's debut album ...Baby One More Time came out in 1999, for example, the initial imprint featured a hidden message after "The Beat Goes On." After thanking her fans, she teased tracks from the Backstreet Boys' Millennium.
When fans popped Britney's CD into their computers, the fresh-faced teen appeared onscreen in a pop-up video. "Hi, I'm Britney Spears, and welcome to my enhanced CD," she said. "In here you'll find my music video, '...Baby One More Time,' some interviews and a lot of fun pictures."
But in 1999, enhanced CDs were the norm—and Britney was happy to let fans in on her life. Fans could flip through photographs by Lisa Peardon and Albert Sanchez, as well as images from Spears' childhood in Kentwood, La. (We see you, little Jamie Lynn Spears!) The video interviews were conducted on the set of Britney's iconic "...Baby One More Time" music video.
"The concept is taking place at a school. It was kind of my idea, also," Britney, then 17, giggled. "It takes place at a school. The kids can't wait to get out of school, you know, and then we all get out and we just like have a bunch of fun. And it's talking about a guy that I wish I wouldn't have broke up with, you know, and me wishing that we were back together. So, yeah, that's basically it. And we're just a bunch of dancing and bunch of kids having a lot of fun at school."
Polished? Not really. Adorable? Certainly.
Britney's girl-next-door appeal—juxtaposed with her sexy stage persona—made her into an international superstar seemingly overnight. But back then, the small town girl from Kentwood, La., didn't act like a superstar in the making. "It's so cool because everyone's just like, 'Oh, do you need this? Do you need that?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm fine. It's all right!' Everyone's really nice and all these people are so cool to work with, you know?" she said in the video. "It's been like a total great experience for me. I've never had anything like this, you know? It's a lot of fun."
This was Britney's introduction to the world, so the questions were fairly tame. "I realized I wanted to sing—actually, it was like a specific day," she said. "I was on the trampoline. I would always drive my mom crazy singing; I'd drive her nuts. I was jumping on the trampoline one day and I was singing. She was like, 'Britney, you can sing.' She brought me in the house like, 'Start singing for me.' Because I was just like singing on key and everything. So, that's probably when."
Jive Records recognized Britney's talents from the beginning.
But what made her different? There's not that many pop songs out right now, for one thing," she said. "There's the Backstreet Boys and Robyn, but there's not a young female artist. My song, for one thing, is totally different from anything out there, which is really cool, you know? I mean, just like the dancing and the whole thing together is totally different from anyone else."
Britney's Southern accent was thicker then, and it was hard not to be charmed by her—even when the topic was sort of meaningless. "I've danced since I was a really tiny tot—a baby," she said. "We always had the recitals when were little coming up. That was like a thing you do down South, I guess. So, I've been dancing for a really long time. I was a dancer before I was a singer."
In one video, Britney revealed her ambitions as a lyricist. "It's something I really want to do in the long run, probably—hopefully—on my next album: Start writing," she said. "But my first album is just, you know, all these producers were coming at you with all these songs, you know? Definitely on my next album that's something I want to do, you know? Start writing."
(Britney got the chance to do just that with sophomore effort, 2000's Oops!...I Did It Again. "Dear Diary," a dreamy but ultimately forgettable ballad, served as the album's closing track.)
If the enhanced CD didn't provide enough content—how could it?—Britney had a solution in mind. "Be sure to visit my website. You'll find photos, information, music and much more," the "Sometimes" singer said in the closing video. "Check back often to find out all the latest news."
Now, the idea seems almost quaint, considering Britney's social media presence. But back then, those targeted marketing gimmicks helped make her into the global phenomenon she is today.
Fans looking to enjoy the enhanced CD will be sorely disappointed—most current operating systems no longer support the app. But a few videos made their way onto YouTube. Of course.