Britney Spears recently took to Instagram to share her voice with the world. In doing so, she freed her beloved lower register after years of confinement, proving she’s far more versatile a singer than people often give her credit for.
Over the weekend, the Princess of Pop casually delivered an a cappella rendition of her breakout single “…Baby One More Time” that she filmed while doing laundry.
“I haven’t shared my voice in an extremely long time. Maybe too long,” she wrote in the accompanying caption.
Viewers will likely note this version sounds different than the 1998 original. For starters, the “Gimme More” superstar spices up the iconic lyrics by demanding “a f—king sign.”
More important, she belts out the classic in a voice that is rich and deep — a notable departure from the higher, more breathy vocal styling she’s famously known for.
Spears’ light and playful signature voice —sometimes dubbed a “baby voice” — was on full display during her earliest albums. Of course, it evolved over time. She delivered most of the vocals on 2003’s In the Zone in a breathy, sexed-up whisper instead of the sugary coo that defined her earlier material.
Later releases relied even more heavily on vocal fry, which Digital Spy claims sparked a trend in the dialects of young girls across the globe.
There’s no denying her versatility. However, Spears has rarely been referred to as a powerhouse such as in the case of her peers, Christina Aguilera and Beyonce. In fact, over the years she’s been lambasted by critics for having a weak voice and supposedly relying on lip syncing during performances.
Naysayers might be surprised to learn that the “Circus” singer actually auditioned for record labels as a young teen singing hits by the likes of Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton.
In 2021, Spears shared early footage of herself performing a soulful cover of The Jets’ “You Got It All” at a showcase in Singapore. The rendition highlights a deeper voice than what she ultimately presented on the biggest hits from her debut album.
So, what happened?
Steve Lunt, an A&R executive for Jive Records (Spears’ first label), wasn’t all that interested in Spears’ lower register when he first met her, according to Insider. However, there was a certain quality in her higher range that drew him in.
“You could hear the girlish quality, and there was something really appealing about that,” he said.
Lunt told Billboard that he signed her with the intention of coming up with a unique vocal style to set her apart. “If I couldn’t come up with it, we were going to drop her,” he added.
Of course, we all know what happened. Spears worked with Swedish pop mastermind Max Martin and came back with “…Baby One More Time.”
Watch Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” Music Video:
Billboard notes Spears’ way of singing on the track was instantly imitated by other up-and-coming artists at the time.
“There were a thousand Britney Spears wannabes,” John Ivey of iHeartMedia told Entertainment Weekly. But few people were able to do it the same way as Spears, who tailored her voice to sound unique.
“It’s sexy and coy without trying hard,” Nicole Morier, a songwriter who collaborated with Spears in later years, told Billboard.
Meanwhile, Spears told Rolling Stone she wanted a “rusty” quality to her voice on “…Baby One More Time.” She added that she stayed up late the night before to help achieve the effect in the studio.
That vocal styling became a claim to fame for the fresh-faced teen when she debuted. However, Spears has always been capable of much more than that one vocal style.
Although many of her biggest hits rely on a similar vocal style, the “If U Seek Amy” singer thrills fans any time she shows off her lower register. That’s even the case if the song doesn’t get an official release.
For instance, a leaked Blackout demo called “Baby Boy” — an emotional ballad featuring lullaby-esque production — has been lauded online for featuring Spears’ natural deeper range.
Fans often hold these rare moments up and compare them to earlier footage, claiming they showcase Spears’ “real” voice — such as this footage of her performing on Star Search as a child — to prove what she is capable of.
As Spears has grown up, it does seem that her deeper range is where she’s most comfortable.
While in Las Vegas, she went off script several times among accusations of lip-syncing. In those moments Spears highlighted a full-throated belt and deeper vocals.
Take her cover of Bonnie Rait’s “Something To Talk About,” for example:
“Without the music and just the mic it kind of feels illegal,” Spears said before she broke into the cover.
Now that Spears is a free woman in 2022, hopefully showcasing her deeper vocals doesn’t still feel illegal. If anything, now is the time for her to embrace this side of herself and show the world what she is capable of again.