Everyone has been doing Instagrams about Britney’s gig at the Roundhouse in North London last night. There was a time, though, when everyone was doing emails. Rest assured, readers, Britney Spears caught the zeitgeist of that online trend too.
Not sure what hell we’re talking about? Then you have the joy of being acquainted with ‘E-Mail My Heart’, the weirdest song the Mississippi singer ever recorded. It was 1999 – it was a different time. The song features on her first album, ‘…Baby One More Time’, which was in part produced by Max Martin, the Swedish super-producer who went on to work with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
At the time, Rolling Stone called the song “a shameless schlock slowie”, but they clearly overlooked the lyrics, which pull at both your heart strings and your router. “Email my heart,” Brit croons, “and say our lover will never die… Email me back and say our love will stay alive forever.”
This song is a beautiful thing. What’s weird is that email and online culture wasn’t even that nascent in 1999 – it had already, surely, entered the lives of most people in a fairly everyday manner – and yet the lyrics still make a bodge of the terminology.
“I can see you in my mind,” Britney sings, “coming on the line / and opening this letter that I’ve sent a hundred times”. Coming on the line? Who says that? Unless it’s about getting into a sticky situation with your ethernet cable while enjoying the internet’s favourite pastime, in which case it makes perfect sense.
It was written by Eric Foster White, who then worked at JIVE Records, the label that put out Britney’s debut. He has not gone onto the fame and fortune enjoyed by Martin, and with relatively few other credits to his name – his works includes ‘Same Old Brand New You’ by the early noughties boyband A1 and ‘My Name Is Not Susan’ by Whitney Houston, which entered the billboard Hot 100 at No. 67 in 1991 – left the music industry for a decade.
In 2014 he launched an obscure app called ShowMobile, which told scripted soap opera-style narratives about young musicians, broadcast via short clips shared through social media. Other than that, though, White’s been quiet for a while.
Thankfully, he left us this fine cultural artefact, which Britney herself discussed in the 1999 VHS Time Out With Britney Spears. “Everyone has been doing e-mails and it’s ‘Email My Heart.’ So, everyone can relate to that song”, she says.
Sadly, Britney didn’t play ‘E-mail My Heart’ at her incredible Roundhouse show, but we can only hope her return and new album will coax Foster out of retirement to pen an ill-timed slow-jam about MSN Messenger or Pokémon Go.