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You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, said every person with ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ decorations on their wall.
Still, it’s true, and when it comes to music you only get one chance to release a debut single.
Some household names are exactly that because their debut single propelled them to stardom, whereas others have faded away, and can be found on lists like ‘best one-hit wonders of all time‘.
Rolling Stone magazine decided to to take on the arduous task of ranking those debut singles, and as you may have guessed, a certain Britney Spears features.
Before we look at the list, here are some qualifiers:
Unlike debut albums, there’s some gray area involved in determining exactly what constitutes a debut single. We decided that solo debuts by well-known artists didn’t count…But singles by new bands that happened to include established artists (like Public Image Ltd) were fair game, as were bands that had released music under a previous name or in an earlier form…
The list we ended up with is heavily titled toward singles that became building blocks to great careers, though there are a couple of seismic one-hit wonders here as well…
You should know that Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ is number 100, but we’re not going through the whole shebang.
Rather, let’s skip ahead to numbers 10 through 4
The Smiths, “Hand in Glove”
The Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right”
Led Zeppelin, “Good Times Bad Times”
R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe”
Chuck Berry, “Maybellene”
Run-DMC, “Sucker M.C.’s/It’s Like That”
Drumroll before number three…
The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the U.K.”
The opening of “Anarchy in the U.K.” feels like a bulldozer coming right for you, and then the song’s engineer, one Johnny Rotten, makes it even scarier by piping up, “I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist!” It sounds like Lucifer himself ascended from hell, ready for the final judgment. Yet the song is also somehow very catchy and really funny, with one of Rotten’s suggestions for anarchy being giving someone the wrong time.
In second place, we have…
The Jackson 5, “I Want You Back”
…at the heart of “I Want You Back,” five brothers from Gary, Indiana — Tito, Marlon, Jackie, Jermaine, and lead singer Michael, already a soul virtuoso at the age of 11. Every moment is perfect, from the opening piano swirl to the seven-note bass hook. It hit Number One in January 1970.
The greatest debut single of all time, according to Rolling Stone, is…
Yes, it’s Britney, bitch:
One of those pop manifestos that announces a new sound, a new era, a new century. But most of all, a new star. Planet Earth, meet Britney Jean Spears, the 17-year-old pride of Kentwood, Louisiana.
“…Baby One More Time” is an apocalyptic thunder-clap of a song, with Max Martin’s mega-boom production: The only detail he screwed up was the incredibly annoying ellipsis in the title. As Britney told Rolling Stone in 2000, she stayed up late the night before listening to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” (“What a sexy song”) to get the growl she wanted. “I wanted my voice to be kind of rusty.”
In the great tradition of debut singles, it was a divisive statement that drew a line between past and future. “So much attitude in that song,” Spears said. “I was so happy because there’s a lot of good songs out there, but it’s rare when you can take a song and really put your name all over it and put your personality into it.” With “…Baby One More Time,” this girl changed the sound of pop forever: It’s Britney, bitch. Nothing was ever the same.
Go on, relive your youth. It is Friday, after all.
Please do not shoot the messenger, because I had no say in this at all.
Read Rolling Stone’s full list here.
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