Say hello to the girl that I am!
You're gonna have to see through my perspective
I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am
And I don't wanna be so damn protected
There must be another way
Cause I believe in taking chances
But who am I to say
What a girl is to do
God, I need some answers
- Britney Spears, 'Overprotected'
Britney Spears, pop princess and the first in a new wave of teen singers to emerge in the late 1990s, released the single 'Overprotected' in the UK in January 2002. Arriving in Britain to promote the second release from her third album, the self-titled Britney, she launched on a wave of television and personal appearances. She courted controversy by claiming that she had been stood up by Prince William, went shopping in Knightsbridge, ate fish & chips and charmed the Top of the Pops crew, who revealed she had no star pretensions and a entourage half the size of that attending Jennifer Lopez. Despite rumours of a strop when she discovered fellow songstress Pink had chosen to grace the same hotel1, the two days she spent in the UK passed off in a blaze of positive publicity. It seemed to be a success, the single reached No 4 in the Top 40.
The single itself is interesting as it marks a faltering point in Britney's transformation for all-American girl to sexy chanteuse. A thumping beat and catchy melody mean that it is one of the most accessible tracks on the album . 'Overprotected' is classic Britney, safe, unchallenging and instantly accessible to all her fans. The video is also achingly familiar; Spears plus dancers strut and kick their way through three minutes of pop. Yet it is a world away from the previous single, the raunchy 'Slave 4U' which was accompanied by an equally risque video. That was a discordant statement of the singer's burgeoning sexuality. 'Overprotected' is a return to her roots with a twist, classic pop with rebellious lyrics.
'Overprotected' starts with Britney asserting that she must be allowed to make mistakes in order to find out who she is. She also need answers to all the questions that most of us spend our whole lives searching for the answer for; 'What am I to do with my life? How am I supposed to know what's right?'. The problem addressed in the second verse is also very familiar, without experience we get things wrong, but without getting things wrong we never gain experience. A tricky situation that is complicated by the fact that most young adults don't want to be told what to do, neatly summed up in verse 3 and repeated twice more for good measure.
The song suffers from over-production, which detracts from one of its strongest points - that catchy melody. It is also hard to accept Britney's adult claims when her voice has not matured, as it retains a childlike tone and pitch that is often over-emphasised by the producers. No one would say it is easy to cross over from being a teen idol to an adult star, and at the age of 20 Ms Spears must be keen to stop having people think of her as a pigtailed schoolgirl. But Britney is an album that doesn't seem to know exactly where to place itself; half of the tracks aspire to be Janet Jackson and the others are classic teen pop. Will Britney make the transformation to adult singing star? 'Overprotected' and the album that spawned it certainly don't contain the answer.