When “…Baby One More Time” hit the airwaves I, like the song’s heroine, was a little lovesick.
I mean, I was nine, so I wasn’t actually heartbroken. Instead, my heart was dealing with the aftermath of the death of the center of my universe, my sun, moon, and stars. Just five months prior, on May 31, 1998, Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls, my first true musical love. I hung Spice Girls posters on my walls and taped-up wrappers from Spice Girls lollipops decorated my closet doors (yikes, a fucking metaphor!).
Anyway, “…Baby One More Time” was birthed 20 years ago on October 23, 1998, and I immediately stanned. Britney Spears filled the musical void in my heart that formed when Ginger Spice decided to free herself from the British girl group that dominated the year 1997. The song is directly responsible for so much of my queer awakening — my sister, laundry basket in hand, laughed in my face when she caught me doing a choreographed dance to the song in my room — and this whole time, I haven’t once reckoned with the fact that this bop was born smack dab in the middle of the Libra/Scorpio cusp!
(Now, just as Spears herself does, I must confess … that this genre of analysis was influenced by a wonderful piece in Slate about A Star Is Born being a full-on Libra.)
Libras and Scorpios’ respective reputations kinda precede themselves. I mean, Libras are literal scales, so they’re all about balance and would probably consider themselves arbiters of reason. On the other hand, Scorpios are the center of every astrological internet meme detailing that they should probably be stayed away from. So, we’re at the nexus of people pleaser and dark, mysterious, passionate loner here.
On first listen, “Baby” is the final plea to a lover eyeing their stage left exit, but seen through the gaze of the Libra-Scorpio, you can see both sides of the cusp come out. Libras are an air sign, high above the drama, very rational/thinking based, while Scorpios are a deep, Mariana Trench-like water sign, bound to their emotions. So, “…Baby One More Time” is a song about someone who is deeply emotional trying to make sense of the shitstorm their life has become after the loss of their ex.
Venus, the planet of love and beauty, rules Libra, while Scorpio-ruling Pluto is dark, mysterious and passionate. “Baby,” then, seems to be ruled by two planets that emphasize the dark and light sides of entanglement: beauty on one side and on the other, the dark and mysterious. “Baby” plays with that duality very well: though it is a bubblegum pop song about intense feelings of love, it’s also full of some intensely dark lyrics. As much as Britney pleads for her “pretty baby” (Venus), she also confesses, repeatedly, that her intense feelings of love and abandonment are “killing her” (Pluto).
Read through the lens of a Libra, the song is a plea for everyone to have a happy ending. Britney knows that her partner would be happier with her and that she would be happier if they were entwined, as well. But, asking for him to come back into an unhappy relationship, even knowing that he might continue to be unhappy (hell, she never really says she’s going to change) is a bit of a Scorpio move.
The Libra-Scorpio cusp is also widely known as the Cusp of Drama and Criticism. While “Baby” is certainly a dramatic, last-ditch effort asking a lover to stay, it is also true that the song is filled with tiny digs at the asshole who is breaking Britney’s heart, which is a bit more characteristic of that scorpion stinger.
Read one way, “How was I supposed to know/ that something wasn’t right here?” is a self-criticism about the singer’s lack of attention paid to their romantic partner. But, read another way, it’s an indictment of the lover’s inability to communicate his unhappiness to poor Britney, left out in the dark to make sense of the situation all by herself. Also, there’s something sub-tweet-like about the drama of telling someone “My loneliness is killing me.” Sure, it’s a lyric that can hit home with most who have felt that way before, but it’s also a very unfair criticism to level at someone. On one level, it’s an appropriately pithy way to tell someone that their actions have caused you harm. But there’s also another way to read it: could the person saying it be trying to weaponize their hurt and make the other person feel bad for leaving them?
In many ways, “…Baby One More Time” is also a very ego-centric song. Because we don’t know the minutiae of the central relationship, it can be hard to decipher what both sides’ problems were. But ego is often a problem for Libra-Scorpio cusps, and “Baby” is a song about someone’s will dominating someone else’s. Rather than asking for a sign, Spears repeatedly tells her lover to “Give me a sign” and implores him “Tell me” again and again out of a Libra-like need for validation. People born under these signs are also very vocal about their opinions, and Britney says multiple times that she “must confess” how she feels. A dramatic public confession is a very Libra-Scorpio action, but it’s also a plea for her opinion to be heard, as their ego cannot handle that their object of affection might choose to ignore how they feel.
Now that we’ve overthought the biggest, moodiest bop of the past 20 years, listen with new, astrologically-attuned ears below.