Britney Spears, ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ – Terrible Classic Rock Covers
For a relatively simple jukebox anthem, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ proved surprisingly influential during its successful run on the charts in 1982, paving the way for female artists of subsequent generations to exert greater control over their careers and break boundaries of their own. For example, artists like Britney Spears, who recorded what she presumably thought was a tribute to Jett with her 2002 cover of the rock classic.
Perhaps the worst thing about Spears’ version of ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ is that it didn’t necessarily have to be this painful. The song’s stomping beat and simple chord structure lend themselves to the dance-remix treatment, and the vocal melody doesn’t impose a lot of demands on the singer — which is exactly why it’s in permanent heavy rotation in karaoke bars all over the world, and why it was chosen for the big karaoke scene in Spears’ 2002 movie ‘Crossroads.’
The pop star even claimed to have an affinity for the classic, telling one interviewer, “I sing that song all the time. It just made sense for me to do that. I just love the song, and I love Joan Jett. It’s a very girl-empowering song. I just wanted to do it, and so I did.” Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the track’s origins or history. In another interview, she enthused, “I just love the song. I love Pat Benatar, and I just think she’s amazing. It’s like she’s a rock ‘n’ roll chick and she’s just having a good time, and it’s a very empowering song.”
Obviously, a person doesn’t need to be a musical scholar in order to deliver a convincing rendition of the song. But her claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Spears sounds disconnected on every level in her version of ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ — even if the song doesn’t require its singer to hit any crazy notes, they should still sound like they, you know, love rock ‘n’ roll. Jett’s version (which is itself a cover of a 1975 song originally recorded by Arrows) endures because of its perfectly brash, snotty attitude, something Spears and her producers tried swapping out for mechanized instrumentation, DJ scratching and a remarkably emotionless lead vocal. It didn’t work.
Somewhat surprisingly, listeners seemed to agree; Spears’ cover, released as a single in the spring of 2002, failed to chart in the U.S., although it did make a fairly sizable dent in a number of European markets. Coupled with the painfully clunky version of the Rolling Stones‘ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ she tracked for her ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’ album, it provides ample proof that wherever her strengths may lie, Spears isn’t meant to record classic-rock covers. It’s a lesson we’re all hoping she doesn’t soon forget.
Watch Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Perform ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’