Britney Spears would have had a completely different debut single if Simon Cowell had actually managed to wrestle “…Baby One More Time” away from her.
Speaking on the Howie Mandel Does Stuff podcast, the super producer revealed he tried to snag the future hit single for his boyband Five, the male version of the Spice Girls. Cowell said he was “just on the verge of breaking them in America” and he felt the future Britney hit was Five’s golden ticket.
Cowell said he learned of the track when an affiliate called him. “[The song] was written for TLC. TLC passed,” he recalled. After the affiliate played it for him over the phone, he remembers saying, “Oh my God, I’ve got to have this song.”
The former American Idol judge sought out producer Max Martin, who wrote the hit, and offered him a Mercedes 500 SL in exchange for the single. “I phoned up Max and said, ‘Please, please give me this song,"” Cowell recalled, but found out it was “promised … to someone else.”
Cowell demanded to know who grabbed it before him and learned it went to a singer who was unknown at the time — Britney Spears. Cowell tried convincing Martin to break the deal: “Let me give you some advice. No one is gonna have a hit with a name called Britney Spears!"”
Of course, the rest is history and Cowell admits Martin’s foresight was better than his. “He made the right decision,” the British mogul quipped. “Listen, I would have taken the car!”
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