Isn't "Hit Me Baby" really about battered wives?

OK, let’s discuss this calmly: Isn’t Britney Spears’s song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” really about battered women, or am I reading too much into it? It’s been driving me crazy for months, and occasioning much brisk driving-time conversation around these here parts.

From time to time my duties include chauffeuring a number of pre-adolescent and adolescent females around to various places (the mall, roller skating, each other’s houses, etc.), and while we are all in the car, these pre-adolescent (and adolescent) females naturally enough insist on listening to the radio, and just as naturally, the radio insists on playing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, over and over and over again. By my own conservative estimate, I have probably heard the song at least 5 times a week, every week since spring of 1999, so I think I can claim to be an expert on how the lyrics go, such as they are. Just to settle it in my own mind, I looked them up on somebody’s website, and yes, that’s what she’s singing all right.

The thing about the song is, it seems abundantly clear to me (a 40-something adult who’s been around the track a few times), it’s about battered women. Now I know, I immediately start sounding like those people who anxiously scan rock lyrics for references to drug use and Satanic sex, but really, that’s not me. I remember my own parents sniffing suspiciously at pop music, so I think I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to rock and pop lyrics.

But really, sit down and listen to this song. Not only the chorus, “hit me baby one more time,” but the whole gist of it. She loves him but she knows something “isn’t right”. She’s very conflicted. The minute he’s gone, she wants him back (battered women will tell you that they can’t imagine living without him), but then she begs, “Give me a sign–hit me baby one more time.” A lot of battered women will tell you, “I said to myself, if he hits me one more time, that’s it, I’m leaving, so it was like a sign when he did hit me, and I left.”

Alternatively, it could be taken to mean, “Promise me you won’t do it any more.”

She sings, “That’s not the way I planned it.” She sings, “My loneliness is killing me.” The main reason that battered women continue to be battered, even though they know he’s no good for them, is that they’re lonely, and afraid to be by themselves, even at such a terrible cost. She sings, “Boy, you got me blinded” and “Don’t you know I still believe.” Battered women persuade themselves that “this time it will be different.”

This would all be just another chirpy pop love song if it weren’t for that line, “Hit me baby one more time.” I would be very interested in knowing whether Ms. Spears herself concocted this thing, or whether there’s an actual 40-something songwriter who’s been around the track a few times somewhere in the wings.

Anyway, one day last summer I ran this theory past the carload of pre-adolescent (and adolescent) females, and was loudly decried for my sordid muckraking mentality, with much exasperated rolling of eyeballs. I asked them what the words “Hit me baby one more time” could possibly refer to, in the context of a love song, and one of the females explained to me, with vast patience, “No, see, it’s like when you’re playing blackjack in a casino, and you say ‘hit me’.” (I’m still trying to figure out how that particular pre-adolescent female knows about playing blackjack in a casino.) But I still don’t see what the phrase has to do with a love song.

So is it some 21st century thing, like the way “phat” suddenly doesn’t mean “fat”? “Land sakes, Pa, these young folks nowadays and their newfangled “music”.”

And if it is about battered wives, as one of the adolescent females quite reasonably wanted to know, “Why would 16-year-old Britney Spears be singing about something like that? Eeww…” (here you must imagine a smilie with a look of disgust on its face)

From a Rolling Stone interview

I always thought it was a euphemism for “hump me, baby, one more time.”

Or maybe she meant “hit” in the Web site sense, as in “come by and visit.”

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

Full Lyrics:

Baby One More Time
Oh baby baby, Oh baby baby

Oh baby baby, how was I supposed to know
that something wasn’t right here
Oh baby baby, I shouldn’t have let you go
and now you’re out of sight, yeah
show me how you want it to be
tell me baby cuz I need to know now, oh because

My loneliness is killin me (and I)
I must confess I still believe (still believe)
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
give me a sign, hit me baby one more time!

Oh baby baby, the reason I breathe is you
Boy you’ve got me blinded
Oh pretty baby, there’s nothin that I wouldn’t do
that’s not the way I planned it

Show me how you want it to be
tell me baby cuz I need to know now, oh because


Oh baby baby, how was I supposed to know
Oh pretty baby, I shouldn’t have let you go
I must confess that my loneliness
is killin me now
don’t you know I still believe
that you will be here
and give me a sign, hit me baby one more time


I must confess (my loneliness) that my loneliness
(is killing me) Is killing me now
(I must confess) Don’t you (I still believe) know I still believe
that you will be here (I lose my mind)
And give me a sign…

Basically, I’d definately say no, its not about wife/girlfriend beating, and don’t you think you have a pretty morbid mind for immediately jumping to that? I can however see how one would be able to spin the words to indicate that, but the tone and mood of the song make that very unlikely. Songs, as you hopefully realize, are translated using more than just lyrics. The tone, music, and mood are frequently more important that the typically slang filled, and nonsensical lyrics.

That said, I interpret the song being about a girl, in her typical emotionally unstable high school years, who has dumped a boy who she cared about. She then has a change of heart driven by her loneliness. It preaches the old addage you only know how much you love something until its gone. The killing me, and you’ve got me blinded are quite clearly metaphors for how completely consumed she is with her emotions, and need to have him back. Most of the other lines you quote are figments of your imagination.

The line “Hit me Baby, one more time.” Is most likely a common use of the phrase from blackjack. The phrase, at least in my vocabulary and friends, is a very common way of coyly asking for more of something, but is certainly derived from the gambling slang.

I think “hump me baby one more time” is absolutely brilliant–now why didn’t I think of that? It helps knowing who wrote the song, too. You can extrapolate things from the mind of a successful record producer that you can’t from the mind of a 16-year-old Baptist pop singer. If I had known that the song was written by the presiding genius behind the Backstreet Boys, I probably would have listened for the unspoken dirty words sooner. Thanks, people! Now I can sleep at night.

Just one problem–how do I explain all this to the carload of pre-adolescent females? Or should I let them go on thinking that the song is about unrequited love down at the casino?

Don’t worry, I think they understand… better than you do, anyway.


I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!