Britney Spears’ “E-Mail My Heart” Is The Forgotten Symphony Of The Internet Age

Do I even need to say that Britney Spears is an American icon? No, of course not. You know that already. But here’s what you don’t know: while we were losing our minds over the …Baby One More Time music video, we let the true anthem of our generation slip by unnoticed.

 

Strap in, because we’re going back in time.

Back to an age of no smartphones. No cellphones, even. Unless you were a drug dealer or corporate hotshot, you didn’t have a pager. Landline telephones were an incredible gamble. Maybe someone would answer, maybe they wouldn’t. Were they out of the house? Busy? Dead? There was no way to tell.

The idea of a) knowing someone was available before you sent a message; b) being able to see when they’d read your message, and; c) getting an immediate response was such an outrageous piece of science fiction that it might as well have been a scene in Planet of the Apes.

The original Planet of the Apes. That’s how long ago we’re talking.

And then, WHAM!

E-mail. A curious beast, to be sure. It was still just shouting into the void. But unlike having the satisfaction of at least getting through to the answering machine (remember those?), you wouldn’t even know if someone had gotten your message unless they e-mailed you back.

These were tumultuous times in which to come of age. And Britney Spears understood.

Just take a look at the lyrics to her 1999 classic, E-Mail My Heart. 

It’s been hours seems like days
Since you went away
And all I do is check the screen
To see if you’re okay

Think about how agonizing it is to keep checking your messaging app waiting to see if someone is typing back yet.

Now remember how much worse it was when you just had to wait and see what showed up in your inbox, because otherwise there was no indication whatsoever that the other person was even there on the other end of the conversation.

You don’t answer when I phone
Guess you wanna be left alone

The telephone: ruining lives since 1876. We didn’t even have the luxury of being able to count how many times it rang to figure out if they were deliberately rejecting our call.

And yet, in a testament to the indomitable nature of the human spirit, in spite of all this anxious uncertainty, we still pushed forward and did the only thing in our power to try to make our voices heard.

So I’m sending you my heart, my soul
And this is what I’ll say:

CHORUS

I’m sorry
Oh so sorry
Can’t you give me one more chance
To make it all up to you
E-mail my heart
And say our love will never die (and I)
I know you’re out there
And I know that you still care (I know you care)
E-mail me back and say our love will stay alive
Forever
E-mail my heart

This was living. Sending a risky text these days is nothing. You’ll get a read receipt, and know that even a lack of response is still technically a response.

But back in the day? This was the wild west of the internet. No one really trusted emails to get through. It was a veritable dealer’s choice of terrible outcomes: undelivered, unread, or just unanswered? You might never find out.

But you could hope. Oh, how we hoped.

I can see you in my mind
Coming on the line
And opening this letter
That I’ve sent a hundred times

That’s a lot of times to send one message. And yet, it barely registers until someone stops to nitpick it in a blog post. Because we all remember the absolute desperation behind trying to get a response via e-mail.

Every part of communicating was an ordeal.

Here’s a picture of us two (us two)
I look so good on you (on you)
And can’t you please forgive me
For the hurt I put you through

If anyone was committed enough to go through the hassle of e-mailing you a photo in the 90s, you should’ve married that person. That’s the real deal. Whatever you did, Britney, the effort behind that photo is well worth 1000 words of apology.

But of course, we’re left without ever truly knowing what’s going on in the other side of this story. The chorus plays out again with no resolution to the narrative.

E-mail my heart
And say our love will never die (and I)
I know you’re out there
And I know that you still care (I know that you still care)
E-mail me back and say our love will stay alive
Forever (what-cha say, what-cha say, what-cha say)
Forever
Forever (what-cha say, what-cha say, what-cha say)
E-mail my heart

What-cha say, indeed. We’ll never know. A fitting end to a tribute to an era where countless e-mails disappeared into the abyss.

But here’s the best part. This song came out in 1999, remember?

AOL Instant Messenger came out in 1997. By the time E-Mail My Heart was gifted to our ears, we were already moving into the Ways of the New Millennium.

If you’re about my age, these are the days you remember even more poignantly. Those hours of rapt anticipation waiting for the little green dot to appear next to your crush’s name. Planning your entire afternoon around finding a time to chat with your friends, hoping your mom didn’t need to make a phone call. Telling the world everything it needed to know about who you are through a carefully selected Buddy Icon.

Looking back on the days we currently feel nostalgic about, we realize that a song about e-mail would already have felt nostalgic even then. Outdated.

And yet, E-Mail My Heart still speaks to us. It still connects us to that amorphous blur of hormones and technology that was growing up in the dawn of the Internet Age.

It captured the feel of an era. It’s so incredibly dated that it’s actually timeless.

Forever, E-Mail My Heart.

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