Simon Cowell has clearly made a name for himself in the world of pop music, but he hasn’t always gotten everything he’s wanted. In a recent interview, the record executive revealed that he tried to score “…Baby One More Time” for a boyband he had signed, but songwriter Max Martin had already promised to give the song to Britney Spears and said no.

Cowell was speaking on his America’s Got Talent co-star Howie Mandel’s podcast when he explained his “…Baby One More Time” connection. At the time, he was working with a boyband called 5ive, and they were “just on the verge of breaking them in America.” Someone played Cowell the song — which he said was actually first written for TLC, not Britney — and he said, “My God, I’ve got to have this song.”

“So I phoned up Max,” Cowell continued. “I said, ‘Max. Please, please give me this song.’ And he went, ‘I’ve promised it to someone else.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ll send you a Mercedes — literally a Mercedes 500 SL if I can have this song.’ And he went, ‘No. I promised it to somebody else.’ And I went, ‘Who?’ And he went, ‘Britney Spears.’ I went, ‘Max, let me give you some advice. No one is going to have a hit with a name called Britney Spears.'”


Clearly, Cowell was wrong about that last point. Despite his loss, the A&R legend commended Martin for being “honorable” and keeping his promise to Spears, who, as he acknowledged, wasn’t a big name at the time. “…Baby One More Time” ended up being her debut single, and it obviously kickstarted a huge career. Still, “I would’ve taken the car,” Cowell quipped.

Listen to Cowell discuss “…Baby One More Time” below; the conversation begins at around 38:35.

As for Spears, the artist recently released her first new music since 2016 in the form of a duet with Elton John, though she said she’ll probably never perform again following her traumatic conservatorship. Spears detailed her experience under the conservatorship in a recent voice memo she uploaded to YouTube.