On the Life-Changing Nature of Natalie Imbruglia

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It's been 13 years since Australian soap star-cum-singer/songwriter Natalie Imbruglia crash-landed on US shores, spending the better part of 1998 absolutely dominating the airwaves with her smash hit "Torn." The song captured the imagination of a country that was very ready for a breezy, lovelorn pop song with an adorable music video and splendid chorus harmonies to temporarily take over their otherwise dull and miserable lives, and Imbruglia seemed on her way to Stateside stardom.  Subsequent follow-ups fared less successfully, however, and before long, the Brug all but faded from the American public consciousness.

One person who did not forget about Imbruglia, however, is Britney Spears. When asked in the recent issue of Out to name an album that changed her life, she answered with Left of the Middle, Imbruglia's "Torn"-led debut album. Spears would have been about 16 at the time of first listen, and still about a year away from her pop breakthrough—which, somewhat ironically, probably helped bring about the death knell for more contemplative, songwriter-y types like Imbruglia.

Now, while we imagine Spears isn't the only person on the planet to have listened to Left of the Middle all the way through--the thing did sell about two million in this country alone, and another five mil elsewhere--she's certainly one of the rare people who presumably did so enough to remember the album's name over a decade later, let alone to declare it a life-changing listen. It's also tough to deduce exactly what lessons, musical or lifestyle-wise, Spears took from Left, since it's certainly hard to notice any direct musical influence. (Though Brit did lie naked on the floor once or twice throughout her career. Or on a bench. Whatever. Naked!)

Then again, maybe Britney's CD player was stuck on the "1" function back in '98, and her impression of Left of the Middle ended up being nothing but "Torn" looped over and over again. If so, could you blame her for loving it so much? How many songs have ever been better than this?

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