Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album ...Baby One More Time in 1999. During her first decade in the music industry, she became a prominent figure in mainstream popular music and popular culture, followed by a much-publicized personal life. Her first two albums established her as a pop icon and broke sales records, while title tracks "...Baby One More Time" and "Oops!... I Did It Again" became international number-one hits. Spears was credited with influencing the revival of teen pop during the late 1990s.
In 2001, she released her third studio album Britney and expanded her brand, playing the starring role in the film Crossroads. She assumed creative control of her fourth studio album, In the Zone (2003), which yielded chart-topping singles "Me Against the Music", "Toxic" and "Everytime". After the release of two compilation albums, Spears experienced personal struggles and her career went into hiatus. Her fifth studio album, Blackout, was released in 2007 and despite receiving little promotion, it spawned hits "Gimme More" and "Piece of Me". In 2008, her erratic behavior and hospitalizations caused her to be placed in a conservatorship. The same year, her sixth studio album Circus was released, with the global chart-topping lead single "Womanizer". She embarked on her highest-grossing global concert tour, The Circus Starring Britney Spears, in 2009. Her seventh studio album Femme Fatale, released in 2011, has become the first of her albums to yield three top ten singles in the United States, including her fourth US number one single, "Hold It Against Me".
Spears has sold over 100 million records worldwide. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the eighth top-selling female artist in the United States, with 33 million certified albums. Spears is also recognized as the best-selling female artist of the first decade of the 21st century, as well as the fifth overall. She was ranked the 8th Artist of the 2000s by Billboard.
1981-97: Early life and career beginnings
Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2, 1981, the second child of Lynne Irene (née Bridges) and James Parnell Spears. She is of English heritage through her maternal grandmother, who was born in London, and of distant Maltese descent. Her siblings are Bryan James and Jamie Lynn. At age three, she started to attend dance lessons in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, and was selected to perform a solo at the annual recital. During her childhood, she also attended gymnastics and voice lessons, and won many state-level competitions and children's talent shows. Spears made her local stage debut at age five, singing "What Child Is This?" at her kindergarten graduation. She said about her ambition as a child, "I was in my own world, ...I found out what I'm supposed to do at an early age". At age eight, Spears and her mother Lynne traveled to Atlanta for an audition in the 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club. Casting director Matt Cassella rejected her for being too young to join the series at the time, but introduced her to Nancy Carson, a New York City talent agent. Carson was impressed with Spears's vocals and suggested enrolling her at the Professional Performing Arts School; shortly after, Lynne and her daughters moved to a sublet apartment in New York. Spears was hired for her first professional role as the understudy for the lead role of Tina Denmark in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless!. She also appeared as a contestant on the popular television show Star Search, as well as being cast in a number of commercials. In December 1992, she was finally cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, but returned to Kentwood after the show was canceled. She enrolled at Parklane Academy in nearby McComb, Mississippi. Although she made friends with most of her classmates, she compared the school to "the opening scene in Clueless with all the cliques. I was so bored. I was the point guard on the basketball team. I had my boyfriend, and I went to homecoming and Christmas formal. But I wanted more."
In June 1997, Spears was in talks with manager Lou Pearlman to join female pop group Innosense. Lynne asked family friend and entertainment lawyer Larry Rudolph for his opinion and submitted a tape of Spears singing over a Whitney Houston karaoke song along with some pictures. Rudolph decided he wanted to pitch her to record labels, therefore she needed a professional demo. He sent Spears an unused song from Toni Braxton; she rehearsed for a week and recorded her vocals in a studio with a sound engineer. Spears traveled to New York with the demo and met with executives from four labels, returning to Kentwood the same day. Three of the labels rejected her, arguing audiences wanted pop bands such as the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, and "there wasn't going to be another Madonna, another Debbie Gibson, or another Tiffany." Two weeks later, executives from Jive Records returned calls to Rudolph. Senior vice president of A&R Jeff Fenster stated about Spears's audition that "It's very rare to hear someone that age who can deliver emotional content and commercial appeal. For any artist, the motivation—the 'eye of the tiger'— is extremely important. And Britney had that." They appointed her to work with producer Eric Foster White for a month, who reportedly shaped her voice from "lower and less poppy" delivery to "distinctively, unmistakably Britney." After hearing the recorded material, president Clive Calder ordered a full album. Spears had originally envisioned "Sheryl Crow music, but younger more adult contemporary" but felt all right with her label's appointment of producers, since "It made more sense to go pop, because I can dance to it—it's more me." She flew to Cheiron Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, where half of the album was recorded from March to April 1998, with producers Max Martin, Denniz Pop and Rami Yacoub, among others.
1998-2000: ...Baby One More Time and Oops!... I Did It Again
After Spears returned to the United States, she embarked on a shopping mall promotional tour to promote her forthcoming album. Her show was a four song set and she was accompanied by two back up dancers. Her first concert tour followed, as an opening act for 'N Sync. Her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, was released on January 1999. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was certified two-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America after a month. Worldwide, the album topped the charts in fifteen countries and sold over ten million copies in a year. It became the biggest selling album ever by a teenage artist. The title track was released as the lead single from the album. Originally, Jive Records wanted its music video to be animated; however, Spears rejected it, and suggested the final idea of a Catholic schoolgirl. The single sold 500,000 copies on its first day, and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the chart for two consecutive weeks. "...Baby One More Time" later received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The title track also topped the singles chart for two weeks in the United Kingdom, and became the fastest-selling single ever by a female artist, shipping over 460,000 copies. It would later become the 25th most successful song of all time in British chart history. Spears is also the youngest female artist to have a million seller in the country. "(You Drive Me) Crazy" was released as the third single from the album. It became a top-ten hit worldwide and propelled ...Baby One More Time to sell 26 million copies.
The April 1999 cover of Rolling Stone featured Spears lying on her bed, clad with a bra, shorts and an open top. The American Family Association (AFA) referred to the shoot as "a disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality" and called to "God-loving Americans to boycott stores selling Britney's albums." Spears responded to the outcry commenting, "What's the big deal? I have strong morals. [...] I'd do it again. I thought the pictures were fine. And I was tired of being compared to Debbie Gibson and all of this bubblegum pop all the time." Shortly before, Spears had announced publicly she would remain a virgin until marriage. On June 28, 1999, Spears began her first headlining ...Baby One More Time Tour in North America, which was positively received by critics, but generated some controversy due to her racy outfits. An extension of the tour, titled Crazy 2k, followed in March 2000. Spears premiered songs from her upcoming second album during the show. Oops!... I Did It Again, her second studio album, was released in May 2000. It debuted at number one in the US, selling 1,3 million copies, breaking the SoundScan record for the highest debut sales by any solo artist. The album sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone said that "the great thing about Oops! – under the cheese surface, Britney's demand for satisfaction is complex, fierce and downright scary, making her a true child of rock & roll tradition." The album's lead single, "Oops!... I Did It Again", peaked at the top of the charts in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and many other European nations. The album as well as the title track received Grammy nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, respectively.
The same year, Spears embarked on the Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour, which grossed $40.5 million; she also released her first book, Britney Spears' Heart-to-Heart, co-written with her mother. On September 7, 2000, Spears performed at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. Halfway through the performance, she ripped off her black suit to reveal a sequined flesh-colored bodysuit, followed by heavy dance routine. It is noted by critics as the moment that Spears showed signs of becoming a more provocative performer. Amidst media speculation, Spears confirmed she was dating 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake.
2001-03: Britney, Crossroads and In the Zone
In February 2001, Spears signed a $7–8 million promotional deal with Pepsi, and released another book co-written with her mother, entitled A Mother’s Gift. Her third studio album, Britney, was released in November 2001. While on tour, she felt inspired by hip hop artists such as Jay-Z and The Neptunes and wanted to create a record with a funkier sound. The album debuted at number one in the Billboard 200 and reached top five positions in Australia, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called Britney "the record where she strives to deepen her persona, making it more adult while still recognizably Britney. It does sound like the work of a star who has now found and refined her voice, resulting in her best record yet." The album was honored with two Grammy nominations—Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Overprotected"— and was listed in 2008 as one of Entertainment Weekly's "100 Best Albums from the Past 25 Years". The album's first single, "I'm a Slave 4 U", became a top-ten hit worldwide.
Spears's performance of the single at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards featured a caged tiger and a large albino python draped over her shoulders. It was harshly received by animal rights organization PETA, who claimed the animals were mistreated and scrapped plans for an anti-fur billboard that was to feature Spears. To support the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour. The show was critically praised for its technical innovations, the pièce de résistance being a water screen that pumped two tons of water into the stage. The tour grossed $43.7 million, becoming the second highest grossing tour of 2002 by a female artist, behind Cher's Farewell Tour. Her career success was highlighted by Forbes in 2002, as Spears was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity. Spears also landed her first starring role in Crossroads, released in February 2002. Although the film was largely panned, most critics actually praised Spears's acting. Crossroads, which had a $11 million budget, went on to gross over $57 million worldwide.
In June 2002, Spears opened her first restaurant, Nyla, in New York City, but terminated her relationship in November, citing mismanagement and "management's failure to keep her fully apprised". In July 2002, Spears announced she would take a six month break from her career; however, she went back into the studio in October to record her new album. Spears's relationship with Justin Timberlake ended after three years. In December 2002, Timberlake released the song "Cry Me a River" as the second single from his solo debut album. The music video featured a Spears look-alike and fueled the rumors that she had been unfaithful to him. As a response, Spears wrote the ballad "Everytime" with her backing vocalist and friend Annet Artani. The same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst said that he was in a relationship with Spears. However, Spears denied Durst's claims. In a 2009 interview, he explained that "I just guess at the time it was taboo for a guy like me to be associated with a gal like her." Spears opened the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards with Christina Aguilera, performing "Like a Virgin". Halfway through they were joined by Madonna, with whom they both kissed. The incident was highly publicized.
Spears released her fourth studio album, In the Zone, in November 2003. She assumed more creative control by writing and co-producing most of the material. Vibe called it "A supremely confident dance record that also illustrates Spears's development as a songwriter." NPR listed the album as one of "The 50 Most Important Recording of the Decade", adding that "the decade's history of impeccably crafted pop is written on her body of work." In the Zone sold over 609,000 copies in the United States and debuted at the top of the charts, making Spears the first female artist in the SoundScan era to have her first four studio albums to debut at number one. It also debuted at the top of the charts in France and the top ten in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. In the Zone sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The album produced the hit singles: "Me Against the Music", a collaboration with Madonna; "Toxic"—which won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording; "Everytime" and "Outrageous".
2004-07: Compilation albums, motherhood, personal struggles and Blackout
On January 3, 2004, Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The marriage was annulled 55 hours later, stating that Spears "lacked understanding of her actions". She began The Onyx Hotel Tour in support of In the Zone in March 2004. On June 8, 2004, Spears fell and injured her left knee during the music video shoot for "Outrageous". She was taken immediately to a local hospital, where doctors performed an MRI scan and found floating cartilage. The following day, Spears underwent arthroscopic surgery. She was forced to remain six weeks with a thigh brace, followed by eight to twelve weeks of rehabilitation, which caused The Onyx Hotel Tour to be canceled. During 2004, Spears became involved in the Kabbalah Centre through her friendship with Madonna.
In July 2004, she announced her engagement to American dancer Kevin Federline, whom she had met three months before. The romance received intense attention from the media, since Federline had recently broken up with actress Shar Jackson, who was still pregnant with their second child at the time. The initial stages of their relationship were chronicled in Spears's first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. They held a wedding ceremony on September 18, 2004, but were not legally married until three weeks later on October 6 due to a delay finalizing the couple's prenuptial agreement. Shortly after, she released her first fragrance with Elizabeth Arden, Curious, which broke the company's first-week gross for a perfume. In October 2004, Spears announced she would be taking another career break to start a family. Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, her first greatest hits compilation album, was released in November 2004. Spears's cover version of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" was released as the lead single from the album, reaching the top of the charts in Finland, Ireland, Italy and Norway. The second single, "Do Somethin'", was a top ten hit in Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries of mainland Europe. Worldwide, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative sold over 5 million copies. In late 2004, Spears went on KIIS-FM radio in Los Angeles, CA to play a new demo titled "Mona Lisa." The demo was to be the first single from an upcoming album called the "Original Doll." However, Spears' label later cancelled the album for unknown reasons. Spears gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, on September 14, 2005.
In November 2005, she released her first remix compilation, B in the Mix: The Remixes, which consists of eleven remixes. In February 2006, pictures surfaced of Spears driving with her son Sean, on her lap instead of in a car seat. Child advocates were horrified by the photos of her holding the wheel with one hand and Sean with the other. Spears claimed that the situation happened because of a frightening encounter with paparazzi, and that it was a mistake on her part. The following month, she guest-starred on the Will & Grace episode "Buy, Buy Baby" as closeted lesbian Amber Louise. She publicly announced she no longer studied Kabbalah in June 2006, explaining, "my baby is my religion." Two months later, Spears posed nude for the cover of Harper's Bazaar. The picture was heavily compared to Demi Moore's August 1991 Vanity Fair cover. She gave birth to her second child, Jayden James Federline, on September 12, 2006. On November 7, 2006, Spears filed for divorce from Federline, citing irreconcilable differences. Their divorce was finalized in July 2007, when the couple reached a global settlement and agreed to share joint custody of their children. Spears's aunt Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died of ovarian cancer in January. On February 16, 2007, Spears stayed in a drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua for less than a day. The following night, she shaved her head with electric clippers at a hair salon in Tarzana, Los Angeles. She admitted herself to other treatment facilities during the following weeks. After completing a month-long program at Promises, she wrote on her website, "I truly hit rock bottom. Till this day I don't think that it was alcohol or depression. [...] was like a bad kid running around with ADD." In May 2007, she produced a series of promotional concerts at House of Blues venues, titled The M+M's Tour. Spears lost physical custody of her children to Federline on October 1, 2007. The reasons of the court ruling were not revealed to the public.
Her fifth studio album, Blackout, was released in October 2007. It debuted at the top of charts in Canada and Ireland, number two in the U.S. Billboard 200,—held off from the top spot by Eagles's Long Road out of Eden— France, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom and the top ten in Australia, Korea, New Zealand and many European nations. In the United States, Spears became the only female artist to have her first five studio albums debut at the two top slots of the chart. Blackout sold over 3.1 million copies worldwide. Peter Robinson of The Observer said that "Britney has delivered the best album of her career, raising the bar for modern pop music with an incendiary mix of Timbaland's Shock Value and her own back catalogue." Dennis Lim of Blender commented, "Spears’s fifth studio album is her most consistent, a seamlessly entertaining collection of bright, brash electropop." Blackout won Album of the Year at MTV Europe Music Awards 2008 and was listed as the fifth Best Pop Album of the Decade by The Times. Spears performed the lead single "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. The performance was panned by many critics. David Willis of BBC stated her performance would "go down in the history books as being one of the worst to grace the MTV Awards". Despite the backlash, the single rocketed to worldwide success, peaking at number one in Canada and the top ten in almost every country it charted. The second single "Piece of Me" reached the top of the charts in Ireland and reached the top five in Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The third single "Break the Ice" was released the following year and had moderate success due to Spears not being able to promote it properly. In December 2007, Spears began a relationship with paparazzo Adnan Ghalib.
2008-10: Conservatorship and Circus
On January 3, 2008, Spears refused to relinquish custody of her sons to Federline's representatives. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, after police that arrived at her house noted she appeared to be under the influence of an illicit substance. The following day, Spears's visitation rights were suspended at an emergency court hearing, and Federline was given sole physical and legal custody of the children. On January 31, 2008, Spears was committed to the psychiatric ward of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and put on 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold. The court placed her under temporary conservatorship of her father James Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet, giving them complete control of her assets. Spears was released on February 6, 2008. Her parents expressed disappointment and concern at the decision to release her. The following month, she guest-starred on the How I Met Your Mother episode "Ten Sessions" as receptionist Abby. She received positive reviews for her performance, as well as bringing the series its highest ratings ever. In July 2008, Spears regained some visitation rights after coming to an agreement with Federline and his counsel. On September 7, 2008, Spears opened the MTV Video Music Awards with a pre-taped comedy sketch with Jonah Hill and an introduction speech. She won Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Video of the Year for "Piece of Me". A 60-minute introspective documentary, Britney: For the Record, was produced to chronicle Spears' return to the recording industry. Directed by Phil Griffin, For the Record was entirely shot in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and New York City during the third quarter of 2008. Main shooting began on September 5, 2008, two days before Spears' appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards. For the Record was broadcast on MTV on November 30, 2008 to 5.6 million viewers for the two airings on the premiere night. MTV reported that Spears' documentary garnered on average, the highest rating in its Sunday night timeslot, in the network's history.
Her sixth studio album Circus, was released in December 2008. It received positive reviews from critics; according to the music review aggregation of Metacritic, it garnered an average score of 64/100. Circus debuted at number one in Canada, Czech Republic and the United States, and inside the top in many European nations. In the United States, Spears became the youngest female artist to have five albums debut at number one, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. She also became the only act in the Soundscan era to have four albums debut with 500,000 or more copies sold. Circus became one of the fastest-selling albums of the year, and has sold 4 million copies worldwide. Its lead single, "Womanizer", became her first number one in the Billboard Hot 100 since "...Baby One More Time" and topped the charts in countries such as Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway and Sweden. It was also nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording. In January 2009, Spears and her father James obtained a restraining order against her former manager Sam Lufti, ex-boyfriend Adnan Ghalib and attorney Jon Eardley—all of whom, court documents claim, had been conspiring to gain control of Spears's affairs. The restraining order forbids Lutfi and Ghalib from contacting Spears or coming within 250 yards of her, her property or family members. Spears embarked on The Circus Starring Britney Spears in March 2009. With a gross of U.S. $131.8 million, it became the fifth highest grossing tour of the year.
She released her second greatest hits album, The Singles Collection in November 2009. "3" became her third number one single in the US, and was the first song to debut at the top of the charts in three years. Later that month, she released an application for iPhone and iPod Touch titled "It's Britney!". In May 2010, Spears's representatives confirmed she was dating her agent Jason Trawick, and that they had decided to end their professional relationship to focus on their personal relationship. Spears designed a limited edition clothing line for Candie's, which was released in stores in July 2010. On September 28, 2010, she made a cameo appearance on a Spears-themed tribute episode of American TV show Glee, titled "Britney/Brittany". Spears approved of the episode, although her appearances received mixed reviews from critics. The episode drew Glee's second largest audience, as well as the show's highest ratings ever.
2011-present: Femme Fatale, engagement and hiatus
In March 2011, Spears released her seventh studio album Femme Fatale. Max Martin and Dr. Luke executive produced the album and the album's first single "Hold It Against Me". The single debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. This gave Spears her fourth number-one single on the chart, and made her only the second artist in history to have two consecutive singles debut at number-one, after Mariah Carey. The album peaked at number one in the United States(selling 276,000 copies), Canada, and Australia, and peaked inside the top ten on nearly every other chart. The album's peak in the United States ties Britney with Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson for the third-most number ones among women. Femme Fatale has sold over 590,000 copies in the United States and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The album received positive critical reviews after its release, receiving a score of 67 on Metacritic, her highest critical score since Oops!... I Did It Again, with many critics naming the album one of Spears's best. In April 2011, Spears appeared in a remix to the song "S&M" by Rihanna after Rihanna asked her fans via Twitter who they wanted her to collaborate with. The song reached number one in the US in mid-April 2011, giving Britney her fifth number one on the chart. In early May, Spears' second single from Femme Fatale, "Till The World Ends", reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and had ninety-eight million audience impressions on the Billboard chart, granting Spears the highest weekly audience of her 13-year chart career. Femme Fatale's third single "I Wanna Go" reached the top forty on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2011. Among females in the last thirteen years, Spears now has the third-most top forty hits, with twenty-one. In August, the single managed to reach the top-ten on the Billboard Hot 100, which is the first time for Spears to have three songs from one album in the top-ten. On the week ending September 24, 2011, "I Wanna Go" moved 2-1 on the mainstream top 40, becoming her sixth number-one on that chart (making her tied for third all-time) and her first number-one and third top-ten pop song for Femme Fatale. Spears now has the longest span of number ones on the mainstream top 40, with a length of twelve years, seven months, and four days. In October 2011, the music video for Femme Fatale's fourth single "Criminal" caused controversy when British politicians criticized Spears for using replica guns while filming the video in an area of London that had been badly affected by the 2011 England riots. Members of the Hackney London Borough Council felt Spears "promoted gun violence" and suggested that Spears apologize and make a donation to a Hackney charity. Spears's management briefly responded, stating, "The video is a fantasy story featuring Britney's boyfriend, Jason Trawick, which literally plays out the lyrics of a song written three years before the riots ever happened." Later that month, due to her continued popularity, Spears became the seventh artist to gain one billion cumulative views on her Vevo account. On Billboard's 2011 Year-End list, Spears was fourteen on the Artists of the Year, due to being 32 on Billboard 200 artists and 10 on Billboard Hot 100 artists. Additionally, many critics, including those at Rolling Stone, named "Till the World Ends" one of the best songs of 2011.
On March 2011, Spears announced that she would tour throughout the United States during summer 2011. The Femme Fatale Tour opened June 16 at the Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, California to positive reviews. Many critics noted that Spears sang more of the concert live in response to lip-synching accusations during The Circus Starring Britney Spears, and that the dancing is some of her best in years. The first ten US dates of the tour grossed $6.2 million, landing the fifty-fifth spot on Pollstar's Top 100 North American Tours list for the half-way point of the year. The tour ended on December 10, 2011 in Puerto Rico after 79 performances. A concert special of the tour was filmed in 2D and 3D in Canada on August 13 and 14. It premiered on November 12 on Epix, receiving mixed reviews. It was released to DVD on November 21 and sold 19,000 copies, debuting at no. 2 on the US Billboard DVD Chart behind Lady Gaga's The Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden.
On June 15, 2011, it was announced by Billboard that the RCA/Jive Label Group would be splitting, with Jive Records being fully moved under RCA Records staying intact. In August it was announced that Spears had officially joined the RCA's roster. During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards on August 28 2011, MTV played tribute to Spears with a group of young female dancers that memorialised Britney's music videos, performances, and style. Following which, Spears accepted the MTV Video Vanguard Award from Lady Gaga, who said that "industry wouldn't be the same without [her]". On September 9, 2011, Spears announced her second remix album, B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2, which was released on October 7, along with the tracklist. On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, Spears (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release her future material on the RCA Records brand.
On December 16, Spears confirmed her engagement to her long-time boyfriend Jason Trawick, her former manager. Spears revealed her three-carat diamond ring at a party in Las Vegas on December 17. According to RCA's Joe Riccitelli the executive vice president of promotion for RCA Records, told U.S. radio station Hot 99.5 that Britney is taking time off in 2012.
Musical style and performance
Following her debut, Spears was credited with leading the revival of teen pop in the late 1990s. The Daily Yomiuri reported that "[m]usic critics have hailed her as the most gifted teenage pop idol for many years, but Spears has set her sights a little higher-she is aiming for the level of superstardom that has been achieved by Madonna and Janet Jackson." Rolling Stone wrote: "Britney Spears carries on the classic archetype of the rock & roll teen queen, the dungaree doll, the angel baby who just has to make a scene." Rami Yacoub who co-produced Spears's debut album with lyricist Max Martin, commented, "I know from Denniz Pop and Max's previous productions, when we do songs, there's kind of a nasal thing. With N' Sync and the Backstreet Boys, we had to push for that mid-nasal voice. When Britney did that, she got this kind of raspy, sexy voice." Following the release of her debut album, Chuck Taylor of Billboard observed, "Spears has become a consummate performer, with snappy dance moves, a clearly real-albeit young-and funkdified voice ... "(You Drive Me) Crazy", her third single ... demonstrates Spears's own development, proving that the 17-year-old is finding her own vocal personality after so many months of steadfast practice." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic referred to her music as a "blend of infectious, rap-inflected dance-pop and smooth balladry." Spears later commented, "With ...Baby One More Time, I didn't get to show my voice off. The songs were great, but they weren't very challenging".
Oops!...I Did It Again and subsequent albums saw Spears working with several contemporary R&B producers, leading to "a combination of bubblegum, urban soul, and raga." Her third studio album, Britney derived from the teen pop niche, "[r]hythmically and melodically ... sharper, tougher than what came before. What used to be unabashedly frothy has some disco grit, underpinned by Spears' spunky self-determination that helps sell hooks that are already catchier, by and large, than those that populated her previous two albums." Guy Blackman of The Age wrote that while few would care to listen to an entire Spears album, "[t]he thing about Spears, though, is that her biggest songs, no matter how committee-created or impossibly polished, have always been convincing because of her delivery, her commitment and her presence. For her mostly teenage fans, Spears expresses perfectly the conflicting urges of adolescence, the tension between chastity and sexual experience, between hedonism and responsibility, between confidence and vulnerability."
Her vocal ability has also been criticized, often drawing unfavorable comparison to her pop rival, Christina Aguilera. Critic Allan Raible derides her overdependence in Circus on digital effects and the robotic effect it creates. "She’s never been a strong vocalist..." writes Raible, "Could she handle these songs with stripped down arrangements and no vocal effects? More importantly, would anyone want to hear her attempt such a performance? Does it matter? No. The focus is still image over substance." Her image and persona are also often contrasted to Christina Aguilera. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly observed "Christina Aguilera may flash skin and belly button, but in her music and manner, she's too eager not to offend — she's a good girl pretending to be bad. Spears, however, comes across as a bad girl acting good ... Spears' artificial-sweetener voice is much less interesting than the settings, yet that blandness is actually a relief compared with Aguilera's numbing vocal gymnastics. In contrast, Allmusic comments: "Like her peer Christina Aguilera, Britney equates maturity with transparent sexuality and the pounding sounds of nightclubs ... Where Christina comes across like a natural-born skank, Britney is the girl next door cutting loose at college, drinking and smoking and dancing and sexing just a little too recklessly, since this is the first time she can indulge herself. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine notes, "The disparity between Aguilera and Spears can't be measured solely by the timbre and octave range of their voices ... [Aguilera's] popularity has never reached the fever pitch of Britney's."
It has been widely reported that Spears lip-syncs in concert. Author Gary Giddins wrote in his book Natural selection: Gary Giddins on comedy, film, music, and books (2006) that "among many other performers accused of moving their lips while a machine does the labor are Britney Spears, Luciano Pavarotti, Shania Twain, Beyoncé, and Madonna." Rashod D. Ollison of The Baltimore Sun observes: "Many pop stars ... feel they have no choice but to seek vocal enhancement. Since the advent of MTV and other video music channels, pop audiences have been fed elaborate videos thick with jaw-dropping effects, awesome choreography, fabulous clothes, marvelous bodies. And the same level of perfection is expected to extend beyond the video set to the concert stage. So if Britney Spears, Janet Jackson or Madonna sounds shrill and flat without a backing track, fans won't pay up to $300 for a concert ticket." Giddins adds, "it was reported Britney Spears fans prefer her to lip-sync—despite her denials of doing so (contradicted by her own director)—because they expect flawless digitalization when they pay serious money for a concert."
In Australia, NSW Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge has advised disclaimers be printed on any ticket for concerts which contain any prerecorded vocals. She commented: "There could have been some instances where people actually go and purchase a ticket thinking that they're going to have a live performance ... for some people that means that everything is live, it's fresh, it happens instantaneously, it's not something that's been pre-recorded. You want to make sure that they're actually paying for what they think they're getting." Noting on the prevalence of lip-syncing, Los Angeles Daily News reported "in the context of a Britney Spears concert, does it really matter? Like a Vegas revue show, you don't go to hear the music, you go for the somewhat-ridiculous spectacle of it all". Similarly, Aline Mendelsohn of the Orlando Sentinel remarked: "Let's get one thing straight: A Britney Spears concert is not about the music ... you have to remember that it's about the sight, not the sound." Critic Glenn Gamboa comments her concert tours are "like her life—a massive money-making venture designed to play up her talents and distract from her shortcomings with a mix of techno-tinged sex appeal and disco-flavored flash. And, like her life, it is, more or less, a success.
Throughout her career, Spears has drawn frequent comparisons to Madonna and Janet Jackson, in terms of vocals, choreography and stage presence, citing both as influences in her work. She has also named Michael Jackson as a source of inspiration. According to Spears: "I know when I was younger, I looked up to people... like, you know, Janet Jackson and Madonna. And they were major inspirations for me. But I also had my own identity and I knew who I was, you know." In the 2002 book Madonnastyle by Carol Clerk, she is quoted saying: "I have been a huge fan of Madonna since I was a little girl. She's the person that I've really looked up to. I would really, really like to be a legend like Madonna."
Many critics have argued that Spears should not be considered in the same league of talent as Jackson or Madonna. Journalists Erika Montalvo and Jackie Sheppard of the Rocky Mountain Collegian observed "[s]ome may argue that Spears is not only a good recording artist but also an important cultural icon." However, in examining her level of skill as an artist, it is questioned that "[a]lthough she has been classified among female elites such as Janet Jackson and Madonna, what does Ms. Spears really have in common with these divas of rock?" Joan Anderman of The Boston Globe remarked that "[t]hirteen costume changes in 90 minutes won't bless her with Madonna's intelligence or cultural barometer. An army of cutting-edge R&B producers won't supply her with Janet Jackson's sense of humor or sincere smile ... Britney's heroes aren't great singers. But they're real singers. Spears sounds robotic, nearly inhuman, on her records, so processed is her voice by digital pitch-shifters and synthesizers."
Reporter Ed Bumgardner commented her transition from teen pop start to adult sex symbol with her third studio album Britney "takes its cues from two other successful performers—Madonna and Janet Jackson—both of whom she brazenly rips off and both of whom, like Spears, are passable singers, at best." Critic Shane Harrison wrote: "From the minimalist thump and "Nasty" feel of "I'm a Slave 4 U" to the scattered quotes in "Boys", [Britney] feels like [Spears's] attempt at 'Control'."
Citing Jackson's resolve to incorporate personal and social issues into her work and Madonna's ability to constantly redefine the boundaries of socially acceptable material in the industry, Spears's catalog ultimately pales in comparison, because "[w]hile Jackson and Madonna wrote their own music about subjects of importance, [Spears's] music sounds like an upbeat version of either, 'I want to grow up but the media won't let me,' or 'Here kitty, kitty, I'm wearing my underwear outside of my leather pants'-type ballads." In contrast, Guy Blackman argues that although "no one would argue that Spears is some kind of pioneering pop auteur, there’s still a lot to like about her back catalogue. During her world-conquering peak, she was just about as cutting edge as you could get in the world of global pop superstardom. Spears didn’t just work with big names, she gave big names their names, and maintained her high currency in the world’s most fickle industry for years, when most aspiring starlets are lucky to manage months."
After meeting Spears face to face, Janet Jackson stated: "she said to me, 'I'm such a big fan; I really admire you.' That's so flattering. Everyone gets inspiration from some place. And it's awesome to see someone else coming up who's dancing and singing, and seeing how all these kids relate to her. A lot of people put it down, but what she does is a positive thing." Madonna's respect for Spears has also been a subject of observation. Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, authors of Madonna's drowned worlds: new approaches to her cultural transformations, 1983-2003 (2004) note that the most well known cross-generational relationship exists between Spears and Madonna in which "the entertainment newsmedia almost became obsessed with their relationship of mutual admiration." The biographers also report "[s]ome observers of popular culture, however, feel that the comparisons between the two artist are meaningless and fail to recognize Madonna's unique contribution: Madonna was never 'just another pop star' whereas Britney can more easily be seen as a standard manufactured pop act."
Spears became an international pop culture icon immediately after launching her recording career. Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "One of the most controversial and successful female vocalists of the 21st century," she "spearheaded the rise of post-millennial teen pop ... Spears early on cultivated a mixture of innocence and experience that broke the bank". She is listed by the Guinness World Records as having the "Best-selling album by a teenage solo artist" for her debut album ...Baby One More Time which sold over thirteen million copies in the United States. Melissa Ruggieri of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "She's also marked for being the best-selling teenage artist. Before she turned 20 in 2001, Spears sold more than 37 million albums worldwide".
Barbara Ellen of The Observer has reported: "Spears is famously one of the 'oldest' teenagers pop has ever produced, almost middle aged in terms of focus and determination. Many 19-year-olds haven't even started working by that age, whereas Britney, a former Mouseketeer, was that most unusual and volatile of American phenomena — a child with a full-time career. While other little girls were putting posters on their walls, Britney was wanting to be the poster on the wall. Whereas other children develop at their own pace, Britney was developing at a pace set by the ferociously competitive American entertainment industry". 'Britney Spears' was Yahoo!'s most popular search term between 2005 and 2008, and has been in a total of seven different years. Spears was named as Most Searched Person in the Guinness World Records book edition 2007 and 2009. Spears has also become a major influence among many new artists, including Kristinia DeBarge, Lady Gaga, Little Boots, Selena Gomez & the Scene, Pixie Lott and Miley Cyrus who has cited Spears as one of her biggest inspirations and has also referenced Spears in her hit song "Party in the U.S.A.". Spears' personal breakdown was also cited as an inspiration for Barry Manilow's album "15 Minutes".
In 2011, Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly commented on the cultural significance of Spears' voice and music. "We don't ask a whole lot from Britney Spears as an entertainer...we'll still send her straight up the charts simply because she's Britney. She's an American institution, as deeply sacred and messed up as pro wrestling or the filibuster. Musically, though, Spears will always have to measure up to her own gold standards of pop euphony: the operatic slither of 2004's 'Toxic' and the candied funk of 2000's 'Oops!...I Did It Again.' Spears is no technical singer, that's for sure. But backed by Martin and Dr. Luke's wall of pound, her vocals melt into a mix of babytalk coo and coital panting that is, in its own overprocessed way, just as iconic and propulsive as Michael Jackson's yips or Eminem's snarls."
Bebo Norman wrote a song about Spears, called "Britney", which was released as a single. Boy band Busted also wrote a song about Spears called "Britney", which was on their debut album. She is also mentioned in P!nk's song "Don't Let Me Get Me". She was cited as the inspiration of Gwyneth Paltrow's character in the 2010 film Country Strong. Richard Cheese called Britney Spears "a remarkable recording artist" and also went on to say that she was "versatile" and what the industry calls an "artist". People magazine and MTV reported that October 1, 2008, the Bronx's John Philip Sousa Middle School, named their music studio in honor of Britney Spears. Spears herself was present during the ceremony and donated $10,000 to the school's music program.
- from Wikipedia.org
CLICK for Britney Spears items available from Amazon.com
BACK to Superstar Gazing