Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American pop singer, dancer, actress, and occasional author. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, she performed acting roles in stage productions and television shows as a child before signing with Jive Records in 1997. 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. Spears’s first and second studio albums …Baby One More Time (1999) and Oops!… I Did It Again (2000) became international successes, with the former becoming the best-selling album by a teenage solo artist. Title tracks “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops!… I Did It Again” broke international sales records. In 2001, Spears released her third album Britney and played the starring role in the film Crossroads. She assumed creative control of her fourth album In the Zone (2003), which yielded the worldwide success “Toxic”.
After the release of two compilation albums, Spears’s personal struggles sent her career into hiatus. Her fifth album Blackout (2007) spawned hits “Gimme More” and “Piece of Me”. Spears’s erratic behavior and hospitalizations caused her to be placed under a conservatorship in 2008. Her sixth album Circus was released later that year, which included global chart-topping lead single “Womanizer”. Its supporting tour The Circus Starring Britney Spears was the highest-grossing global concert tour in 2009. Later that October, “3” became Spears’s third single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Her seventh album Femme Fatale (2011) became her first to yield three top ten singles in the United States: “Hold It Against Me”, “Till the World Ends” and “I Wanna Go”. In 2012, Spears was featured on will.i.am’s single “Scream & Shout”, which topped charts in over 24 countries. She also served as a judge during the second season of the American version of The X Factor.
Spears was established as a pop icon and credited with influencing the revival of teen pop during the late 1990s. She became the ‘best-selling teenaged artist of all time’ before she turned 20, garnering her honorific titles such as “Princess of Pop”. Her work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, six MTV Video Music Awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award, nine Billboard Music Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2009, Billboard ranked her as the 8th overall Artist of the Decade, and also recognized her as the best-selling female artist of the first decade of the 21st century, as well as the fifth overall. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) named Spears as the eighth top-selling female artist in the United States, with 34 million certified albums.Nielsen SoundScan ranked her the tenth best-selling digital artist of the country, with more than 28.6 million digital singles as of January 2012. She has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time.Rolling Stone recognized her instant success as one of the Top 25 Teen Idol Breakout Moments of all time, while VH1 ranked her eleventh on their “100 Greatest Women in Music” list in 2012, and Billboard named her the sexiest woman in music.Forbes reported that Spears was the highest paid female musician of 2012, with earnings of $58 million, having last topped the list in 2002.
Life and career:
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. Her maternal grandmother, Lillian Portell, was English (born in London), and one of Spears’s maternal great-great-grandfathers was Maltese. Her siblings are Bryan James and Jamie Lynn. At age three, she started attending dance lessons in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, and was selected to perform as a solo artist 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 Casella 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 and was 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 the 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 of 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 that 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.” She then sang Houston’s “I Have Nothing” (1992) for the executives, and got signed to the label. 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 10 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. It has sold more than 10 million as of today, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. “…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 even more. As of today, …Baby One More Time has sold 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. It is also the best-selling first album by any artist ever.
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 25 million copies worldwide to date, making one of the best-selling albums of all time.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 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, some critics 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 November 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 Spears her only Grammy for Best Dance Recording; “Everytime” and “Outrageous”.
2004-06: Marriage and motherhood:
In January 2004, Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage was annulled 55 hours later, stating that Spears “lacked understanding of her actions”. In March 2004, she embarked on The Onyx Hotel Tour in support of In the Zone. In June 2004, Spears fell and injured her left knee during the music video shoot for “Outrageous”. 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, Spears became engaged 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 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 took a 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. The greatest hits album sold over 5 million copies worldwide. In September 2005, Spears gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline.
In November 2005, she released her first remix compilation, B in the Mix: The Remixes, which consists of eleven remixes. It has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. 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 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. In September 2006, she gave birth to her second child, Jayden James Federline. In November 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.
2007: Personal struggles and Blackout:
Spears’s aunt Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died of ovarian cancer in January. In February 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. In May 2007, she produced a series of promotional concerts at House of Blues venues, titled The M+M’s Tour. In October 2007, Spears lost physical custody of her children to Federline. The reasons of the court ruling were not revealed to the public. Spears was also sued by Louis Vuitton over her 2005 music video “Do Somethin'” for upholstering her Hummer interior in counterfeit Louis Vuitton cherry blossom fabric, which resulted in her video being banned on European TV stations.
In October 2007, Spears released her fifth studio album, Blackout. The album debuted at the top of charts in Canada and Ireland, number two in the U.S. Billboard 200, 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. The album received positive reviews from critics and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.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. 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:
In January 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. She 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. She was released five days later. 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. In September 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’s 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. The documentary was broadcast on MTV to 5.6 million viewers for the two airings on the premiere night. It was the highest rating in its Sunday night timeslot and in the network’s history.
In December 2008, Spears’s sixth studio album Circus was released. It received positive reviews from critics and debuted at number one in Canada, Czech Republic and the United States, and inside the top ten 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. The album was one of the fastest-selling albums of the year, and has sold 4 million copies worldwide. Its lead single, “Womanizer”, became Spears’s first number one in the Billboard Hot 100 since “…Baby One More Time”. The single also topped the charts in 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 Lutfi, 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.
In November 2009, Spears released her second greatest hits album, The Singles Collection. The album’s lead and only single, “3” became her third number one single in the U.S. 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. In September 2010, she made a cameo appearance on a Spears-themed tribute episode of American TV show Glee, titled “Britney/Brittany”. The episode drew Glee’s highest ratings ever.
2011-12: Femme Fatale and The X Factor:
In March 2011, Spears released her seventh studio album Femme Fatale. The album peaked at number one in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and peaked inside the top ten on nearly every other chart. Its peak in the United States ties Britney with Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson for the third-most number ones among women. It has sold 1,000,000 copies in the United States and 2.2 million worldwide, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The album’s lead single “Hold It Against Me” debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Spears’s fourth number-one single on the chart and making her the second artist in history to have two consecutive singles debut at number-one, after Mariah Carey. The second single “Till The World Ends” reached peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in May, while the third single “I Wanna Go” reached number seven in August. Femme Fatale became Spears’s first album in which three of its songs reached the top ten of the chart. The fourth and final single “Criminal” was released in September 2011. The music video 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. 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.” In April 2011, Spears appeared in a remix of Rihanna’s “S&M”. It reached number one in the US later in the month, giving Spears her fifth number one on the chart. On Billboard’s 2011 Year-End list, Spears was ranked number fourteen on the Artists of the Year, thirty-two on Billboard 200 artists and ten on Billboard Hot 100 artists.
In June 2011, Spears embarked on the Femme Fatale Tour. The tour received positive reviews from many critics, however in response to lip-synching accusations during The Circus Starring Britney Spears many have suggested that Britney continued to do so, but with recorded vocals. The first ten 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. The DVD of the tour was eventually released in November 2011 In August 2011, Spears received the MTV Video Vanguard Award on 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. The next month, she released her second remix album, B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2. In December, Spears became engaged to her long-time boyfriend Jason Trawick, who had formerly been her agent. Trawick became a co-conservator of Spears, alongside her father, in April 2012. In January 2013, Spears and Trawick ended their engagement. Trawick was also removed as Spears’s co-conservator, restoring her father as the sole conservator.
In May 2012, Spears was hired as a judge for the second season of the American version of The X Factor. With a reported salary of $15 million, she became the highest-paid judge on a singing competition series in television history. She mentored the Teens category; her final act, Carly Rose Sonenclar, was named the runner-up of the season. Spears will not return to the series for its third season. Also that year, Spears was featured on will.i.am’s song “Scream & Shout”, which was released as a single from his album, #willpower (2013). The song later became Spears’s sixth number one single on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at #3 on US Billboard Hot 100. In December, Forbes magazine named her music’s top-earning woman of 2012, with estimated earnings of $58 million.
2013: Eighth studio album and Las Vegas residency:
Spears is currently working on her eighth studio album, which is tentatively scheduled to be released in fall 2013;will.i.am has been enlisted as its executive producer. The album will be released through RCA Records due to the disbandment of Jive Records. Spears recorded the song “Ooh La La” for the soundtrack of The Smurfs 2. The song is produced by Dr. Luke, Ammo Cirkut, and is written by Luke, Bonnie McKee, J Kash, Lola Blanc, and Fransisca Hall. Spears will be performing a residency with Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, beginning in the fall.
Following her debut, Spears was credited with leading the revival of teen pop in the late 1990s. The Daily Yomiuri reported that “music 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.” Rob Sheffield of 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, “rhythmically 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, “the 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.” Since her self-titled album, Britney, Spears has explored and heavily incorporated the electropop genre in her albums, including songs from the albums Blackout and Femme Fatale.
Voice and performances:
Spears possesses a soprano vocal range; her vocal ability however has been criticized. 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 and Whitney Houston as sources 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 “some 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 “although 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 “thirteen 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 “while 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 “some 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.”
See also: List of awards and nominations received by Britney Spears
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”. As of 2011, she has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time based on album sales alone. She was also ranked as the fourth VH1’s “50 Greatest Women of the Video Era” show list, ahead of most of her contemporaries and only behind veterans Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston. Spears is also recognized as the best-selling female artist of the first decade of the 21st century, as well as the fifth overall. In December 2009, Billboard magazine ranked Spears the 8th Artist of the 2000s decade in the United States. Spears is also known for her iconic performances and music videos. The music video for her debut single, “…Baby One More Time”, was ranked number one on TRL’s Final Countdown of the most iconic music videos. On the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, before performing “Oops!… I Did It Again”, the singer appeared behind a backlit screen, and descended a spiral staircase and started performing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, while wearing a tuxedo. After performing a shortened version of the track, she tore the tuxedo off, revealing a skin-tight flesh-coloured outfit. The following year, Spears performed her single “I’m a Slave 4 U”. Jocelyn Vena of MTV summarized the performance, saying, “draping herself in a white python and slithering around a steamy garden setting – surrounded by dancers in zebra and tiger outfits – Spears created one of the most striking visuals in the 27-year history of the show.” She also duetted “The Way You Make Me Feel” with pop singer Michael Jackson on his 30th anniversary concert a few days earlier. During the opening of the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards on August 27, 2003, Spears joined Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliott. Halfway through the performance, Madonna kissed Spears and Aguilera on the lips. The kiss between Spears and Madonna generated strong reaction from the media. This performance was listed by Blender magazine as one of the twenty-five sexiest music moments on television history. MTV listed the performance as the number-one opening moments in the history of MTV Video Music Awards.
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”. In 2011, Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly commented on the cultural significance of Spears’s 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.” ‘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. She was later named as the most searched person of the decade 2000 – 2009. Spears is the most followed person on Google’s social network, Google+. Reaching 100,000 in under two months of the sites launch, quadrupling the amount within 10 days. By November she had over 760,000 followers, and by the end of December 2011, Spears became the first person to reach over 1 million followers.
Spears has been cited as a musical inspiration by contemporary artists. Gwyneth Paltrow’s character on 2010 drama film Country Strong was inspired on the singer’s public meltdown. According to film director Shana Fest, “that’s where this movie came from. I mean, I was seeing what was happening in the media to Britney Spears. I think it’s tragic how we treat people who give us so much, and we love to see them knocked down to build them back up again, to knock them down again.”Nicki Minaj has cited Spears as a major influence on her career, and commented, “the fact that she came back out with just so much fire inspires me, and it inspires young women and people all over the world. It just inspires you. A lot of my fans feel like they are the underdog and feel like they are the people who aren’t ever accepted for themselves, or who are laughed at or poked fun at forever. It just goes to show that once you keep at whatever it is you’re doing, people may not like you, people may not love you, but they will have to respect you at the end of the day. And that respect is all that matters.”Lana Del Rey revealed that she is compelled by Spears in an interview with MTV, saying, “I’m not really interested in a ton of female musicians but there is something about Britney that compelled me – the way she sings and just the way she looks.” Del Rey also said that the “Toxic” music video is a main inspiration of her work. During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga said that Spears “taught us all how to be fearless, and the industry wouldn’t be the same without her.”Miley Cyrus credits Spears as her biggest inspiration, and has referenced the singer in her hit song “Party in the U.S.A.” (2009). Spears’s personal breakdown was also cited as an inspiration for Barry Manilow’s album “15 Minutes”.
Spears has also become a major influence among many new artists, including fellow The X Factor judge Demi Lovato,Katy Perry,Kristinia DeBarge,Little Boots,Marina and the Diamonds,Pixie Lott,Girls’ Generation, and The Saturdays.Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that she was happy with Spears’s return to the music industry, and continued, “It’s amazing. For this many years being in the business, and everything she’s been through, it’s wonderful to see her make this huge of a comeback. Really, it’s a beautiful thing.”Simon Cowell explained that he is “fascinated by Britney. The fact that she’s one of the most talked about – not just pop stars – but people in the world today, means that you’ve got this star power. … She’s still hot, she’s still having hit records and she’s still controversial, there’s a reason for that.”Hyoyeon of the Korean girl group Girls’ Generation has also been compared to Spears, due to her blonde hair and abilities as a dancer. Welsh singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, known by her stage name Marina and the Diamonds named Spears as the main influence for her Electra Heart album, stating that, “I think people thought I was joking about that for a long time. But when I was a teenager there was a genuine connection with this sweet girl who also had this very sexual side that people didn’t really want to accept … Britney is really smart. And in the way that she inspired Electra Heart, if you step back from all the cynical stuff, it actually focuses on the idea of innocence being mixed with darkness. For some reason I really like that combination. I suppose because you don’t really connect innocence with darkness.” Diamandis has also stated that Spears is her main influence when it comes to popular culture and that Spears is one she aspired to being growing up. Spears has had a direct influence on singer Porcelain Black’s work after growing up around her music as a child. Black describes her music as a “love child between” Marilyn Manson and Spears, with Spears’s work being one of the main inspirations for Black’s debut album. She also stated that Spears inspired her deep love for choreography.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. South Korean singer, BoA has also spoken of love and Spears’s influence on her. First meeting in 2003 while Spears was promoting “In The Zone” – Britney would later provide a writing credit to the song, Look Who’s Talking, on BoA’s eponymous debut English album. Spears’s version of the song leaked in 2012.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. In August 2011, Spears was honored with the MTV Video Vanguard Award by Lady Gaga, for having made a profound effect on the MTV culture, with Gaga stating that “the industry wouldn’t be the same without her.” In May 2013, new artist Ashley Allen said that although she had been greatly influenced by Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, Britney Spears is her biggest inspiration. She mentioned that she is obsessed with Britney and that when she attended Britney’s concert, she cried. Adele has also stated multiple times that she is a big fan of Britney. In fact, Adele once cancelled her show by calling in sick just to go to a Britney concert that was on the same day.
Product and endorsements:
In 2000, the singer released a limited edition of glasses titled Shades of Britney. In 2001, Spears signed a deal with shoe company Skechers, and a $7-8 million promotional deal with Pepsi, their biggest entertainment deal at the time. Aside from numerous commercials with the latter during that year, she also appeared in a 2004 Pepsi television commercial in the theme of “Gladiators” with singers Beyoncé, Pink, and Enrique Iglesias. On June 19, 2002, she released her first multi-platform video game, Britney’s Dance Beat, which received positive reviews. In March 2009, Spears was announced as the new face of clothing brand Candie’s. Dari Marder, chief marketing officer for the brand, explained why they choose the singer, saying, “everybody loves a comeback and nobody’s doing it better than Britney. She’s just poised for even greater success.” In 2010, Spears designed a limited edition line for the brand, which was released in stores in July 2010. In 2011, she teamed up with Sony, Make Up For Ever and PlentyofFish to release her music video for “Hold It Against Me”, earning her $500,000 for the product placement. Spears also teamed up with Hasbro in 2012 to release an exclusive version of Twister Dance, which includes a remix of “Till the World Ends”. The singer was also featured on a commercial, which was directed by Ray Kay, to promote the game.
Spears range of commercial deals and products also includes beauty care products and perfumes. She released her first fragrance with Elizabeth Arden, Curious in 2004, which broke the company’s first-week gross for a perfume. By 2009, she had released seven more fragrances, which earned her the recognition of the best-selling celebrity fragrance line on the market. The singer’s Elizabeth Arden scents make up 34% of celebrity fragrance sales. In 2010, Spears released her eighth fragrance, Radiance. In March 2011, company Brand Sense filed a lawsuit against Spears and Elizabeth Arden seeking $10 million in damages, claiming that the singer and her father, Jamie, allegedly stopped paying their thirty-five percent commission that was agreed as part of the contract terms. In July 2011, a Los Angeles judge denied the request by the company lawyers, claiming the fact that Spears is still under conservatorship. Brand Sense, however, stated that they would appeal the decision. In 2011, Radiance was re-issued in a new fragrance titled Cosmic Radiance. Worldwide, Spears has sold over one billion bottles in only five years, which earned her an estimated $1.5 billion.
The singer founded The Britney Spears Foundation, a charitable entity set up to help children in need. The philosophy behind the Foundation was that music and entertainment has a healing quality that can truly benefit these kids. The Foundation also supported the annual Britney Spears Camp for the Performing Arts, where campers had the opportunity to explore and develop their talents. In April 2002, through the efforts of Spears and The Britney Spears Foundation, a grant of $1 million was made to the Twin Towers Fund to support the children of uniformed service heroes affected by the disaster of September 11, 2001, including New York City Fire Department and its Emergency Medical Services Command, the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York State Office of court Administration and other government offices. However, it was reported in 2008 that the Foundation had a deficit of $200,000. After the singer went through conservatorship, her father and lawyer Andrew Wallet zeroed out the effort, leading to its closure in 2011.
On October 30, 2001, Spears, alongside Bono and other popular recording artists under the name “Artists Against AIDS Worldwide”, released a single titled “What’s Going On”, with the intention to benefit AIDS programs in Africa and other impoverished regions. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, Spears donated $350,000 to Music Rising. Later in 2011, the singer raised $200,000 during An Evening of Southern Style at a private residence in Beverly Hills to benefit the St. Bernard Project, with the help of several celebrities, including Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, Kelly Osbourne, Kellan Lutz and Kim Kardashian. Spears has also helped several charities during her career, including Madonna’s Kabbalah-based Spirituality for Kids, cancer charity Gilda’s Club Worldwide, Promises Foundation, and United Way, with the latter two focused on giving families from various disadvantaged situations new hope and stable foundations for the future.