Britney Spears

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Britney Spears
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Britney Spears performing at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California during her The Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004
Background information
Birth name Britney Jean Spears
Born December 2, 1981 (1981-12-02)
McComb, Mississippi, United States
Origin Kentwood, Louisiana, United States
Genre(s) Pop, dance-pop, urban pop, teen pop
Occupation(s) Singer, dancer, songwriter, actress
Years active 1992–present
Label(s) Jive
Website www.britneyspears.com

Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American pop singer, dancer, songwriter, actress, and author. Her debut album ...Baby One More Time, released in early 1999, propelled her to international stardom. It spawned several singles, including " ...Baby One More Time", which topped the Billboard Hot 100 single. She released her second studio album Oops!... I Did It Again in spring of 2000 with continued success. Her third album Britney was released in fall 2001, followed by the release of her fourth album In The Zone in fall 2003. The album's breakout single " Toxic" was a worldwide success and has won Spears her first Grammy Award. The collection Greatest Hits: My Prerogative was released in fall 2004 followed by a remix album B in the Mix: The Remixes a year later and a brief career break. Her newest album Blackout was released worldwide in October 2007, with the first single " Gimme More" becoming another worldwide hit.

Spears has sold over eighty-three million records worldwide according to Zomba Label Group. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) ranks her as the eighth best-selling female artist in American music history, having sold 31 million albums in the U.S. Spears's fame in the music industry has led her to experiment with other forms of media, including film and television. As an actress, she is most noted for her starring role in the 2002 movie Crossroads. Spears has also made guest appearances in various movie and television programs. Her success as a singer led her to several high-profile advertising deals and endorsements, including her own Elizabeth Arden perfume line.

Spears's personal life has gained much attention from the media as a result of her stardom. In particular, her marriage to Kevin Federline in 2004 was the topic of numerous articles. She gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston, in 2005 and to her second child, Jayden James, in 2006. The couple's divorce in fall of the same year was highly publicized, followed by an ongoing legal battle for the custody of their two sons.

Childhood and discovery

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Britney Spears in The New Mickey Mouse Club, 1993.

Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi but was raised in Kentwood, Louisiana as a Southern Baptist by parents James Parnell Spears, a building contractor, and Lynne Irene Bridges, a former grade school teacher. Spears's brother Bryan works as a manager for the Spears family interests and her sister Jamie Lynn is an actress and singer. Her maternal grandmother Lillian Woolmore was an English war-bride, born in Tottenham, London who met Spears's grandfather Barnett O'Field Bridges in England during World War II. Her paternal grandparents were June Austin Spears and Emma Jean Forbes.

Spears was an accomplished gymnast, attending gymnastics classes until age nine and competing in state-level competitions. She performed in local dance revues and her local Baptist church choir. At age eight she auditioned for the Disney Channel series The New Mickey Mouse Club. Although she was considered too young to join the series at the time, a producer on the show introduced her to a New York City agent. Spears subsequently spent three summers at NYC's Professional Performing Arts School and also appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions, including 1991's Ruthless!. In 1992, she landed a spot on the popular television show Star Search. Though she won her first round in the competition, she ultimately lost. At age eleven, Spears returned to the Disney Channel for a spot on the The New Mickey Mouse Club in Lakeland, Florida. She was featured on the show from 1993 to 1994, until she was 13. Other future celebrities on the show included fellow pop singer Christina Aguilera, 'N Sync members Justin Timberlake and Joshua Chasez, Felicity actress Keri Russell, and The Notebook star Ryan Gosling. After the show ended, Spears returned to Kentwood and entered high school for a year.

In 1997, Spears briefly joined the all-female pop group Innosense. Later that same year, she decided to go solo. After recording a demo, she was signed by Jive Records. She began touring American venues for a series of concerts sponsored by American teen magazines, and eventually became an opening act for 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.

Music career

1998–2000: Rise to fame

Spears's debut single " ...Baby One More Time", released in the end of 1998 became an instant international success. It peaked at number one on the Billboard's Hot 100 and sold nine million copies worldwide. and was ranked 25th on Rolling Stone and MTV's "100 Greatest Pop Songs of all time". The music video accompanying the song featured Spears provocatively dressed in a midriff-baring schoolgirl uniform.

The album of the same title was released in January 1999, reaching number one on the Billboard 200. ...Baby One More Time was certified Diamond, with 25 million copies sold worldwide.. The album received mixed reviews. All Music Guide gave it 4 out of 5 stars, stating that the album "has the same blend of infectious, rap-inflected dance-pop and smooth balladry that propelled the New Kids and Debbie Gibson." While Rolling Stone gave it 2 out of 5, noting that, "While several Cherion-crafted kiddie-funk jams serve up beefy hooks, shameless schlock slowies, like 'E-Mail My Heart', are pure spam." The success of Spears's music coupled with her controversial image made her one of the year's biggest stars.

In December 1999, she won four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year. A month later, she took home the Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist award at the American Music Awards. At the 2000 Grammy Awards, Spears received two nominations in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for ...Baby One More Time, but lost to Christina Aguilera and Sarah McLachlan respectively.

Following the success of her previous album, Spears released the album Oops!... I Did It Again, which debuted at number one in the U.S., selling 1,319,193 units during its first week of sales, breaking the SoundScan record for the highest sales in its debut week by any solo artist. The RIAA awarded the album with a Diamond certification with 10 million copies sold in the U.S. and 20 million copies sold worldwide. Concerning both musical content and sales, the album was very similar to Spears's debut, although it fared better with critics. All Music Guide once again gave it 4 out of 5 stars, saying that the album "has the same combination of sweetly sentimental ballads and endearingly gaudy dance-pop that made One More Time." Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 stars out of 5 by noting the album as "fantastic pop cheese" and "Britney's demand for satisfaction is complex, fierce and downright scary."

The album’s lead single, " Oops!... I Did It Again", broke the record for most radio station additions in a single day and quickly became a top ten hit in the U.S. and other countries. The same year, Spears launched her first world tour, the " Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour". During the tour, she made a stop in New York for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. As part of her performance, she ripped off a black suit to reveal a provocative nude-colored and crystal-adorned outfit that generated much controversy. She finished the year with two more Billboard Music Awards, and two Grammy nominations for Oops!... I Did It Again in the categories of Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

2001–2003: Career development

Spears performing in September 2003.
Spears performing in September 2003.

Spears released her third studio album Britney in November 2001. Although not as successful as her previous albums, she assumed some creative control by co-writing five of the album's tracks. It surpassed Michael Jackson's album Invincible when it had a successful debut at number one in the U.S. by selling 745,744 units during its first week. To date, Britney has sold thirteen million copies worldwide. The album's success made her one of the few female artists to have their first three albums debut at number one. The album fared well with critics such as All Music Guide who gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, describing the album's title tracks as being "pivotal moments on Britney Spears's third album, the record where she strives to deepen her persona, making it more adult while still recognizably Britney." In contrast, Rolling Stone said of the album "Britney belabors the obvious: Spears is one month away from entering her twenties and clearly needs to grow up if she's going to bring her fans along."

The singles did not perform as well; Britney's lead single " I'm a Slave 4 U" peaked at 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it the album's biggest hit. Spears made her third consecutive MTV Video Music Awards performance; in which Spears controversially utilized caged animals and danced erotically with a large albino python draped over her shoulders, performing I'm a Slave 4 U. Animal-rights organization PETA claimed that the animals featured in the performance were mistreated and cancelled plans for an anti-fur billboard that was to feature Spears. To help promote the album, Spears embarked on the " Dream Within a Dream Tour" in November 2001. The tour was forced to cut short in Mexico City due to bad weather. With the end to her tour, Spears announced she would take a six month break from her career.

Her career success was highlighted by Forbes Magazine in 2002 as Spears was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity. At a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, she appeared with Christina Aguilera performing the song " Like a Virgin", and was later joined by Madonna. Spears locked lips with Madonna in a highly-publicized kiss.

In November 2003, Spears released her fourth studio album, In the Zone, jettisoning the Max Martin-produced synthpop of her earlier releases. The album took in lesser-known producers such as RedZone and big names including Moby and R. Kelly. Spears co-wrote eight of the album's thirteen songs and co-produced several pieces of her material for the first time. In the Zone reached #1 in the U.S. charts debut week selling over 609,000 copies. This made Spears the only female in music history to have her first four studio albums debut at number one. The album had a mild reception from critics. Stylus Magazine gave the album a D and even blamed Spears's career choices by stating, "Ultimately, In the Zone suffers greatly from Britney's uneasy transition from teen tart to sexually powerful woman. Had Britney been in charge of her career direction instead of mercilessly prostituted by her management, she might have been able to produce something with some semblance of musical vision." The Guardian praised the album's melodies and her effort, giving it 4 out of 5 stars and writing, "Unlike previous Britney albums, In the Zone has no filler and no shoddy cover versions, just 57 varieties of blue-chip hit-factory pop. There is southern hip-hop, deep house, Neptunes-style R&B, the ubiquitous Diwali beat and, most importantly, oodles of Madonna."

The album spawned the international #1 single " Toxic", winning Spears her first ever Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording. " The Onyx Hotel Tour" began in March 2004 to promote the album. The tour's raunchy choreography generated much controversy and heavy criticisms, with the presence of young children the audience.

2004–2005: Greatest Hits and Remix album

After her marriage to Kevin Federline, Spears announced on her website she was taking another career break in order to start a family.November 2004 saw the release of her first greatest hits collection, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative. The album debuted at #4 on the U.S. charts and featured her version of Bobby Brown's 1988 hit " My Prerogative". The compilation did not include the single " From the Bottom of My Broken Heart".

In November 2005, Spears released her first remix album, B In The Mix: The Remixes. The album ranged from " ...Baby One More Time" to " Toxic". Her newest single " Someday (I Will Understand)" was also remixed. Another single, " And Then We Kiss", was only released in Asia, where it charted in many countries. The song peaked at #15 on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart, despite it not being officially released in the U.S. With Spears still on maternity leave, the album did not reach the success of her previous albums.

2007–2008: Return to music

Spears recorded her latest album with producers such as Sean Garrett, J. R. Rotem and Nate "Danja" Hills in 2006 and 2007. In May 2007, she produced a mini-tour for the House of Blues under the name " The M+M's", with 6 shows althogether. Spears did not sing live in the 15-minute shows.

Spears's fifth album entitled Blackout, was scheduled to be released November 2007. Due to online leaks, the album was pushed up for release on October 30. Blackout debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 charts, selling 290,000 copies. It received decent reception from critics. Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 out of 5 stars, stating that "Blackout is the first time in her career that she's voiced any real thoughts about her life. The old provocation game is still afoot, but Britney's stubbornly holding on to her freakness — it's the only form of rebellion she's got left." All Music Guide also rated the album 3.5 out of 5 stars, noting that "Blackout is an easy album to overpraise based on the lowered expectations Britney's behaviour has set for her audience, as none of her antics suggested that she'd be able to deliver something coherent and entertaining" and also that "it holds together better than any of her other records, echoing the sleek club-centric feel of In the Zone but it's heavier on hedonism than its predecessor, stripped of any ballads or sensitivity, and just reveling in dirty good times."

The album's first single " Gimme More" was her first produced by Danja, it debuted worldwide on August 30. The track peaked at number three on Billboard's Hot 100 on October 3, becoming Spears's most successful single in the United States since her debut, " ...Baby One More Time".

Spears's performance at 2007 MTV Video Music Awards received much media attention and was called a disappointing attempt at a "comeback". She performed " Gimme More", the lead single from her Blackout album. Reviews of the performance were unfavorable; BBC's David Willis stated that "her performance would go down in the history books as being one of the worst to grace the MTV Awards," and The Times noted that "Spears was out of synch as she lip-synched and at times just stopped singing altogether." Despite the VMA backlash, the single has achieved success worldwide.

Film and television

Spears attended New York City's Professional Performing Arts School beginning when she was 8 years old. She also performed as an understudy in 1991's Ruthless! and made appearance in several off-Broadway productions. At age 11, she joined the The New Mickey Mouse Club and was a cast member from 1991 until the show ended in 1993. She mostly displayed her comedic and singing abilities.

Spears had her first starring role in the 2002 film, Crossroads. She played Lucy, a Georgia high school graduate who decides to find her long-lost mother in Arizona, and travels along with her two friends who wish to visit California. The movie, along with Spears's performance, was poorly received by critics. The film grossed over US$60 million worldwide. Spears received a Razzie Award for Worst Actress and for Worst Original Song " I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman". Spears made cameo appearances in Austin Powers in Goldmember as herself, and Longshot as a flight attendant.

In late 1999, Spears appeared on ABC's sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, playing herself and performed the song " (You Drive Me) Crazy". She then appeared on Saturday Night Live as host and musical guest during 2000, 2002 and 2003. In a 2003 interview with Tucker Carlson of CNN, on the subject of the 2003 Iraq War, Spears said, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens." The footage later appeared in Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11.

In 2006, Spears guest starred on NBC's Will & Grace in an episode entitled "Buy, Buy Baby". She played a closeted lesbian posing as a conservative Christian, to co-host with Jack McFarland on his talk show. NBC received criticism from conservative Christian groups. In 2007, Spears made a cameo appearance on the premiere of the E! reality show Sunset Tan.

Products and endorsement

Spears's success had made her notable in the music industry as well as popular culture. In early 2001, she caught the attention of Pepsi who gave Spears a multi-million dollar promotional deal which included numerous television commercials, point-of-purchase promotions and Internet ties between Spears and the company. She has had four books published including A Mother's Gift, and seven DVDs released, including her self-produced 2005 reality series Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. Spears has also released several other products, including a doll and a video game. She participated in seven tours including " The Onyx Hotel Tour" in 2004. She has grossed over US$150 million from tour ticket sales and over $45 million in merchandise from her tours.

Spears endorsed an Elizabeth Arden fragrance, " Curious", for which she earned a reported $12 million. After one year of sales, the product netted more than $100 million, and was named the best selling perfume of 2004. Following the success of "Curious", Spears released her next Elizabeth Arden fragrance, " Fantasy", in September 2005, with equal success. She launched " In Control" in April 2006, closely followed by the release of another perfume, " Midnight Fantasy" in December. Spears's newest Elizabeth Arden fragrance, " Believe", was released September 2007.

Personal life

1999–2004

Spears posed for her first major magazine publication, Rolling Stone in April 1999. Shot by renowned photographer David LaChapelle, the photoshoot garnered widespread criticism for the mixing of wholesome innocence and sex. The cover featured her in a skimpy outfit lying on a bed, generating much speculation that she had breast implants at the age of 17. More controversy arose when Spears declared that she would "remain a virgin until marriage". This has raised questions about her childhood traumas, overt sexuality and relationship with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake. In early 2002, Spears's four-year relationship with Justin Timberlake ended. Timberlake's 2002 song " Cry Me a River" and its music video, which featured an actress resembling Spears, caused speculation that Spears had been unfaithful; Timberlake, however, denied that his song was meant to portray her.

June 2002 saw the opening of Spears's restaurant "Nyla" in New York City, which served Louisianan and Italian cuisine. However, she was pulled out of the business venture in November as a result of debts and management issues. Nyla officially closed down in 2003. In the same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst confirmed that he was in a relationship with Spears. Durst was also hired to help write and produce tracks for her album In the Zone, which were eventually scrapped.

Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 3 2004, at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted 55 hours, ending with an annulment stating that Spears "lacked understanding of her actions to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to marriage because before entering into the marriage the Plaintiff and Defendant did not know each others' likes and dislikes, each others' desires to have or not have children, and each other's desires as to State of residency."

Months after her Las Vegas marriage, Spears embarked on " The Onyx Hotel Tour", which was cancelled in June, after Spears injured her knee during the filming of the video for the single " Outrageous". Spears reportedly became involved in the Kabbalah Centre in September 2004 through her friendship with Madonna. However, she publicly left the religion in 2006, stating on her website, "I no longer study Kaballah, my baby is my religion."

2004–2006: Marriage, children and divorce

In July 2004, Spears announced her engagement to Kevin Federline, three months after they met. Federline had recently been in a relationship with actress Shar Jackson, who was eight months pregnant with his second child. These initial stages were chronicled in Spears's first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, which aired on UPN in May and June 2005. On the night of September 18, Spears married Federline in a surprise, non-denominational ceremony at a residence in Studio City, California, filing legal papers on October 6. After the marriage, Spears announced via her website that she would be taking another career break to start a family. She stood by her intent of starting a family; she announced her pregnancy seven months after the marriage writing, "the time has finally come to share our wonderful news that we are expecting our first child together." She gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, on September 14 2005 in Santa Monica, California by a scheduled caesarean section.

A few months after giving birth to Sean, speculation emerged about Spears being pregnant for a second time. She announced her second pregnancy in May 2006 with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. She also appeared on Dateline the next month to discuss tabloid rumors about an impending divorce, and motherhood. She addressed an incident which occurred in February when photos revealed her driving with her son unrestrained in her lap, explaining, "I see a bunch of photographers and I’m scared and I want to get out of the situation... They’re coming up on the sides of the car which is a scary situation for me... so I get my baby out of the car and I go home." The month following the televised interview, Spears posed nude for the August 2006 cover of Harper's Bazaar. Just two days before Sean's first birthday, Spears gave birth to her second son; Jayden James Federline on September 12 in Los Angeles.

Spears filed for divorce from Federline on November 7, citing irreconcilable differences and asking for both physical and legal custody of their two children, with visitation rights for Federline. The following day, Federline filed a response to Spears's divorce petition, seeking physical and legal custody of their children. Laura Wasser was hired to represent Spears in the case. According to a representative for Federline's lawyer, the divorce filing "caught Kevin totally by surprise". The couple reached a global settlement agreement in March 2007 and their divorce was finalized on July 30.

2007–2008: Personal difficulties

On January 21, 2007, Spears's aunt, Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died of ovarian cancer. She then stayed in an off-shore drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua for less than 24 hours on February 16. The following night, Spears went to a haircutting studio in Tarzana, California and shaved her hair off with clippers. A few days later, on February 20, she admitted herself to a treatment facility in Malibu, California. While leaving the facility briefly, she quickly returned on February 22. The previous day, Kevin Federline had requested an emergency hearing regarding the custody of his children with Spears but his attorney announced that his client asked to cancel the court appearance. No further explanation was given. Spears left the rehabilitation centre on March 20 according to her manager, who said she was released after "successfully completing their program." Throughout early 2007, Spears embarked on a series of behaviors that received much attention from the media, including attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella. As the legal battle over the custody of their children continued, many members of her entourage have been subpoenaed to testify about her parenting skills.

In September 2007, the official findings in Spears's custody battle were announced by the court. She was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testings and to attend parenting counseling. Spears and Federline continued to share joint custody of their two children on a conditional basis. A few days later, she was officially charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving without a license. If convicted, she could face a year in jail. Spears lost physical custody of her children to Federline on October 1, with the court ruling that Federline will keep full custody of the children. The charges for her alleged hit-and-run that occurred in August 2007 were officially laid, she was booked for the charges by the Los Angeles Police Department on October 15 but was not arrested.

On the evening of January 3, 2008, police were called to Spears's home after she refused to relinquish custody of her children to Federline's people. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre after she "appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance," though blood tests show negative for any illicit substances. She was also held for psychiatric evaluation, and was released from the hospital two days later.

Discography

Studio albums

  • 1999: ...Baby One More Time
  • 2000: Oops!... I Did It Again
  • 2001: Britney
  • 2003: In the Zone
  • 2007: Blackout

Compilations and EPs

  • 2004: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative
  • 2005: Someday (I Will Understand) EP
  • 2005: B in the Mix: The Remixes

DVDs

  • 1999: Time Out with Britney Spears
  • 2000: Live and More!
  • 2001: Britney: The Videos
  • 2002: Live from Las Vegas
  • 2004: In the Zone
  • 2004: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative
  • 2005: Britney & Kevin: Chaotic

Tours

  • 1998: Hair Zone Mall Tour
  • 1999: ...Baby One More Time Tour
  • 2000: Crazy 2K Tour
  • 2000: Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour
  • 2001: Dream Within a Dream Tour
  • 2004: The Onyx Hotel Tour
  • 2007: The M+M's Tour

Guest appearances

  • 2003: " Like a Virgin/ Hollywood" (Live) by Madonna feat. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott
    from Remixed & Revisited by Madonna
  • 2006: "Crazy" by Kevin Federline feat. Spears
    from Playing with Fire by Kevin Federline
  • Complete list of Britney Spears Unreleased material (includes song titles, producers, and unreleased collaborations).

Music videos

Spears's music videos have a significant contribution to the success of her music and video career. The video for " ...Baby One More Time" featured the young singer wearing a school uniform exposing her midriff and this image helped propel her to superstardom. Similarly the video for " Oops!... I Did It Again" showed Spears wearing a tightly-fitted red catsuit, fueling speculations that the star has breast implants. Her image as a "clean, straight-up girl" was revolutionized by the videos for " I'm A Slave 4 U", " Toxic", and " Gimme More" which generated much controversy and portrayed Spears with a sexually oriented image.

Number one singles

Year Single Peak positions
WORLD US UK CAN AUS GER FRA
1998 " ...Baby One More Time" 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1999 " (You Drive Me) Crazy" 1 10 5 13 12 4 2
" Born to Make You Happy" 1 not released 1 21 not released 3 9
2000 " Oops!...I Did It Again" 1 9 1 4 1 2 4
" Lucky" 2 23 5 5 3 1 16
2003 " Me Against the Music" (feat. Madonna) 1 35 2 2 1 5 11
2004 " Toxic" 1 9 1 1 1 4 3
" Everytime" 1 15 1 2 1 4 2
2007 " Gimme More" 2 3 3 1 3 7 5
Total Number-one hits 7 1 5 3 5 2 1

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