Britney Spears: A Career Retrospective

12/29/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Gita Gupte

I distinctly remember browsing through a record store in 1998 and stopping at the album, “...Baby One More Time.” I picked it up and passed it to my friend. Laughing, I sarcastically said, “Who would ever buy this?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. The singer was Britney Spears. I thought for sure she would be a one-hit wonder, but surprisingly, she went on to sell millions upon millions of records, transform from teen pop sensation to music industry icon, cause a paparazzi frenzy and do it all in the span of 10 years. With the recent release of her second greatest hits album, “Britney Spears: The Singles Collection,” here is a look back at the rise, fall, and rise again of the legendary Britney Spears.

Britney entered our lives first as a Mouseketeer before turning into the girl-next-door 18-year-old that teenage boys salivated over. With her bright brown eyes, coy smile and flirtatious manner, Britney sold us heartache and promiscuity with her debut single, “…Baby One More Time.” Causing a well-anticipated PR scandal with her suggestive video to the song, in which she sported a sexed-up Catholic schoolgirl uniform--and with a controversial Rolling Stone cover to boot--Britney cemented her image as a good girl with a bad side.

Her first album produced other hit singles including, “Sometimes,” “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart,” and the title song to the movie “Drive Me Crazy,” which starred Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier.

At a time when the music industry was flooded with wholesome teens looking to cash in on a trend, Britney’s questionable singing abilities were able to beat out true singing talents such as Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Her well-produced, sing-a-long tracks were strategically coupled with dance-heavy videos that flashed tight costumes, sex and sweetness, thus distinguishing Britney as both fun and provocative. She was recognized for her charms in 1999 with four Billboard Music Awards, including “Female Artist of the Year,” and an American Music Award for “Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist."  So, not bad for a 19-year-old.

Britney’s star continued to rise in 2000 with her sophomore album, “Oops!...I Did it Again,” which debuted at number one in the U.S. It went on to sell over 10 million copies. The album spawned such hits as the title track, “Oops!...I Did it Again,” “Stronger,” “Lucky," and “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know.” Not only were these songs radio favorites, but their videos were artistic successes in their own right--propelling Britney further into the limelight.

That year, Britney also kicked-off her first-ever world tour and maintained her carefully balanced naughty/nice image by performing at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) first in a tuxedo then in a scant nude-colored spandex ensemble with crystal detailing. This caused a media up-roar and Britney was headline news once again.

On the heels of her 20th birthday, Britney released her self-titled third album. Although not as well-received as her previous two, “Britney” still delivered a series of hit singles, including “Overprotected,” “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” “Boys,” “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and of course, “I’m a Slave 4 U,” the video for which Britney eschewed her sexy/sweet image for purely sexy. At the 2001 VMAs, Britney took a live python on stage to perform the single for MTV viewers.

In 2002, with her career growing by leaps and bounds, Britney went back to her acting roots by starring in the film “Crossroads.” Though her performance was highly criticized and the movie was poorly received, it grossed over $60 million dollars, thus making it a studio success.

Although Britney continued to be at the top of her profession as one of highest earning musicians in the world, her personal life took a nose-dive in 2002 when she split with long-time boyfriend, Justin Timberlake.

In 2003, Britney took to the VMAs stage once again with fellow pop sensation Christina Aguilera and the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna. The rendition of “Like a Virgin” stirred up much controversy when it ended in a lip-lock with Madonna and her famed young protégé, Britney. This was the perfect amount of media blitz for her fourth studio release, “In the Zone,” which featured the hit singles “Toxic,” “Me Against the Music (featuring Madonna),” “Outrageous,” “Breathe on Me,” and “Everytime.”

Marriage was the next step for Britney. In 2004, tabloids broke the story that Britney had engaged in a shotgun wedding to childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander. The brief 55-hour marriage was later annulled.

As Britney embarked on her “Onyx Hotel Tour” later that year, she also filmed the footage to her reality show, “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic.” Appropriately named, the show featured Spears’ whirlwind romance with backup dancer, Kevin Federline. When the tour ended abruptly due to a knee injury sustained from filming the video to “Outrageous,” the overworked Spears focused on her love life. She married Federline and soon thereafter, she gave birth to their first child, Sean Preston Federline.

With new music on the backburner, Britney released a greatest hits album in 2004 entitled, “Greatest Hits: My Prerogative.” Sales from the album helped to catapult Britney into the elite group of “Bestselling Artists in the World.” In 2005, Britney released her first remixes album, “B in the Mix: The Remixes.” This album featured remixes of her hit singles.

In 2006, Britney gave birth to her second child, Jayden James Federline, two days before the first birthday of Sean Preston. But all was not golden for the singer. Later that year, she filed for divorce from her husband citing “irreconcilable differences.” This became the start to a tumultuous time in the star’s life, both personally and professionally.

Britney’s behavior went from irresponsible to erratic. She became perfect tabloid fodder with her late night partying, driving her child without a car seat, attacking a car with an umbrella, and spontaneously shaving her head. Realizing the potential consequences of her ways, Britney eventually checked into a rehabilitation facility to seek help.

Momentarily coming out of her haze of darkness in 2007, Britney did a series of shows at the House of Blues in L.A. This helped garner excitement for her fifth album, “Blackout.” Britney also performed the album’s lead single “Gimme More” on the MTV VMAs that year. Her lackluster performance was another chance for the media to attack her. But despite her poor showing, the single was a success and “Blackout” went on to produce multiple hits including “Piece of Me,” “Break the Ice” and “Radar” (which gained radio success when featured on her sixth release, “Circus”).

Still, Spears was not completely back to her former self. Later in 2007, she was noted as having dated a member of the paparazzi that had been stalking her for photographs. In early 2008, she failed to relinquish custody of her children to her ex-husband, which resulted in police-intervention. She was later hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation.

In this difficult time, Britney focused on her music and released her sixth album, “Circus,” on her 27th birthday. The album featured the hit singles “Circus,” “Womanizer,” “If U Seek Amy” and “Radar.”

With a comeback well on its way, Britney set-off on her seventh tour, “The Circus Starring: Britney Spears,” in March of 2009. The show was a barrage of leather costumes, cages, whips, lip-syncing and more. It successfully resembled an actual circus. With fans running back to their seats to ensure not to miss any part of the show, the sold-out tour was a defining step in bringing Britney back to the main stage and reclaiming her throne as the Princess of Pop.

Her recent release, “Britney Spears: The Singles Collection,” is a toast to her career success. It features singles old and new, including the recently released single “3,” which already has received much radio and club play.

Britney Spears is someone we love to hate and someone whose music we hate to love. The media is always looking for a way to slam her, but the key to understanding the power of Britney is not to assess her singing talent (or lack there of), but rather to recognize her undeniable ability to entertain. Her success can be directly attributed to her perfectly crafted image of sexed-up songstress cum dancer cum girl-next-door cum basically anything you want her to be. She is a contradiction, a train-wreck, a vixen, a minx, and basically, someone who always leaves us wanting more.

View video of one of Britney's best, "Slave 4 U," below.  Thoughts?

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  1. Melissa said...

    That was great. I love Britney. I can't imagine having the past few years she's had, but she survived it, she finished her tour, and she's back.

  2. Douglas327 said...

    I have always thought Britney was a great entertainer. I agree this was a great blog from Gita Gupte. Nice job!

  3. Anonymous said...

    Such a great retrospective. Her music is the soundtrack of our generation, and her personal struggles the backdrop of our media-obsessed culture - whether we like it or not. She has certainly made the comeback.

  4. Admin said...

    Agreed. So she can't sing all that well live, but as a performer, she rocks. As usual, Gita nailed it.

    I'm glad Brit is back.


  5. Diana said...

    Its amazing what Britney has been thru in a few short years. Quite the roller coaster life. I think thats common in the life of stars. I remember when she kissed Madonna on stage. That was not a good choice for her. I know that madonna was just trying to hang on to stardom by linking herself to the popularity of Brittany at the time. But it didnt help Brittany's career at all.
    She was really shy starting out.. I remember when her sister was helping her push her album door to door on radio stations. She has come a long way.
    I hope she gets her life back together.