Sunday, October 7, 2007
Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American pop music singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and author. Spears has sold over 76 million records worldwide according to TIME magazine, and has sold over 75 million albums worldwide according to Forbes Magazine. 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 is best known for her studio albums, music videos, and songs, such as "...Baby One More Time", "Oops!... I Did It Again", "I'm a Slave 4 U", "Toxic", for which she won a Grammy Award, and "Gimme More". In January 1999, Spears released her first studio album ...Baby One More Time, followed closely by the 2000 studio album Oops!... I Did It Again. Her third album Britney was released in November 2001, followed by a fourth album In The Zone in November 2003. The collection Greatest Hits: My Prerogative was released in November 2004. Her fifth album is scheduled to be released worldwide in November 2007. Spears's fame in the music industry has led her to experiment with other forms of media, including film and reality 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 other movies and television programs. Her success as a singer led her to several high-profile advertising deals and endorsements. Spears's marriage to back-up dancer Kevin Federline and the birth of their two children, Sean Preston and Jayden James, put her music career on hold. The couple's divorce in November 2006 was highly publicized and followed by an on-going legal battle for custody of the boys.
Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana as a Southern Baptist. Her parents are 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 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 New Mickey Mouse Club in Lakeland, Florida, and was accepted. Spears was featured on the show from 1993 to 1994, until she was thirteen. 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.
1998–2000: Early commercial success Spears's debut single "...Baby One More Time", released in the fourth quarter of 1998 became an instant international success, earning nine million sales 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 dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. The album of the same title was released in January 1999, reaching number one on the Billboard 200, and certified Diamond with more than 25 million copies sold worldwide, although it received mixed reviews. All Music Guide gave it 4 out of 5 stars, 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." Rolling Stone later featured Spears on their April 1999 cover in a photo shoot that triggered speculation the seventeen-year-old had breast implants. 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 debut album, Spears released 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. 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. 2000 also saw Spears launch 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 released her third studio album Britney in November 2001. This was the first album where Spears assumed some creative control by co-writing five of the album's tracks. It had a successful debut at number one in the U.S., selling 745,744 units during its first week, surpassing Michael Jackson's album Invincible. The album's success made her the only female artist in SoundScan history 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. To help promote the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour in November 2001. The tour hit a sour note in Mexico City when she was forced to cut short her last show due to bad weather, resulting in many upset audience members. 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 in 2002 as Spears was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity. At a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, Spears 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. November 2003 saw the release of Spears's 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 topped the U.S. charts in its 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 number one and U.S. top ten hit single Toxic, winning Spears her first ever Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording. 2004–2005: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative After her marriage to Kevin Federline, Spears announced via her website she would be taking another career break in order to start a family. 2004 saw the release of her first greatest hits collection, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative. The album debuted at number four on the U.S. charts, featuring three new songs, including her version of Bobby Brown's 1988 hit "My Prerogative". The compilation included all of her singles except for "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart", which is not included in any edition. In November 2005 Spears released a remix album, B In The Mix: The Remixes. The album contained remixes of Spears's biggest hits, ranging from "...Baby One More Time" to "Toxic". It also included a remix of her newest single "Someday (I Will Understand)," originally a piano ballad that was an ode to the then-unborn Sean. A new song, "And Then We Kiss", was only released in Asia, where it charted in several countries. The song surprisingly appeared on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart at an impressive number 15, despite the fact it was only for digital download and not officially released in the U.S. 2007: Return to music Spears has been recording an album with producers such as Sean Garrett, Jonathan Rotem and Nate "Danja" Hills. In May 2007, she produced a mini-tour for the House of Blues under the name The M+M's, including live performances across San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles Las Vegas, Orlando, and Miami. Those in attendance reported that Spears did not perform the songs live in the fifteen-minute show, but danced and lip synced to recorded accompaniment of five previous hit songs. Spears is allowing fans to name her upcoming album on her website. The album is scheduled to be released in November 2007. The track "Gimme More", her first single produced by Nate Hills, debuted worldwide on August 30, 2007. Spears's performance at 2007 MTV Video Music Awards received much media attention and was lauded as her "comeback". She performed "Gimme More", the lead single from her upcoming album. Reviews of the performance were unfavorable; a media critic noted that Spears seemed confused and disoriented on stage and appeared to have forgotten the lyrics and dance moves to her performance. On September 18, it was announced that Spears had been dropped by her management company, The Firm.
Spears attended New York City's Professional Performing Arts School for three summers, beginning when she was eight years old. She has also performed as an understudy in 1991's Ruthless! and made appearance in several off-Broadway productions. When Spears was eleven, she joined the The New Mickey Mouse Club where she was featured from 1991–93. In the show, she appeared in various sketches and musical videos, mostly displaying her comedic and singing abilities. In late 1999, Spears appeard on an episode of ABC's sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, playing herself and she sang song "Soda Pop". Spears had her first starring role in the 2002 film, Crossroads. She played the character "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 who mostly saw it as an advertisement for Spears's music and endorsements. Crossroads debut at number two on the box-office charts in its first weekend. The film grossed over US$60 million worldwide, about five times its budget of US$12 million. Spears received a Razzie Award for Worst Actress and for Worst Original Song "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman". In other films, Spears has made cameo appearances in Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002 as herself, and Longshot in 2000 as a flight attendant. Spears has appeared on Saturday Night Live both as host and musical guest twice; first on May 13, 2000, and secondly on February 2, 2002 She also was a musical guest on October 18, 2003 with Halle Berry as host. In a September 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 of this quote later appeared in Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11. On March 30 2006, Spears was a guest-star on an episode of NBC's television show Will & Grace titled Buy, Buy Baby. She played "Amber-Louise", a closeted lesbian posing as a conservative Christian, to co-host with Jack McFarland on his talk show "JackTalk". NBC received criticism from conservative Christian groups for the episode. The episode was the third highest rated in the final season of the series. On May 28, 2007, Spears made a cameo appearance on the premire of the E! reality-show Sunset Tan. There were rumours that she had only appeared because her then-manager Larry Rudolph is one of the co-owners of the shop, a few weeks later, these rumours were confirmed to be true. NBC has a show in development reportedly titled Occasional Wife, with Matthew Perry as the lead. This supposed remake of a sitcom of the same name in the 1960's would also star Spears as the opposite since she has tested the role and received positive response.
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. Spears has had four books published including A Mother's Gift. She has also had seven DVDs including her 2005 reality series Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, a doll, a video game, and participated in seven tours including The Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004. She has grossed over US$145 million from tour ticket sales and over $45 million in merchandise from her tours. Spears endorsed a fragrance, Curious, for which she earned a reported US$12 million. After one year of sales, the product netted more than US$100 million. Curious was named the best selling perfume of 2004. Following the success of "Curious", Spears released her next Elizabeth Arden fragrance, Fantasy, in September 2005. In April 2006, Spears launched Curious: In Control as a limited edition fragrance. 2006 also saw the release of another perfume: Midnight Fantasy. On August 8, 2007 a promotional photo featuring Spears was released for her newest fragrance with Elizabeth Arden, Believe.
2002–2004 In early 2002, Spears's four-year relationship with Justin Timberlake ended. Speculation that Spears had been unfaithful began circulating due to Timberlake's 2002 song "Cry Me a River" and its subsequent music video. The song's music video showed an actress playing what could be construed as a Spears look-alike with certain physical features resembling Spears. Timberlake has denied that it was meant to portray Spears. June 2002 saw the opening of Spears's restaurant Nyla in New York City, serving Louisianan and Italian styled cuisine. However, she was pulled out of the business venture in November as a result of debts and management issues. Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 3 2004 at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted fifty-five hours, ending with an annulment granted on January 5, which stated 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 the Las Vegas incident, 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". An MRI showed floating cartilage in her knee. 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 Spears began a relationship with Kevin Federline and in July 2004, announced her engagement three months after they met. Federline had very 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 2004, Spears married Federline in a surprise, non-denominational ceremony at a residence in Studio City, California, filing legal papers on October 6 2004. 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; 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." Spears 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. In May 2006, she announced her second pregnancy with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Spears appeared on Dateline NBC the next month to discuss tabloid rumors about an impending divorce, and motherhood. She addressed an incident which occurred in February 2006 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. In the accompanying interview, Spears stated that she is not ready to retire from performing. Just two days shy of Sean's first birthday, Spears gave birth to her second son Jayden James Federline on September 12 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Spears filed for divorce from Federline November 7 2006 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. However, on September 17, 2007 Wasser announced that she would no longer be working for Spears and instead, Spears is now represented by both Melvin Goldsman and Marci Levine. According to a representative for Federline's lawyer, the divorce filing "caught Kevin totally by surprise". On March 29 2007, Spears and Federline reached a settlement, "All parties signed a global settlement agreement on all issues concerning their marriage and custody of their two children," said Michael Sands, a spokesperson for Federline's lawyer. Although divorce seemed imminent, it was not finalized because the papers were never signed by a judge. On July 30 2007, their marriage was officially over. Spears's attorney stated, "They are divorced. Everything is finalized." 2007: Personal struggles In January 2007, Spears's aunt, Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died after a long illness with breast cancer. On February 16, 2007, Spears stayed in an off-shore drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua for less than twenty-four hours. 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, 2007, Spears admitted herself to a treatment facility in Malibu, California. She left the facility briefly but returned on February 22, 2007. 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 center 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 controversial behavior, including attacking a photographer with an umbrella. As the legal battle over the custody of Spears's children continued, many members of her entourage have been subpoenaed to testify about her parenting skills. In September 2007, the official findings in Spears' custody battle were announced by the court. "Based on the evidence presented, the Court finds that there is a habitual, frequent, and continuous use of controlled substances by Petitioner Spears." She was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testings conducted by the court, and also ordered to attend parenting counseling. Spears and Federline continue to share joint custody of their two children on a conditional basis. A few days later, Spears was officially charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving without a license. If convicted, she could face a year in jail. On October 1, 2007, Spears lost physical custody of her children to her ex-husband, Kevin Federline. Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon ruled that Federline will take custody of the children on October 3, 2007, "until further order of the court."