Sunday, October 7, 2007
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.