Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American pop singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and author.
She 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" and the Grammy Award-winning "Toxic". In the early 2000s, Spears's success as a singer led her way to high-profile advertising deals and endorsements, as well as forays into other forms of media, including film and reality television. Her third and fourth albums, Britney and In the Zone, were released during this era. In 2004, she married back-up dancer and aspiring rap artist Kevin Federline, and the following year she gave birth to their first son, Sean Preston. Their second son, Jayden James, was born in 2006. Spears filed for divorce from Federline on November 7, 2006 citing irreconcilable differences.
Spears has sold over 76 million albums worldwide according to TIME magazine. The RIAA ranks Spears as the eighth best-selling female artist in American music history, having sold 31 million albums in the U.S.
Childhood and discovery
Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised Southern Baptist. Her parents are James Parnell Spears, a building contractor, and Lynne Irene Bridges, a former grade school teacher. Spears' brother, Bryan, is one of her managers, and her sister, Jamie-Lynn, is an actress and singer. Her maternal grandmother, Lillian Woolmore, was an English war-bride, who met Spears' maternal grandfather, Barnett O'Field Bridges, in England during World War II, and subsequently moved with him to the US. 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 choirs, and was auditioning for the Disney Channel's The New Mickey Mouse Club by the time she was eight. Although she was considered too young to join the series at the time, a producer on the show introduced her to a New York 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 Star Search, and though she won the first round, she lost in the second. Spears then returned to the Disney Channel for a spot on the New Mickey Mouse Club and was accepted. She was featured in the 1993-94 seasons from the ages of 11-13. Other performers on the show included fellow pop singer Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Joshua Chasez, who later became members of the pop group 'N Sync, Keri Russell, and actor Ryan Gosling. After the show ended, Spears went back home to Kentwood, Louisiana and entered high school at 14 where she had her last bit of normalcy.
Spears briefly joined the all-female pop group Innosense. She later decided to go solo and a few years later recorded a demo tape, which landed in the hands of Jive Records. She was signed to that label and began touring American venues for a series of concerts sponsored by American teen magazines, before joining *NSYNC and becoming their opening act.
1998-2000: Early commercial success
Towards the end of 1998, Spears's debut single "...Baby One More Time" hit the airwaves. Accompanied by a music video that featured the pop princess in a school uniform, the song became an international success, earning double platinum sales and going to number one in the UK, and a large number of countries throughout the world. Her first solo single achieved nine million sales worldwide. The debut album of the same title was released in January 1999,...Baby One More Time reached number one in the Billboard 200. The album received mixed reviews; All Music Guide gave it 4 out of 5 stars, while Rolling Stone gave it 2 out of 5 stars and wrote, "While several Cherion-crafted kiddie-funk jams serve up beefy hooks, shameless schlock slowies, like "E-Mail My Heart," are pure spam." The magazine later featured Spears on the April 1999 cover which along with a photo shoot triggered speculation that the still-seventeen-year-old had had breast implants which she denied. The success of her music coupled with her controversial image had made her one of the year's biggest stars. Her first album brought her various awards and nominations. In December, she took home four Billboard Music Awards including one for Female Artist of the Year, and the next month won for Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist at the American Music Awards. At the 2000 Grammy Awards Spears received two nominations, including one for Best New Artist which she lost out to Christina Aguilera, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "...Baby One More Time."
Following the success of her debut, Spears was ready for her second album. Her second album, Oops!... I Did It Again, debuted at number one in the U.S., where it sold 1,319,193 units during its first week, the record for biggest first-week sales of an album by any female artist. 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 a record for most radio station additions in a single day, and quickly became a U.S. top ten hit and number one single in other countries such as the UK. Spears kicked off her first world tour, the Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour, in the summer of 2000. During a performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, she ripped off a black suit to reveal a provocative nude-colored and crystal-adorned outfit that generated controversy. She finished the year with two Billboard Music Awards, and received 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 achievements
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 released her third studio album in November 2001. Britney was the first album on which Spears assumed some creative control 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, and making her the only female artist in SoundScan history to have her 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' 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 didn't perform as well; Britney's lead single I'm a Slave 4 U was able to peak 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 of 2001. The tour hit a sour note in Mexico City when she was forced to cut her last show short due to bad weather and upsetting her audience.
With the end of the tour, Spears announced she would take a 6 month break from her career. Earlier that year 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 Britney look-alike with certain physical features resembling Spears. Timberlake has denied that it was meant to portray Britney. Britney's break seemed to have ended when she returned to the spotlight in August 2003. In a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, Spears appeared with Christina Aguilera performing the song "Like a Virgin" and both girls were later joined by Madonna. Spears and Aguilera each locked lips with Madonna in a highly-publicized kiss.
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 Fahrenheit 9/11.
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 some of her material for the first time. In the Zone went to the top of 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 her career choices saying, "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 albums 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", which won Spears her first Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording.
2004-2006: Marriages, children and divorce
Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 3, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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 other's 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. Throughout this time she began a relationship with Kevin Federline and in July 2004, Spears announced her engagement three months after they met. Federline had very recently been in a relationship with actress Shar Jackson, who was at the time pregnant with his second child. These initial stages were chronicled in Spears' first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, which aired on UPN during May and June of 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 in order to start a family. Her artistic career did remain low profile only releasing her first hits collection, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative. The album debuted at number four on the U.S. charts and featured three new songs, including "My Prerogative". Britney stood by her intent of starting a family; and seven months after her marriage she chose her website to announce her pregnancy writing, "the time has finally come to share our wonderful news that we are expecting our first child together." Britney gave birth to her first child, son 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 about Spears being pregnant for a second time began to swirl. 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. Laura Wasser has been hired to represent Spears in the case. According to a representative for Federline's lawyer, the divorce filing "caught Kevin totally by surprise." Finally, 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, spokesperson for Federline's lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan.
2007: Personal struggles and career activities
In January, Spears lost her aunt Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she was very close, after a long battle with breast cancer. On February 16, 2007, Spears entered an off-shore drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua. She stayed, however, for less than twenty-four hours. The following night, Spears went to a haircutting studio in Tarzana, California and subsequently shaved her own hair off with clippers. A few days later, on February 20, 2007, Spears admitted herself to a treatment facility in Malibu, California. A statement by her manager read, "We ask that the media respect her privacy as well as those of her family and friends at this time." 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 rehab on March 20 according to her manager who said she was released after "successfully completing their program".
Spears has been recording a new album with producers Sean Garrett and Jonathan Rotem among others. MTV has recently announced that Jive has confirmed that the first single from the upcoming album will be released in September During May 2007, Spears produced a mini-tour for the House of Blues which included 4 live performances across California locations, San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and one in Las Vegas. Those in attendance reported that she did not actually perform the songs live in the 15 minute show, but danced and lip-synched to recorded accompaniment of 5 previous hit songs. On May 19, Britney performed the House of Blues concert in Orlando, Florida as part of her "comeback plan" under the name of The M and M's. Even though she suffered brief audio problems while performing Do Somethin', where her vocals began skipping, Spears went on with the show as planned. On May 20, Spears did another show in Miami at club Mansion.
Movies and television
Spears attended NYC's Professional Performing Arts School for three summers when she was 8 years old and performed in 1991's Ruthless! and other off-Broadway productions. When she was 11 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 which mostly displayed her comedic and singing abilities.
Spears had her first starring role in the 2002 film, Crossroads where she played Lucy, a Louisiana high school graduate who decides she wants to find her long-lost mother in Arizona, and takes along her two friends who wish to visit California. The movie, along with Spears's performance in it, was poorly received by critics who mostly saw it as an advertisement for Britney's music and endorsments. Crossroads still managed to debut at number two on the box-office charts in its first weekend. The film ended up making over US$60 million worldwide, about five times its budget of US$12 million. Spears netted herself a Razzie Award for Worst Actress and for Worst Original Song "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman". Also in films Spears has made cameo appearances in Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002 as herself, and Longshot 2000 as a Flight Attendant.
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 who is 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.
In addition, she has appeared on Saturday Night Live both as host and musical guest twice: once on May 13, 2000, then again on February 2, 2002. At 18, she was the youngest person in SNL history to have acting and musical performing duties on the same show.