'Britney Spears: Revealed'
Born Britney Jean Spears, on the 2nd of December 1981, in Kentwood, Louisiana, Britney was one of the last teenage pop superstars of the 20th century. She appeared in local dance revues and church choirs as a young girl, and at the age of eight auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club.
Although she was too young to join the series, a producer on the show gave her an introduction to a New York agent. She subsequently spent three summers at the Professional Performing Arts School Center. She appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions as a child actor, including 'Ruthless' (1991), but quickly returned to the Disney Channel for a spot on The Mickey Mouse Club - where she was featured for two years between the ages of 11 and 13.
She began to audition for pop bands in the New York area, her demo tapes eventually landing on the desk of Jive Records' Jeff Fenster. Spears was expensively groomed by Jive, who put her in the studio with Eric Foster White (producer and writer for Boyzone, Whitney Houston and others) and produced her debut single, "... Baby, One More Time" - and an album of the same title.
Careful planning paid off when her debut album and single went on to top the American charts at the start of 1999. The album and single enjoyed similar success in the UK and Europe. The ballad "Sometimes" and the funky "(You Drive Me) Crazy" were also substantial transatlantic hits, and "Born To Make You Happy" topped the UK charts in January 2000. The demand for new Spears material was satisfied when her second album, Oops! ... I Did It Again, was released in May. The album contained the expected quota of well-produced, expertly crafted pop songs, alongside a risible cover version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".
Spears' self-titled third album was a laboured attempt by the singer to cultivate a more mature image. Although its initial sales were not as strong as her previous two albums, Britney shot straight to the top of the US album chart on its release in November 2001 for a brief stay. Spears' mainstream film debut, 'Crossroads', was released the following February.
And now, Britney Spears may well have entitled her new single "Me Against The Music," but she has rarely been more creatively in tune than she is right now. Britney's musical intensity and her evolution from a teen renegade into a provocative young woman are undeniable throughout In The Zone, her fourth Jive Records collection.
Talking with Britney, one-on-one via a phone line, the atmosphere was relaxed for sure, but as the questions delved deeper into her sexual evolution, the big brave young lady from Hollywood quickly swapped seats with the little girl-lost from Louisiana. The bright, white glare of the media spotlight had been voluntarily turned on, but it's obvious accelerated heat hadn't been accounted for. Come the end of this 40-minute interview, points had been made, suggestions forthcoming, and life's observations made abundantly clear. What follows is a transcript from last weeks interview in which Britney Spears opens her heart and finally answers questions that have lingered way too long in the minds of both media and fans alike:
The New Album, 'In The Zone':
How personal to you are these new songs? "I really love the vibe of 'Touch of My Hand'. When I was in the studio it really came off as like such a natural process. And I love the subject that, you know, I'm touching on because no one's really talked about some of those things in a lot of songs written lately because people are scared to go there and to express themselves in that way. And, you know, I think it's an empowering thing for girls, you know. And 'Every Time' is just a really nice song because it's just, you know, it's kind of personal in a weird way. It's one of the songs that when you hear, it's like the kind of song when you go to heaven. It kind of takes you away. You know, it takes you in to a very cool consciousness, I think."
Talking about your songwriting contribution on this album, how much of these [new] songs represent you? "I think every song. I mean you have to go through experiences in your life and go through day-to-day things to, you know, be able to write songs, you know, and to be able to express yourself and have something to be inspired to write about. So I think every song is a representation of me and like an art form. But it's not completely too personal. Sometimes I write about fictitious things. You know, like I'll make up a story in my head about, you know, someone going through an issue in life and, you know, I'll be in the studio and we'll have chemistry with people and we'll go from there."
In The Zone seems to span a mix of emotional highs and lows with uptempo dance tracks to heartfelt ballads. Share with us some of your own highs and lows that you were going through while creating it "Yes, I was going through a bunch of weird stuff. But I think, you know, everyone has that point in life where they go through this big transformation and it's all on them. It's all their journey. And sometimes you get overwhelmed with, you know, with being able to do whatever you want to do. And you're just like 'oh my gosh', you know, 'what direction do I want to take?' 'What path do I want to take?' So I think sometimes though when people are at that point in their lives that's when they're the most creative in a weird, kind of dark way. And, you know, I think sometimes when you are going through a lot of stuff, subconsciously you want to write about light stuff because that's what you need at that point. So yes, this process is very cool because it was such an emotional journey doing the whole record. But it's like therapy being able to put it out there right now, you know, seeing it and share it with people. And it's like being able to release a lot of stuff."
How did you go about choosing some of these collaborators on this new album? "Well actually, the Moby thing kind of fell in to my lap the way that worked out. And I really was excited about that because I've heard of stuff that he's done with Gwen Stefani. And he's really good with working with women. And I remember being overseas and listening to his CD. And he's like has this mesmerizing kind of music that really takes you out of your element. Sometimes, you don't want to be in reality and music is there to do it for us, to take us out of it. And he has a really good way of doing that on a spiritual level, I think. And so I was really excited about working with him. And Madonna, you know, it's really ironic because, you know, with her saying the things that she said, and her being on the record, it just kind of really happened in such a natural way which is really, really cool. And, you know, I love the way it turned out. But those are my first collaborations to really do and work with different people like that. So I'm really excited about it, being able to share that with people right now."
How does this new album differ from the previous three? "I think everything in general [as it's] a very trancy [record] . And I think the fact that I kind of was able to really kind of pick the people that I wanted to be on the record. And really kind of do things myself. It kind of put a different light on the record. I really took my time with it to do it right. And, you know, I think that's the big change in everything. It just has a different vibe to it, you know."
Is it harder or easier to reinvent yourself these days or to come out with things that are original and exciting? "No, I think that's the funnest part about what I do. That is what I do, is I create things. And I get to, you know, direct my shows, and come up with different outfits. You know, it's like being an art director. It's called being an artist. I don't find it hard to do. I mean I pray to God I don't have a writer's block. You know, thankfully I haven't had one. But knock on wood [as] I don't want to jinx myself, but no I don't find it hard at all."
Britney on Madonna:
Explain what Madonna means to you "She really is an interesting and fun person to be with. She thinks the big picture on all levels and she's a very smart lady. And probably the main one is just the advice she gave me is don't care what people think. Believe in yourself and that's basically it."
The Sexual Evolution:
Are you afraid that you're going to lose your younger fans because the album is so sexual? "Well honestly, I don't wanna be responsible for [what young] people [think]". I love kids and I think they're great. But, you know, I mean I'm getting older and the whole vibe of the record isn't to really attract them, you know. I'm becoming older, so of course the things that I talk about aren't going to be able to relate to a seven-year-old. So I think it's a cool thing not a negative thing at all to be able to attract older fans instead of such ones, you know."
So do you feel that with your image being one constant sexual evolution that your laser-like fix towards the males could quite possibly have a negative effect within your female demographics? [It's at this point that the question is met with a high-pitched, slightly nervous laugh] "No. Really I just, you know, it's really weird that you say that because every time I go somewhere there's more girls that come up to me than guys! So no, I don't worry about that."
Your current career choices seem to be putting more emphasis on your sexuality and publicity stunts - such as the now infamous 'Madonna kiss' - but is this a permanent direction for you now? "Well actually I can't help that. You know, I'm just performing. It's not me that's making a big deal out of it, it's you guys. I'm just really going out there doing my thing, and people are like she's trying to make this big publicity thing? No. I'm just doing my job. I'm performing. I'm doing my thing. I'm not the one putting it all over the papers. You know, so if you think it's me trying to make a publicity stunt, hell no! I'm just doing my job. It's you guys making a big deal out of it!"
The 'Real' Britney:
At this point in your career, what do you think has made you stronger than ever? "I think probably, you know, being alone. And I think a long time being by yourself has really made me strong. And, you know, I think hard times, too, make you become a better person and make you stronger. You know, if everything in life was, you know, on this huge plateau riding then, you know, that would get monotonous and you'd be complacent. So I think the best thing that's happened for me is probably going through trying times to maybe be like on survival mode. And to, you know, bring out the best in me. And I think that sometimes that's when the best things come out is when you are, you know, on edge a little bit."
Do you worry that you're becoming more famous for being you the 'image' rather than being a singer and a musician? "I mean, I think everyone has the interpretation or look at me in their own way. And, you know, some people, they, you know, they'll look at a certain outfit, and you become famous for this. Or you go to Starbucks and they have that moment in their brain. Or you do a performance and that's imbedded in their brain. And I think once you get to a certain point in your career, [like] say Madonna, it's like you can't really [win anymore, because you've become] a household name. But it's like a contradiction in a way. It's like you go out and you perform but then they talk about you for that. So I'm really not concerned about being famous for being this or famous for being that. I'm just going to be myself and do my music and do my work and let that speak for itself."
So, cards on the table ... would you like to address the whole 'lip-synching' issue now? "Yes, I think the reason why people say that is because I am dancing a lot. Janet, when she does her shows, she dances a lot. And, you know, there's parts where the background vocals and the chorus has definitely come up, but that doesn't mean that, you know, I'm not singing. It's just you're dancing so much that you have to have, you know, somewhat a support in the choruses. And I think sometimes people just like to pick people apart because they're jealous or whatever ... you tell me. But no, I don't lip sync!"
Does it hurt you what the negative media sometimes says and writes about you? "I really don't pay that much attention to the critics to be honest with you. I really don't care what they think."
Do you ever get tired of short lived [Hollywood] flirtations? "Actually, you know, I think we all have those points in our lives, but you have to go through those to try to experience people. And to go through the motions to open up to different things and learn from those experiences to help you, you know, better yourself of something else. But I'm really trying to learn right now to be a little bit more open, and to, you know, try to go do the dating thing. People are trying to teach me and be like, you know, but it is a hard process. Because, you know, it's just kind of like opening up to a different person. And you know, letting yourself go and being vulnerable which is hard for some people, I think."
Do you suffer from asthma? "Yes, I do have asthma. I get it a lot worse in the Winter time when it's cold outside and stuff like that."
Finally, what gets Britney relaxed enough to take her mind off of the hectic business that she's found herself sucked into? "I love stretching. I love doing yoga. I'm like a stretch-a-holic. And I read a lot of books. I love to read. I love to paint, do art and swim as well. Just, you know, activities like that."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
* Please note that some of Britney's answers were in direct response to other outside questioning.
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