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Britney Spears: American Pop Tragedy

July 20, 2008 – Britney Spears, born in 1981, grew up in Louisiana. At an early age she became an accomplished dancer and singer. In 1992 she landed a reoccurring spot on the Disney Channel’s “The New Mickey Mouse Club.” In 1997 she recorded a solo demo and signed a record deal with Jive Records. She toured with boy-band acts N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys in a tour sponsored by teen magazines. Spears dated N’Sync member Justin Timberlake for two years.

Spears released her debut single “…Baby One More Time” in 1998 to great success. It sold nine million copies; the album sold 25 million copies and is the biggest-selling album by a teenage artist to date. Spears still holds the U.S. record for the youngest artist to have a debut single and debut album concurrently at number one. The album received mixed reviews among critics but Spears received four Billboard Music Awards, one American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist and was nominated for two Grammies. Read more about Spears record-setting music in music magazines.

In April 1999 Spears made her first Rolling Stone magazine cover. The cover photo, shot by David LaChapelle, was controversial due to its adolescent sexuality content.

In 2000 Spears released her sophomore album, “Ooops…I Did It Again”, which debuted at number one and sold more than a million copies in its first week of sales, breaking the record for highest album sales in its debut week by a solo artist. In 2001 Spears followed with her third album, “Britney,” which was overall less successful than its predecessors. Spears appeared in In Touch Magazine for her erotic performance of the single, “Slave 4 U” during the MTV Awards. In 2003 celebrity magazines criticized her for her MTV Awards in which kissed Madonna at the end of her performance.

By November 2003 Spears released her fourth studio album, “In the Zone,” which sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week, rocketing to the number one spot on the charts. Again, Spears set a new record in sales—the first female artist to have her first four studio albums debut on the charts at number one. Though the album was generally panned by critics in music magazines like Billboard, the single “Toxic” was a hit and garnered Spears her first Grammy for Best Dance Recording.

In 2004 Spears made headlines in celebrity magazines when she wed her childhood friend Jason Allen in a shotgun wedding in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted a reported 55 hours ending in annulment. Later in 2004 Spears made magazine covers again, announcing she was engaged to back-up dancer Kevin Federline, whose ex-girlfriend was eight months pregnant at the time. The couple married in September 2004 and also chronicled their relationship in the reality show “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic.” Spears gave birth to their first child, Sean Preston Federline, approximately one year later.

At this time Spears announced she would take a career break; she released a greatest hits collection. In 2005 Spears released an album of remixes.

In May 2006 Spears announced her second pregnancy on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and appeared on the news magazine show “Dateline.” After the interview aired, Spears posed nude for Harper’s Bazaar magazine cover and gave birth to a second son, Jayden James Federline in September. In November Spears filed for divorce from Federline citing irreconcilable differences. Magazines like People, Star Magazine, In Touch magazine and other women’s magazines chronicled Spears’ troubles and continue to devote coverage to her.

In February 2007 Spears seemed to hit a low point when she shaved her head. Paparazzi captured the entire coiffe-crisis and photos of Britney mid-shave appeared in countless celebrity magazines like People, Us Weekly and InTouch magazine. Even magazines like Time magazine covered Spears’ troubles, called Spears “former pop star, current tabloid staple.”

In October 2007 Spears released the album Blackout, which received lukewarm reviews and debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200. Her single, “Gimme More” quickly peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart but Spears highly-anticipated comeback performance of the single was nothing short of a major embarrassment. In the performance Spears was sluggish and out of sync with her lip-synching. The embarrassing performance prompted Jive Records to cancel all live promotion.

For the next year Spears continued to have custody troubles and legal troubles involving minor car accidents and driving without a license. During this time she fired her longtime manager and body guard; her personal publicist resigned. Due to a series of bizarre behavior including shaving her head and attacking a car with an umbrella in a fit of rage and missed court dates Spears lost custody of her children. Finally Spears’ family stepped in to rescue the singer from her seemingly self-destructive path. As of 2008, People Magazine has reported that Spears is currently back in the studio working on a new album.

By: Jessica Vandelay

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For more celebrity magazines covering Britney Spears, visit Jessica Vandelay is a free-lance writer in New York City.