… Baby One More Time set the scene for a late-’90s teen-pop revival, with Britney Spears at the forefront. Her record spoke to a myriad of teenage romance issues, ranging from can’t-sleep crushes to the harsh realities of a first breakup. With a powerhouse fame-maker like Max Martin at her side, Brit was clearly destined for Madonna-esque super-stardom. She was bound to be famous, y’all!
Spears’ sophomore album, Oops! … I Did It Again, took an edgier approach than her bubblegum-pop debut. Spears began hinting at the struggles of fame and early media criticism (you’ve gotta remember that “Sometimes” video scandal where everyone accused her of getting a boob job at 17 years old?). The pop star also matured lyrically, going from the little girl in love to an independent woman who wasn’t afraid to play games.
Britney pushed Spears’ subtly sexual image into overdrive. At this point, she was pretty much determined to let everyone know, “I’m a big girl now.” Fewer clothes, more sass. The urban-influenced album included her get-off-my-back hit “Overprotected,” an edgy cover oan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll” and her sexy, sweaty dance smash “Slave 4 U.” We got it, Brit. You’re all grown up.
In The Zone was fueled by a public breakup with her love of three years, Justin Timberlake. Britney was a free woman and threw her energy and focus into a hugely successful album, featuring a hit with her idol, Madonna’ a “self exploration” track; a good-girl response to Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”; and the highly acclaimed dance-pop single “Toxic” (which would earn Spears her only Grammy Award). The Zone era also brought about that epic onstage kiss between Spears, Madonna and Christina Aguilera at the MTV Video Music Awards. Britney wasn’t about to let a little thing like a breakup bring her down.
Blackout is probably the most aptly named album in Brit’s collection. Prerequisites for the record include two failed marriages (Jason Allen Alexander and Kevin Federline); giving birth to two sons; loss of custody of said sons, rehab; and that minor head-shaving incident. She did, however, sniff out major success in the perfume business. Despite Spears’ personal struggles, Blackout was such a stunningly produced album that succeeded on its own merit. We all just have to continue forgetting about that “Gimme More” 2007 VMA performance. What performance? Just LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!
Circus, recorded while Britney was under a (notorious) conservatorship, helped the pop goddess transition out of a dark period, reinstating her firmly on the dance-pop scene. Brit grabbed the crown back with hits like “Womanizer” and “If U Seek Amy” and her role as the ringleader on a world tour. Circus certainly felt like a sign of good things to come at a time when Britney was under relentless media scrutiny.
Femme Fatale was really just a fun album, employing a spectrum of dance sub-genres to bring Britney’s fans a complete party soundtrack. Spears gave her lifelong devotees a gift, while proving to the next generation that the legend lives on.
2013’s Britney Jean has been touted as Spears’ most “personal” record, drawing on her experience as a celebrity under the microscope and the failer of another intimate relationship. Unfortunately, the “relatable” album didn’t click with fans as expected. Perhaps Brit Brit’s Las Vegas residency will spark creative juices for the next album though.