Britney Spears has sold over 100 million records worldwide. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the eighth top-selling female artist in the United States, with 33 million certified albums. Britney Spears is also recognized as the best-selling female artist of the first decade of the 21st century, as well as the fifth overall. She was ranked the 8th Artist of the 2000s by Billboard.
1981–97: Early life and career beginnings
Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2, 1981, the second child of Lynne Irene (née Bridges) and James Parnell Spears. She is of English heritage through her maternal grandmother, who was born in London, and of distant Maltese descent. Her siblings are Bryan James and Jamie Lynn. At age three, she started to attend dance lessons in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, and was selected to perform a solo at the annual recital. During her childhood, she also attended gymnastics and voice lessons, and won many state-level competitions and children's talent shows. Spears made her local stage debut at age five, singing "What Child Is This?" at her kindergarten graduation. She said about her ambition as a child, "I was in my own world, I found out what I'm supposed to do at an early age". At age eight, Spears and her mother Lynne traveled to Atlanta for an audition in the 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club. Casting director Matt Cassella rejected her for being too young to join the series at the time, but introduced her to Nancy Carson, a New York City talent agent. Carson was impressed with Spears's vocals and suggested enrolling her at the Professional Performing Arts School; shortly after, Lynne and her daughters moved to a sublet apartment in New York. Britney Spears was hired for her first professional role as the understudy for the lead role of Tina Denmark in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless!. She also appeared as a contestant on the popular television show Star Search, as well as being cast in a number of commercials. In December 1992, she was finally cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, but returned to Kentwood after the show was canceled. She enrolled at Parklane Academy in nearby McComb, Mississippi. Although she made friends with most of her classmates, she compared the school to "the opening scene in Clueless with all the cliques. I was so bored. I was the point guard on the basketball team. I had my boyfriend, and I went to homecoming and Christmas formal. But I wanted more."
In June 1997, Britney Spears was in talks with manager Lou Pearlman to join female pop group Innosense. Lynne asked family friend and entertainment lawyer Larry Rudolph for his opinion and submitted a tape of Spears singing over a Whitney Houston karaoke song along with some pictures. Rudolph decided he wanted to pitch her to record labels, therefore she needed a professional demo. He sent Spears an unused song from Toni Braxton; she rehearsed for a week and recorded her vocals in a studio with a sound engineer. Spears traveled to New York with the demo and met with executives from four labels, returning to Kentwood the same day. Three of the labels rejected her, arguing audiences wanted pop bands such as the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, and "there wasn't going to be another Madonna, another Debbie Gibson, or another Tiffany." Two weeks later, executives from Jive Records returned calls to Rudolph. Senior vice president of A&R Jeff Fenster stated about Spears's audition that "It's very rare to hear someone that age who can deliver emotional content and commercial appeal. For any artist, the motivation—the 'eye of the tiger'— is extremely important. And Britney had that." They appointed her to work with producer Eric Foster White for a month, who reportedly shaped her voice from "lower and less poppy" delivery to "distinctively, unmistakably Britney." After hearing the recorded material, president Clive Calder ordered a full album. Spears had originally envisioned "Sheryl Crow music, but younger more adult contemporary" but felt all right with her label's appointment of producers, since "It made more sense to go pop, because I can dance to it—it's more me." She flew to Cheiron Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, where half of the album was recorded from March to April 1998, with producers Max Martin, Denniz Pop and Rami Yacoub, among others.
1998–2000: ...Baby One More Time and Oops!... I Did It Again
After Britney Spears returned to the United States, she embarked on a shopping mall promotional tour to promote her forthcoming album. Her show was a four song set and she was accompanied by two back up dancers. Her first concert tour followed, as an opening act for 'N Sync. Her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, was released on January 1999. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was certified two-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America after a month. Worldwide, the album topped the charts in fifteen countries and sold over ten million copies in a year. It became the biggest selling album ever by a teenage artist. The title track was released as the lead single from the album. Originally, Jive Records wanted its music video to be animated; however, Britney Spears rejected it, and suggested the final idea of a Catholic schoolgirl. The single sold 500,000 copies on its first day, and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the chart for two consecutive weeks. "...Baby One More Time" later received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The title track also topped the singles chart for two weeks in the United Kingdom, and became the fastest-selling single ever by a female artist, shipping over 460,000 copies. It would later become the 25th most successful song of all time in British chart history. Britney Spears is also the youngest female artist to have a million seller in the country. "(You Drive Me) Crazy" was released as the third single from the album. It became a top-ten hit worldwide and propelled ...Baby One More Time to sell 26 million copies.
The same year, Britney Spears embarked on the Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour, which grossed $40.5 million; she also released her first book, Britney Spears' Heart-to-Heart, co-written with her mother. On September 7, 2000, Spears performed at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. Halfway through the performance, she ripped off her black suit to reveal a sequined flesh-colored bodysuit, followed by heavy dance routine. It is noted by critics as the moment that Spears showed signs of becoming a more provocative performer. Amidst media speculation, Spears confirmed she was dating 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake.
2001–03: Britney, Crossroads and In the Zone
In February 2001, Britney Spears signed a $7–8 million promotional deal with Pepsi, and released another book co-written with her mother, entitled A Mother’s Gift. Her third studio album, Britney, was released in November 2001. While on tour, she felt inspired by hip hop artists such as Jay-Z and The Neptunes and wanted to create a record with a funkier sound. The album debuted at number one in the Billboard 200 and reached top five positions in Australia, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called Britney "the record where she strives to deepen her persona, making it more adult while still recognizably Britney. It does sound like the work of a star who has now found and refined her voice, resulting in her best record yet." The album was honored with two Grammy nominations—Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Overprotected"— and was listed in 2008 as one of Entertainment Weekly's "100 Best Albums from the Past 25 Years". The album's first single, "I'm a Slave 4 U", became a top-ten hit worldwide.
Spears's performance of the single at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards featured a caged tiger and a large albino python draped over her shoulders. It was harshly received by animal rights organization PETA, who claimed the animals were mistreated and scrapped plans for an anti-fur billboard that was to feature Spears. To support the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour. The show was critically praised for its technical innovations, the pièce de résistance being a water screen that pumped two tons of water into the stage. The tour grossed $43.7 million, becoming the second highest grossing tour of 2002 by a female artist, behind Cher's Farewell Tour. Her career success was highlighted by Forbes in 2002, as Spears was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity. Spears also landed her first starring role in Crossroads, released in February 2002. Although the film was largely panned, most critics actually praised Spears's acting. Crossroads, which had a $11 million budget, went on to gross over $57 million worldwide.
In June 2002, Britney Spears opened her first restaurant, Nyla, in New York City, but terminated her relationship in November, citing mismanagement and "management's failure to keep her fully apprised". In July 2002, Spears announced she would take a six month break from her career; however, she went back into the studio in October to record her new album. Spears's relationship with Justin Timberlake ended after three years. In December 2002, Timberlake released the song "Cry Me a River" as the second single from his solo debut album. The music video featured a Spears look-alike and fueled the rumors that she had been unfaithful to him. As a response, Spears wrote the ballad "Everytime" with her backing vocalist and friend Annet Artani. The same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst confirmed that he was in a relationship with Spears, only to deny it later. In a 2009 interview, he explained that "I just guess at the time it was taboo for a guy like me to be associated with a gal like her." Britney Spears opened the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards with Christina Aguilera, performing "Like a Virgin". Halfway through they were joined by Madonna, with whom they both kissed. The incident was highly publicized.
2004–07: Compilation albums, motherhood, personal struggles and Blackout
On January 3, 2004, Britney Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The marriage was annulled 55 hours later, stating that Spears "lacked understanding of her actions". She began The Onyx Hotel Tour in support of In the Zone in March 2004.On June 8, 2004, Spears fell and injured her left knee during the music video shoot for "Outrageous". She was taken immediately to a local hospital, where doctors performed an MRI scan and found floating cartilage. The following day, Spears underwent arthroscopic surgery. She was forced to remain six weeks with a thigh brace, followed by eight to twelve weeks of rehabilitation, which caused The Onyx Hotel Tour to be canceled. During 2004, Britney Spears became involved in the Kabbalah Centre through her friendship with Madonna.
In July 2004, she announced her engagement to American dancer Kevin Federline, whom she had met three months before. The romance received intense attention from the media, since Federline had recently broken up with actress Shar Jackson, who was still pregnant with their second child at the time. The initial stages of their relationship were chronicled in Spears's first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. They held a wedding ceremony on September 18, 2004, but were not legally married until three weeks later on October 6 due to a delay finalizing the couple's prenuptial agreement. Shortly after, she released her first fragrance with Elizabeth Arden, Curious, which broke the company's first-week gross for a perfume. In October 2004, Spears announced she would be taking another career break to start a family. Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, her first greatest hits compilation album, was released in November 2004. Spears's cover version of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" was released as the lead single from the album, reaching the top of the charts in Finland, Ireland, Italy and Norway. The second single, "Do Somethin'", was a top ten hit in Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries of mainland Europe. Worldwide, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative sold over 5 million copies. In late 2004, Spears went on KIIS-FM radio in Los Angeles, CA to play a new demo titled "Mona Lisa." The demo was to be the first single from an upcoming album called the "Original Doll." However, Spears' label later cancelled the album for unknown reasons. Spears gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, on September 14, 2005.
Her fifth studio album, Blackout, was released in October 2007. It debuted at the top of charts in Canada and Ireland, number two in the U.S. Billboard 200,—held off from the top spot by Eagles's Long Road out of Eden— France, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom and the top ten in Australia, Korea, New Zealand and many European nations. In the United States, Spears became the only female artist to have her first five studio albums debut at the two top slots of the chart. Blackout sold over 3.1 million copies worldwide. Peter Robinson of The Observer said that "Britney has delivered the best album of her career, raising the bar for modern pop music with an incendiary mix of Timbaland's Shock Value and her own back catalogue." Dennis Lim of Blender commented, "Spears’s fifth studio album is her most consistent, a seamlessly entertaining collection of bright, brash electropop." Blackout won Album of the Year at MTV Europe Music Awards 2008 and was listed as the fifth Best Pop Album of the Decade by The Times. Spears performed the lead single "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. The performance was panned by many critics. David Willis of BBC stated her performance would "go down in the history books as being one of the worst to grace the MTV Awards". Despite the backlash, the single rocketed to worldwide success, peaking at number one in Canada and the top ten in almost every country it charted. The second single "Piece of Me" reached the top of the charts in Ireland and reached the top five in Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The third single "Break the Ice" was released the following year and had moderate success due to Britney Spears not being able to promote it properly. In December 2007, Spears began a relationship with paparazzo Adnan Ghalib.
2008–10: Conservatorship and Circus
On January 3, 2008, Britney Spears refused to relinquish custody of her sons to Federline's representatives. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, after police that arrived at her house noted she appeared to be under the influence of an illicit substance. The following day, Spears's visitation rights were suspended at an emergency court hearing, and Federline was given sole physical and legal custody of the children. On January 31, 2008, Spears was committed to the psychiatric ward of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and put on 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold. The court placed her under temporary conservatorship of her father James Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet, giving them complete control of her assets. Spears was released on February 6, 2008. Her parents expressed disappointment and concern at the decision to release her. The following month, she guest-starred on the How I Met Your Mother episode "Ten Sessions" as receptionist Abby. She received positive reviews for her performance, as well as bringing the series its highest ratings ever. In July 2008, Spears regained some visitation rights after coming to an agreement with Federline and his counsel. On September 7, 2008, Spears opened the MTV Video Music Awards with a pre-taped comedy sketch with Jonah Hill and an introduction speech. She won Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Video of the Year for "Piece of Me". A 60-minute introspective documentary, Britney: For the Record, was produced to chronicle Spears' return to the recording industry. Directed by Phil Griffin, For the Record was entirely shot in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and New York City during the third quarter of 2008. Main shooting began on September 5, 2008, two days before Spears' appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards. For the Record was broadcast on MTV on November 30, 2008 to 5.6 million viewers for the two airings on the premiere night. MTV reported that Spears' documentary garnered on average, the highest rating in its Sunday night timeslot, in the network's history.
She released her second greatest hits album, The Singles Collection in November 2009. "3" became her third number one single in the US, and was the first song to debut at the top of the charts in three years. Later that month, she released an application for iPhone and iPod Touch titled "It's Britney!". In May 2010, Spears's representatives confirmed she was dating her agent Jason Trawick, and that they had decided to end their professional relationship to focus on their personal relationship. Britney Spears designed a limited edition clothing line for Candie's, which was released in stores in July 2010. On September 28, 2010, she made a cameo appearance on a Spears-themed tribute episode of American TV show Glee, titled "Britney/Brittany". Spears approved of the episode, although her appearances received mixed reviews from critics. The episode drew Glee's second largest audience, as well as the show's highest ratings ever.
2011–present: Femme Fatale and engagement
In March 2011, Britney Spears released her seventh studio album Femme Fatale. Max Martin and Dr. Luke executive produced the album and the album's first single "Hold It Against Me". The single debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. This gave Spears her fourth number-one single on the chart, and made her only the second artist in history to have two consecutive singles debut at number-one, after Mariah Carey. The album peaked at number one in the United States(selling 276,000 copies), Canada, and Australia, and peaked inside the top ten on nearly every other chart. The album's peak in the United States ties Britney with Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson for the third-most number ones among women. Femme Fatale has sold over 590,000 copies in the United States and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The album received positive critical reviews after its release, receiving a score of 67 on Metacritic, her highest critical score since Oops!... I Did It Again, with many critics naming the album one of Spears's best. In April 2011, Spears appeared in a remix to the song "S&M" by Rihanna after Rihanna asked her fans via Twitter who they wanted her to collaborate with. The song reached number one in the US in mid-April 2011, giving Britney her fifth number one on the chart. In early May, Spears' second single from Femme Fatale, "Till The World Ends", reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and had ninety-eight million audience impressions on the Billboard chart, granting Spears the highest weekly audience of her 13-year chart career. Femme Fatale's third single "I Wanna Go" reached the top forty on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2011. Among females in the last thirteen years, Spears now has the third-most top forty hits, with twenty-one. In August, the single managed to reach the top-ten on the Billboard Hot 100, which is the first time for Spears to have three songs from one album in the top-ten. On the week ending September 24, 2011, "I Wanna Go" moved 2-1 on the mainstream top 40, becoming her sixth number-one on that chart (making her tied for third all-time) and her first number-one and third top-ten pop song for Femme Fatale. Spears now has the longest span of number ones on the mainstream top 40, with a length of twelve years, seven months, and four days. In October 2011, the music video for Femme Fatale's fourth single "Criminal" caused controversy when British politicians criticized Spears for using replica guns while filming the video in an area of London that had been badly affected by the 2011 England riots. Members of the Hackney London Borough Council felt Spears "promoted gun violence" and suggested that Britney Spears apologize and make a donation to a Hackney charity. Spears's management briefly responded, stating, "The video is a fantasy story featuring Britney's boyfriend, Jason Trawick, which literally plays out the lyrics of a song written three years before the riots ever happened." Later that month, due to her continued popularity, Spears became the seventh artist to gain one billion cumulative views on her Vevo account. On Billboard's 2011 Year-End list, Britney Spears was fourteen on the Artists of the Year, due to being 32 on Billboard 200 artists and 10 on Billboard Hot 100 artists. Additionally, many critics, including those at Rolling Stone, named "Till the World Ends" one of the best songs of 2011.
On June 15, 2011, it was announced by Billboard that the RCA/Jive Label Group would be splitting, with Jive Records being fully moved under RCA Records staying intact. In August it was announced that Spears had officially joined the RCA's roster. During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards on August 28 2011, MTV played tribute to Britney Spears with a group of young female dancers that memorialised Britney's music videos, performances, and style. Following which, Spears accepted the MTV Video Vanguard Award from Lady Gaga, who said that "industry wouldn't be the same without her". On September 9, 2011, Spears announced her second remix album, B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2, which was released on October 7, along with the tracklist. On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, Spears (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release her future material on the RCA Records brand.
On December 16, Britney Spears confirmed her engagement to her long-time boyfriend Jason Trawick, her former manager. Britney Spears revealed her three-carat diamond ring at a party in Las Vegas on December 17.