#WCW: Britney Spears

One of the earliest memories I have is sitting in the backseat of my mother’s car before preschool and listening to Britney Spears’ Oops!...I Did It Again album. I would read the back of the CD case and tell my mom which track to skip to. I memorized the words to nearly every lyric on the album, including the spoken dialogue between the songs. My 4-year-old self liked to pretend I was on stage with Britney, performing each of her choreographed routines for a sold-out show. Those early morning jam sessions were my favorite part of the day, and now, roughly 18 years later, I still press play on that album when I need a pick-me-up. Spears’ music was and continues to be an escape for not only myself, but also for her international fanbase which is just as strong as it was in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Before Britney Spears became a best-selling artist, she was just an 11-year-old from Louisiana who got the chance to star in The All-New Mickey Mouse Club on Disney Channel. Five years later, she got a contract with Jive Records and released her debut single “...Baby One More Time,” kickstarting her musical legacy. The song was on the charts alongside artists such as The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Spears was one of the only young women taking over a new era in pop music, a genre which predominantly consisted of boybands at the time. Because of the song’s raunchiness and Spears’ image as an innocent, all-American teenager, she grabbed the world’s attention and became the princess of pop.

Spears soon became a role model for her dedicated fans, showing them how to be unapologetically themselves. She unspokenly encouraged her fans to embrace their bodies and their sexualities by expressing herself as the cross between innocence and womanhood. She wasn’t afraid to show her skin, and she rejected the media’s immediate criticism of her sexual, yet pure image. In a 1999 interview with Green Room Tales, Spears addressed the double-standard women in the public’s eye have to face.

She said: “I just think it’s really funny though that, you know, just by me doing the ‘Baby’ video, with my belly showing or whatever. I mean I love Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, but when they’re doing all those thrusts on the stage, and when they’re making out with the microphone, no one says anything about that. But when I’m just showing a little belly, everyone’s like ‘oh!’”

Spears was no stranger to the media’s sexualization of women, but she didn’t let it stop her from expressing herself through music, videos, and choreography. Through her art, she embodied the paradox of being a woman: maintaining innocence while also being overtly sexual in nature. She also managed to create some of the most famous looks in pop culture. Most people immediately recognize the school girl costume from “...Baby One More Time” and the red latex jumpsuit from “Oops!...I Did It Again.”

Aside from her iconic image, Spears has also sold over 100 million albums worldwide, according to RCA Records. She has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and won Best Dance Recording for her single “Toxic” in 2004. In 2016, she was given the Billboard Music Special Millennium Award, which “honors artists with exceptional achievements and influence in the music industry,” according to Billboard. “...Baby One More Time” went platinum 14 times, and Spears has 24 singles that made the Billboard Top 40. 

In recent news, Spears became the center of attention all over again when The New York Times teamed up with FX for Framing Britney Spears, a documentary that sheds light on Spears’ court-sanctioned conservatorship. While the documentary focuses on the legal battle over who should have control over Spears’ estate, it also sheds light on the real reason behind her public breakdown in 2007.

Unfortunately, the image of Spears shaving her own head has become a meme in the digital age, used to represent when someone is supposedly reaching their own breaking point. However, what many people do not know is that she decided to cut her own hair to regain power over her own body when she felt herself losing control over how the media was presenting her to the world.

“I just don't want anybody, anybody touching my head,” Spears said, according to Cosmopolitan. “I don't want anyone touching my hair. I'm sick of people touching my hair.”

While the fate of Spears’ estate is still unknown, there is no doubt that her fans, including myself, will continue to show their undying support using #FreeBritney on social media. Fans have even attended protests outside of the courthouse during the hearings for her conservatorship case. In Framing Britney Spears, activist and fan Junior Olivas said he knew he had to do something to help her, so he helped organize a protest.

“My heart said, ‘no matter what, you’re taking your butt there, and you’re gonna help her just the way she has helped you,” Olivas said in the documentary.

Spears always had a strong relationship with her fan base, and now fans are thanking her for giving them the strength they needed to be themselves. She remains the princess of pop, and even though she isn’t producing any new music any time soon, she is still spreading positivity through social media. Spears is focusing on living a normal life with her two sons and her partner, and while we fans miss her music, we still have 9 studio albums and 39 music videos to play on repeat.

 

“You should never try to change me. I can be nobody else, and I like the way I am.”

– Britney Spears, “What U See (Is What U Get),” 2000.