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Britney Jean Spears was born on 2nd December 1981, in the quiet town of Kentwood, Louisiana, in New Orleans, America, to parents Jamie and Lynne. Before Britney could walk, she was singing her heart out, and her parents knew they had a star on their hands. Her mum Lynne says, "Sometimes her constant singing could be annoying, and she needed somewhere to let out all her positive energy". She was always singing - she sung 'What Child Is This,' a Christian song, at her Kindergarten Graduation, and sang endless hymns in front of the congregation at Kentwood Baptist Church. Her older brother Bryan, can tell you all about Britney's other singing career - singing into her hairbrush to Madonna in her room! Today her little sister, Jamie Lynne does the same, but to her big sister's songs!
Britney won lots of awards for her singing, and she says that she got "bored of local talent shows, and wanted to do something bigger and better". In Atlanta, there were auditions for 'The Mickey Mouse Club', a 50's show being given a revival. Britney begged her mother to take her, because it was unheard of to the residents of Kentwood that you would go all the way to Atlanta for anything! In the end her mother took her, but she was rejected, because she was considered too young at 8 years old. But she had talent, so the producer recommended her to a New York agent. Britney took 3 summers off from then to study dance, music and performing arts in Manhattan and was doing plenty of commercials. It was during this time she played an evil, murderous child in the off-Broadway play 'Ruthless' in 1991. She was 10 years old and had achieved a lot. People back home were spreading idle gossip and asking questions like 'Shouldn't she be in school?'. However, in 1992, she won an American TV talent show called 'Star Search'. She wore a big fluffy dress and a big bow in her hair, belting out a song with such power and grace for such a small child.
Aged 11, she was considered old enough to become a Mouseketeer. She was the youngest there, and it was on the show that she met Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Justin Timberlake (both of 'N Sync), and Keri Russell (star of the US TV show 'Felicity'). She spent two years there and then the show was axed. She went home and spent a year doing normal teenage stuff at high school - studying, playing basketball, having a boyfriend, etc. She, again, became restless. There were auditions for a girl group called Innosense, but Britney refused, as she wanted to be a solo artist. Larry Rudolph, her New York Agent told her about the change in the music industry - pop was coming back (with 'NSync, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, etc.) and there was not a single, young female doing it on her own. She sang 'I Have Nothing' the Whitney Houston classic and was signed to Jive Records. She went to Sweden to record with pop music guru Max Martin.
Aged 15, she had a record deal, aged 16, a number one album, and single at the same time, breaking records in the US Billboard charts. Her debut album reached multi platinum success in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Japan, Taiwan, France, and many other countries. In the UK, the single ("...Baby One More Time") picked up the fourth highest selling single in one week ever, and became the biggest selling single of 1999. She is the youngest person to have sold over a million copies of a debut single in the UK, and the first and youngest star to simultaneously have a number one album and single in the US. The single also broke US world records for climbing to #1 in 5 weeks, the video was the most requested video ever on MTV TRL and "The Box", and Jive Records UK had to print more copies of the single to keep up with demand. The album sold 124,000 copies on its first day in the UK, 1000 more than the #1 of last week sold in 6 days!
In the USA, there are many items with Brit's face on it - T-Shirts, mugs, jumpers, trousers, calendars and dolls to name but a few. There are so many Britney items she is no longer just a musician - she is a media icon. As well as the book about her life - "Heart to Heart" - written by Britney and Lynne, the duo have also released a novel - "A Mother's Gift." The internet is also taking advantage of Britney's success - Lycos, UBL, Google and MSN have Britney as one of the most searched for words, and nearly all of the Britney domain names have been sold. Britney even has her own charity - The Britney Spears Foundation. Magazines continue to queue to meet her - "Smash Hits", "Top Of The Pops", "Bravo", "Popcorn", "FHM," "Maxim," "W," "Vogue," "Elle," "Cosmopolitan," "Blender" and "Rolling Stone". Never before has one person caused such a media frenzy, perhaps bar Britney's idol, Madonna. To complete her domination of the media, Britney has even starred in her first feature film - "Crossroads" - where she plays Lucy, a girl who finishes school to go to college, but takes a spontaneous vacation to meet her mother. She joins Kit (Zoe Saldana) and Mimi (Taryn Manning) and Ben (Anson Mount) as they roadtrip across America. The film, like her music was an instant success, hitting #2 in the US Box Office charts, and #4 in the UK. Released in time with her third album, the self-titled "Britney," a lot of the songs crossed over into the film. In 2002, Britney also released her own PC/Game Boy Advance/Playstation 2 game - "Britney's Dance Beat" - where users play as Britney or as her dancers, practicing for her latest world tour.
"Britney" enlarged her relatively young fan-base to incorporate an older audience, with the lead single being "I'm A Slave 4 U," a melting pot of seductive whispers, minimalist beats and dripping with sex appeal - it appeared in "Q" magazine's list of top 10 songs "to get you off" (2003), and whilst the rest of the album was more mature, it still had a glossy, pop production thanks to collaborations with Max Martin, who wrote and produced the majority of her first two releases. However, Britney also co-wrote a lot of the material on "Britney," working with Brian Kierulf and Joshua Schwartz to create her own compositions, as well as working with BT on international bonus tracks for the album. She supported the album with a major US tour, entitled "Dream Within A Dream" a metaphor for never stop dreaming, even when you are realising your dreams. The tour was a major success, and her Las Vegas concert was broadcast live on HBO, as well as on DVD and VHS.
At the end of 2002, Britney drew "Britney" and "Dream Within A Dream" to a close. 2002 had been her hardest year yet. Although "Britney" reached #1 in the US, selling over 3million copies, it was a far cry from the 20million+ sales of "Oops!... I Did It Again" and the 50million+ sales of "...Baby One More Time." Critics panned her debut film, and her personal life was also troubled, having split with her boyfriend of 5 years, Justin Timberlake. She announced she was leaving the music business for a year, and taking a sabbatical.
In 2003, the media hounded Britney, and it turned out this year break was actually 3 weeks. Britney had decided she was not going to worry about sales any more, and that she was going to experiment on her fourth album to make the album she wanted to make. She was also going to take more control over how her music sounded and what it sounded like and which songs were released. Rumours flew around of affairs with Colin Farrell and Fred Durst, whilst musically, she was said to be working with Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams' ex-songwriting partner), Cathy Dennis (writer of "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" made famous by Kylie Minogue), the Ying Yang Twins (a new up-coming hip-hop duo), R. Kelly, the Matrix (who co-wrote Avril Lavigne's debut album, "Let Go") and William Orbit. Making a fully fledged return to the industry, Britney performed "Me Against The Music," not officially intended to be the first single, but a song she wanted to release first. After the media reception to the song, Britney won and the song was sent to be remixed by Rishi Rich and other remixers. She then appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards, where she is famed for her controversial performances - the skin coloured stocking at the the 2000 awards, the snake performance in 2001 - in a Madonna "tribute" with Madonna herself, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott. Backstage, Madonna heard "Me Against The Music," beckoned Britney to use it as her first single, and Britney asked if she wanted to duet on it. Madonna said yes, and wrote and recorded vocals for it in the UK. It was serviced to radio internationally in October and became Madonna and Britney's highest charting track in the US for years. The actual VMA performance caused more controversy for the kiss Britney and Madonna shared. As Britney and Christina were the "brides" it only seemed right that they should share a kiss with the "groom," Madonna. Controversy ensured and a friendship was forged between Britney and Madonna, with Madonna appearing in the video for "Me Against The Music." The track reached #2 in the UK and was a worldwide #1.
The album, "In The Zone" followed on 17th November 2003, to a mixed reception. Some say it is too varied, others love the mix of sounds on the album. Another worldwide #1, it received it's worst reception in the UK, where it debuted at #14, despite selling over 35,000 copies. It gave Britney her fourth consecutive #1 in the US Billboard Album charts, making her the only artist ever to have done so, and had the second biggest opening week by a female artist in the whole of 2003, being beaten by a few thousand copies by Alicia Keys the week later. In 2004, Britney hit headlines again - she did something "crazy" in Las Vegas - she married her childhood friend, Jason Alexander, in a small chapel, and had the marriage annulled within 2 days. Bringing her persona back to music, the second single from "In The Zone" is the Cathy Dennis penned "Toxic." With a stunning video from Joseph Kahn, the single has given Britney her biggest US single since "Stronger" in 2000, and her biggest UK airplay hit since "Oops!... I Did It Again."

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