Britney Spears is putting girls back on the map in the pop music world. With the effervescent and intoxicating sounds of her first album, ...Baby One More Time, Britney shot straight to the top of the charts--in just the first week of the album's release. Her ripe style and smart lyrics have captured the hearts of millions of fans, young and old.
But Britney didn't just come out of nowhere: she is a multitalented entertainment sensation who can't remember a time in her life when she wasn't singing, acting, or dancing. She broke into the biz at the tender age of eight, and it wasn't long before she made her mark. TRUE BRIT gives you all the backstage info, from her first audition for The New Mickey Mouse Club to her exciting decision to go solo. You'll also find out what it was like for Brit to work with the boys of 'N Sync, the rumors of romance, and her dazzling life beyond the stage.
Britney is more than just a singer--she's a performing phenomenon. And TRUE BRIT is your ticket into her amazing world.
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Causing a Commotion
“I hoped and prayed that this would happen. I’m living my dream and having the time of my life.”
Okay, maybe it seems like she materialized out of thin air: all of a sudden seventeen-year-old Britney Spears is at the top of the charts, leaving Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Mariah Carey, even ’N Sync in her dust. But the talented newcomer didn’t become this big overnight. She’s actually been polishing her act for the past ten years, singing and dancing, she has admitted, virtually since she was in diapers. Her goal? Nothing less than superstardom—and that’s exactly where she’s headed.
Looking at the cover of her first CD, . . . Baby One More Time, you might find it hard to understand how she’s rocketed to fame so fast: she looks just like any of the pretty girls you’d find in your local high school. But this small-town teen must have had something special that made her album sell over half a million copies in just a few short weeks. Try and figure it out and you’ll be left scratching your head like most music critics. “She just has the right combination of looks, talent, drive,” says Billboard magazine’s radio editor Chuck Taylor. Or as her fans would prefer to call it, magic.
It started way back in 1987, when a little girl in pigtails was prancing around her Louisiana living room to Michael Jackson, singing into a can of hair spray. “Everyone thought I was just cute—I don’t know how much they took me seriously when I said I was going to be a performer,” Britney told MTV. Luckily, she believed in herself, and along the way, found great friends, advisers, and industry insiders who believed in her just as much.
But it’s a long way from keeping the faith to becoming an international pop phenomenon, especially with all the competition that’s out there. Every day, a new solo artist or band emerges to battle for the top of the charts, and veterans like Madonna and Cher still rule the airwaves. Britney has been compared to many of them.
“She has that Toni Braxton/Janet Jackson thing going in her voice,” says Jane Stevenson, pop music critic for The Toronto Sun. But Brit insists she’s nobody’s imitator. Over the years, she’s worked hard on stage, on screen, and in the studio to develop her own unique blend of pop jam. Sometimes funk, sometimes soul, sometimes hip-hop, even occasionally tinged with reggae rhythm, whatever she sings, she sings from the heart. And that, she will tell you, is what sets her apart.
Once she had a sound, Britney needed the right image—and that’s precisely what her label, Jive Records, has spent the last year perfecting. “She has this intriguing mix of personalities. Yes, she can be cute and wholesome, but just watch her video and there’s definite sex appeal,” says Danya Harpster, who interviewed Britney for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Jive spent nearly six months marketing her before her single even hit record stores. Why? To create breathless anticipation for their new singing sensation. On January 12, 1999, the day her album was released, teens were already lined up at the crack of dawn to buy a copy. It’s no wonder then, that . . . Baby One More Time debuted at No. 1, something virtually unheard of for a new artist, much less a female teenager.
The buzz began when Jive previewed Brit’s single through a toll-free number connected to the direct-access music sampling line (callers heard “You Got It All” and “Sometimes” when they keyed in a four-digit code). When thousands of Backstreet Boys fans bought their “Backstage Pass” video (they’re fellow Jive labelers), they received a free CD sampler with Brit’s “You Got It All” and “Soda Pop” on it. Sunglass Huts around the country handed out free cassettes of Britney and Imajin with a purchase; Hasbro’s Interactive Girl Talk CD-ROM featured her tunes, and postcards were mailed out to record stores and pop fan clubs urging everyone to listen up. If you wanted to know more, you could check out Brit’s very own web page at www.peeps.com/britney.
“The response was phenomenal,” Chuck Taylor recalls. “And she hadn’t even put out a song yet! If you got just a look at her, heard just a few minutes of her sound, you were hooked. Everything about this kid was infectious.”
“It’s music Top 40 can own,” Clarke In-gram, production director of Rochester’s WPXY radio, raved. “When Jive brought the record in and played it for me, I put it right into the mix.”
Three months before her album was released, Brit began a twenty-eight-city tour of the malls of Middle America, sponsored by YM, Teen, Seventeen, and Teen People magazines. Hundreds of teens showed up at each performance to see her cut loose in a four-song set with two backup dancers. “They had no idea who I was yet,” she told MTV. “But they liked my music.” Lucky audiences even scored a cassette single and a Britney goody bag. She signed on to open for ’N Sync’s concert tour, and since it ended in late January 1999, she’s been taking her act outside of the United States to Canada, Europe, and Asia.
What’s it like to catch her in action? Picture this: The Markville Mall in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of kids are lined up to meet the girl who’s inspired them to strut around their high school gyms crooning, “Oh, baby, baby.” Britney breezes in— confident, waving, ready to meet and greet the masses. To brave the Canadian chill, she’s dressed in funky bell-bottoms, a ski jacket, and a baby blue scarf (you can bet come school bell Monday morning, plenty of Canadian teens were copying this look as well). She smiles, she sings—she leaves ’em begging for more. “That was wild!” she screams, running off the stage. “That was totally amazing!”
But it was also just another day in the incredible life of Britney Spears.
Breakin’ All the Records
According to Billboard, Brit was:
the first new female artist to have a simultaneous No. 1 single in the Hot 100 and No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
the first new artist (male or female) to jump to the No. 1 spot on both the Hot 100 and Billboard 200.
the first new artist (male or female) to have a single go to the No. 1 spot the same week that the album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
the first new female artist to have her first single and first album at No. 1 the same week.
the youngest female in Billboard history to have a simultaneous No. 1 single and album debut at No. 1 in the same week.
It’s also the first time in Billboard history that a single and album of the same name went to No. 1 simultaneously.