Pop music in the 1990’s ended the decade with a bang that would reverberate throughout the world for many subsequent years. The woman who fired that attention-grabbing shot? Britney Jean Spears. Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, the blonde bombshell who would take the music scene by storm first through her sensational chart success and then thanks to her tabloid-worthy antics got her
first taste of show biz at the tender age of eight when she attended Professional Performing Arts School in New York City. After spending time as a member of Disney’s popular television program The New Mickey Mouse Club – alongside other 90’s alumnae such as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell – Spears began to explore a singing career and scored a solo contract with Jive Records in 1997.
A year after signing on the dotted line, Britney Spears would become a household name thanks to the popularity of her first single ‘…Baby One More Time.’ The song, and its scandalous-for-the-era music video, which saw a lusty Spears dance her way through the halls of a high school dressed in a revealing Catholic schoolgirl outfit, snagged a Grammy nomination and reached number one on charts all over the world. Interestingly, the track had been offered to pop superstars TLC, but they had decided to pass on it thinking it didn’t have the potential to be a hit. The album of the same name that followed matched the performance of the single thanks in part to ultra-catchy songs like ‘(You Drive Me) Crazy‘, a track which later gave its title to a film featuring 90’s actress Melissa Joan Hart. Britney would guest star on Hart’s series ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ before the end of 1999, performing ‘(You Drive Me) Crazy’ in one of the decade’s weirder bits of meta-marketing.
Britney-mania was in full swing as young girls want to be her and young men wanted to be with her. Her public persona began to skew decidedly towards the sultry side of the equation as Spears began to engage the media in an escalating battle of titillation, appearing on a 1999 cover of Rolling Stone clutching a shocked-looking purple Teletubby, lying on a bed in her skivvies and talking on a very teen girl-looking phone. Jive decided that the time was ripe to send Spears out on tour and take advantage of the absolute hurricane of interest surrounding the singer. Opening for ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, Britney faced mixed receptions from audiences filled with girls her own age who had come to gaze dreamily at the most charismatic member of ‘N Sync, Justin Timberlake. Rumors of their romantic entanglement would stoke the flames of jealousy between Spears and the boy band’s fans.
By the time the year 2000 rolled around, Britney Spears was an unstoppable musical force. Released that year, her second album ‘Oops!… I Did It Again‘ would debut at number one in the United States and would eventually sell over 10 million units sold in that country alone. The album itself remains the best selling album worldwide of the 00’s. The title single from that album would also receive a Grammy nomination and once again destroy the competition on the sales charts, but the real story was the video which took Britney’s image in an even more sexualized direction thanks to the use of skin-tight space catsuits and shorter skirts than those worn in ‘…Baby One More Time.’ Her subsequent world tour and appearance on the MTV Music Awards would see Britney push the envelope even further as outfits got skimpier and skimpier and sex appeal began to overshadow her music.
Soon, however, it wouldn’t just be Spears’ physical assets garnering more press attention than the notes she was singing on-stage.While albums like ‘Britney’ and ‘In The Zone’ continued to sell well, the singer’s personal life began a spiral that would see her estranged from lover Justin Timberlake and eventually married and divorced several times (once for just 55 hours), kissing Madonna on live television and having a very public and unstable relationship with ex-husband and father of her two children Kevin Federline. Britney’s star would fall to such a degree that even the Internet grew tired of her increasingly erratic behavior, seeing her four year reign as the most searched-for person online end in 2009 when she was replaced by Michael Jackson and dropped all the way down to fifth.
Britney may have burnt up much of her star credibility since her glory days of the 90’s early 2000’s, but her amazing sales legacy remains unequaled and her adrenaline-pumping tracks can still fill dance floors to this day. No matter how ‘Crazy’ she may drive us, anyone who lived through the 90’s will never be able to forget Britney Jean Spears.
Watch Britney Spears Music Videos from the 90s: