All of us, as fans, can look back over the years since Britney Spears first impacted on our lives, and see very clearly a whole set of milestones – key events that drew us closer and closer to Britney, the person and the star. If we think a little harder, we can see how we ourselves grew up with Britney in our lives, and how we were changed – possibly without even realising it. I wasn’t an early-adopter of Ms Spears. I missed out on the golden years when she was this huge, shiny new phenomenon, one of the most spectacular performers and loveliest of stars the world had seen. By the time I came to her, she was already “off the rails”, “damaged goods”, and her survival in the business was very much in question. So my Special Britney Moments will probably be very, very different from yours. I hope you’ll be willing to share!
Here are some of mine.
I see Britney and realise she is not like other celebrities
As an average-height, big-bootied brunette I’d given up all hope of being a star or a model. I knew that model agencies didn’t hire people like me, and proper celebrities always seemed to be tall, skinny blondes. Then along came a star who changed everything and made being brunette and well-junked fashionable. It wasn’t Britney though – it was Jennifer Lopez, presenting an Oscar for “The Full Monty”. An onstage camera captured a glimpse of that big, delicious derriere in a tight, sexy dress, the world’s collective heart skipped a beat, and suddenly I felt a lot better about myself. And THEN along came Britney Spears. At that tipping-point of history, she was the only star in the entire world of music who had a better booty than any of her dancers. Most men noticed. And she was like me! My body-image soared! I became a…. well, let’s not go into that.
I find a Britney forum for the first time
Was I a latecomer to the internet? I think so. I’m usually late with technology, as fans of dear departed PoorBritney.com will tell you – I couldn’t contribute anything for about 3 months because my tired old computer wouldn’t work with the Squarespace platform. Anyway, when I first got on to the internet, I was a Mariah stan and as I searched for information about her, I found myself – quite accidentally – on a forum. And here were all these confident and knowledgeable people expressing their views, in print, in public, for all to see! Being renowned as an incurably argumentative bitch, I had to join up and add my ten-cents’ worth. And then I discovered that the site was an umbrella for other forums and one was about Britney! It was a sad and lonely place, back then in 2003. Nothing much was happening, whereas the Mariah forum was a whirlwind of activity, centred upon some hilarious guys known as the “crazy Malaysians”. But it was the eve of the ITZ era, and soon all eyes would be on Britney Spears, and stay that way for years.
I find WoB and join The Resistance
I hadn’t paid much attention after first noticing Britney, I’m ashamed to say. A couple of interesting things had happened. She’d had a great reception from most of the media, but that was as a new phenomenon. Now they were becoming restless and ready to chop her off at the knees if an opportunity arose. The British tabloids were already introducing a snide tone to their remarks, with The Sun’s showbiz editor wondering in public why anyone needed her anyway. As I will describe later, the UK “Crossroads” premiere provided ammunition, and it was obvious she was now damaged goods. And then there was WorldOfBritney – a site that showed the true meaning of love/hate relationships, if ever there was one. The site owner had already posted a long blog bashing Britney for not being “the same girl” he fell for, and her people for not making Britney as accessible to him as he thought he deserved. He promised to post the bad along with the good. And somehow he always found more of the bad and believed every word of it. This had been going on for some time when I found the WoB Forums and joined the Resistance Movement. The tide of opposition to his negativity eventually became so great that the owner closed the forums down.
The “unique vocal signature” moment
Nothing in what I’d seen in my early exposure to Britney Spears persuaded me that the music industry, or music critics, would take her seriously. And the deliberate way in which they snubbed her at her first Grammys seemed to confirm this view. I’m not sure if they disapproved of her Lolita-ish tendencies or her omnipresence in the media, but they sure as hell resented her part in the victory of pop over rock in the late 1990s. Media coverage had dealt with her as a phenomenon, but this was more like an earthquake or flood than something good. It was with some amazement, then, that I happened to tune my car radio in on a discussion of her second album “Oops I Did It Again” on BBC Radio One, and they were talking about the strength and catchiness of the material and about her “unique vocal signature”. Amazingly, they weren’t being sneery at all, but were talking about her as an artist of substance, with qualities capable of mature evaluation! This flicked some subconscious switches in my brain and, henceforth, I think I reserved a place for her as a force to be reckoned with in my own world – some day. Interestingly, this strand of serious critical appreciation of Britney in the UK has continued, more so in the “quality” newspapers than the tabloids, and spear-headed by Mr Pete Robinson of PopJustice.com.
Britney appears on TV music shows and makes fun of male interviewers
Those fans who spend so much time bashing Britney for her awkwardness on TV may not realise that it was not always thus. At one time she was renowned above all her peers for her ability to play up to a TV camera and work an interview. You’ve seen her highly expressive face on “The X Factor”, not least when Fifth Harmony got through to the finals… right? Well, back in her early days, she often used facial expressions as a kind of confidential Britney-to-viewer commentary on the interviewer and his questions (she did it mostly to males). There were faces that said “Who the hell IS this creep anyway?” and “This is a dumb question – isn’t it?!” This was adorable, and formed part of the unusual bond between Britney and her fans. Sadly, as she got older she became more self-conscious, and no longer made her feelings quite so obvious. There was a phase when she seemed fairly relaxed and humorous in interviews, but the special Britney Faces had gone.
The “Crossroads” premiere debacle and a damsel in distress
The UK tabloids have given Britney shock-horror front page headlines on many occasions. The morning after the first Onyx Hotel show in the UK, she got “WON’T SING – CAN’T DANCE” from the Daily Star. The UK “Crossroads” premiere was a gift from Heaven for them all. Stars arriving at premieres usually take time to talk to their assembled fans, and a massive crowd was waiting… and waiting. Ms Spears was running very late. There were moms with young daughters in the crowd. And when Britney arrived, looking like a princess, she swept straight past them without stopping. A friend later revealed to “Glamour” magazine that Britney had been wearing a priceless diamond necklace that was on loan, and had been instructed by insurance reps not to get close enough for anybody to steal it. But anyway. There were reporters and press photographers there too, and they didn’t get the shots they were hoping for. They began to boo (you can hear this quite clearly on the video), not the fans. Britney appeared on the balcony, still in princess mode, and the fans cheered. But the press had created their own story: “Furious fans boo rude Britney”. It was front-page news on every tabloid. They all carried the same abusive comments by the same two moms (if they were even real) as if they represented Britney’s fans as a whole. It was so obvious to me that it was all a set-up. I was outraged. For the tabloids, the next day was business as usual – pictures of Britney in a skimpy bikini and headlines announcing “Sexy star frolics on the beach!” Ho hum.
I buy “ITZ” and play it in the car
Despite my growing interest in Britney as a person, a personality and a gorgeous girl, by late 2003 I still couldn’t count myself among the fans of her music. I was still very much a MOBO girl. But, as it happened, I was hanging around with boys at that time, and my then-boyfriend was a Britney fan. As the year progressed, he kept building up the whole “new Britney album” thing, and eventually I got caught up in the excitement too. The day when “In The Zone” was released finally dawned, and it felt like Christmas – except that I had to attend a management meeting at an out-of-town branch first thing in the morning. But, when the meeting ended, instead of zipping back to HQ for further management delights, I took a 10-mile detour to the record store, bought “In The Zone”, and played it in my car right there and then. And it was love at first listen. I never imagined that her music would be supercool and urban like this. It didn’t offend the ears of a MOBO girl at all. There I was, driving along, hammering my steering wheel to “I Got That Boom Boom”, smiling at “Touch Of My Hand” and welling up when “Everytime” played. This girl had my heart in her hands, and now there were no doubts. I was becoming obsessed, and a few years were commencing when I was thinking and worrying about her at some point of every waking hour.
Britney becomes “world’s sexiest woman” in the FHM poll
Throughout 2004, Britney made headlines for her highly sexualized “Onyx Hotel” show, did numerous semi-nude photoshoots, and was featured – or so it seemed – on the cover of just about every magazine. She was probably the most desired woman in the world at that point, and delicious rumors kept spreading that she was about to do a shoot for “Playboy”. If such an issue had ever appeared, offices all over the world would have emptied as men queued for their copies. It seemed both fitting and inevitable, then, that she was voted “World’s Sexiest Woman” in FHM Magazine. Fans like myself felt so validated, seeing that it wasn’t just us who felt that way. Our girl’s lovely face and perfect body were recognised and lusted after by men who were far from being fans of her music. From 2003 into 2004 she’d become the pop star to whom all new female stars were compared. She’d had a number one album, several number one singles, a sell-out tour, and was acknowledged as the world’s most beautiful woman. It was a wonderful, amazing moment to be her fan. I felt so proud.
“Toxic” is announced as No.1 on BBC Radio One
Britney hasn’t had a lot of chart success in the UK. No matter what she does throughout the rest of the world, and even in neighboring Ireland, it always seems to pass the UK by. The lead single from “In The Zone”, the amazing “Me Against The Music” didn’t exactly flop, but it didn’t get to Number One. However, BBC Radio One and a lot of local radio stations adored the second single, “Toxic” and pre-release it seemed to be on everybody’s A-list. There was a chance – a good chance – that it would debut at No.1. This was back in the days before the charts were mostly made up of digital downloads, and to buy a single you actually had to commit to going to a record store and the store actually had to stock singles in physical form! Bizarre, I know. The BBC built up the suspense throughout the Sunday afternoon chart show, throwing out lots of alternatives that COULD be Number One – such as Jessica Simpson, who’d made a lot of friends with her reality TV series. I went out into the garden with my little radio turned up to the max, and started doing a little quiet, QUIET work. Waiting, waiting. As the chart countdown proceeded, most of the Number One contenders were eliminated until we got to Number Two, and “Toxic” was still in the race. And when they announced Number Two and it WASN’T “Toxic”, I think I hugged a tree – and definitely cried with joy.
I hear the Scumfrog remix of “Everytime”
There was a kind of aura about “Everytime”, the third single from “In The Zone”. Weeks before its release, the tabloids and celeb mags were full of stories about the video. It was being reported that it was a suicide video, the victim being Britney. There was outrage that she was so irresponsible as to glorify suicide. There was always a better way. Think of the loved ones left behind, devastated. How selfish, and wouldn’t Britney Spears do ANYTHING for publicity! Of course she denied it was a suicide video and officially stated that suicide was never the answer. Only later did we discover that the one instruction she gave to the director was that she had to die in the video. So there was this air of darkness, of tragedy. And the song was a bleak, heartbreaking, unconditional confession and apology, where the average human being would have offered excuses and self-defense. What we could never have suspected was that “Everytime” could be made even darker and more devastating. The Scumfrog remix was all of that – and I don’t even like remixes. At 10 minutes, it’s long, VERY long compared to the other laughably upbeat remixes. And most of it is instrumental. For some minutes, Britney’s voice only enters to emit little cries, gasps and sobs. Then she sings “Notice me, take my hand” and it hits hard because the key seems to have been changed to minor. Some almost inaudible whispering. An instrumental passage, followed by Britney, just breathing softly. Then she sings again, in a strange, ghostly voice. More instrumentals, more breathing. Then the beat suddenly stops, and it’s just Britney, all alone, gasping “Oh… oh…. oh…” The effect is simply heartbreaking. I often played it in my car on the way to work, and arrived with my eyes streaming with tears.
I see the Onyx Hotel show
I was amazed that Britney Spears was bringing her show to my town. After all, we’d been avoided for years by my previous goddess, Ms Mariah Carey. I had to see Britney. There was no option of “what if you can’t”. And so, on the day when ticket sales were opening, I arranged with my girlfriends that we would all hit Ticketmaster at the same time, while keeping in touch with each other, and each of us would try to book tickets for the whole group! If one of us succeeded, everyone else would stop. And if more than one succeeded, we’d sell the surplus on eBay! It got pretty frustrating, and after a while none of us had tickets and Ticketmaster was saying “Sold out”. I burst into tears, but at that very moment one of the girls phoned: “I got them!!” On the big night, the queue at the arena was the longest I’d ever seen. Mostly it was couples in their 20s, but quite a few crews of screamagers were already hyperexcited. I was 23 but my gang was almost as bad. The expectation had been massively raised by the media because this was Britney’s first full UK tour, and she was massively controversial. Early reviews had been very negative, but some people emerging from the shows said it was the best they’d ever seen. Quite frankly, most fans could hardly believe we were breathing the same air as this superhuman creature. She was utterly charismatic. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her. I scarcely noticed if she had dancers on stage. She was sex on legs. And her body…. we knew that, out of the 10,000 people crammed into that hall, none of us had a body like that. Yes, yes, she lip-synched and all of that, but the 90 minutes passed like 15 and I walked out with the greatest feeling of happiness. Yes, that was what it meant to be entertained.
I write my first article about Britney and post it at WoB
Just a few days after Britney flew back to America, just a few days after she proposed to Kevin Federline on the plane, she hurt her knee on the ill-starred “Outrageous” video shoot. Dancing like crazy on a wet street at night can’t have been a great idea. But her comments in the aftermath weren’t of the “pick yourself up and carry on” variety. She gleefully cancelled the rest of the tour, made a few vague promises that she’d visit the cancelled cities at some time in the future, and withdrew to shack up with K.Fed and recuperate. Within a month it seemed that she’d not only adopted another persona to bring herself down to Federline’s level, but even inhabited a new body – one that was far from glamorous, and with a face that was far from pretty. Later in the year, she married K.Fed, and some of the things she said in interviews immediately afterwards had the feeling of a goodbye. Around about this time, I had begun to experiment with certain substances, to help distract me, not only from the Britney situation, but also from some developing issues with my own sexuality. And one night, while experimenting, I walked out into the woods and was sure that I saw this beautiful but sad girl whom I instantly identified as Britney. And she told me she was retiring from music, she couldn’t bear the stress of the media attention any more, and she was just going to be a full-time mom. She was looking forward to being a normal girl like her friends back in Louisiana. She hated being famous. And with that, she melted into the mist and I wandered slowly home. I felt driven to share what I’d learnt with the Britney community, so I wrote my very first article “Britney Spears Has Left The Room” and posted it online right there and then. The feedback was mixed, but a few months later somebody sent me an e-mail attachment marked “Sad article about Britney – you must read this” – and it was MY article. It seemed to have been circulating out there like a Chinese whisper.
“Britney the Dancer” is posted and I find a friend
When the WoB Forums closed down, a lot of the dispossessed members migrated to a new forum called The Music Refuge. It wasn’t like a message board, it was literally like a village with everyone having their role in the community. Unfortunately, I was the hooker who lived in a trailer on the other side of the tracks! But, because TMR was a kind of alternative life, attendance was not optional. Even when I was on holiday, I felt obliged to check in every day. And it was a place where you could make friends – and these were friendships that lasted. It must be 8 years ago that I posted an article there called “Britney The Dancer” (which you can find here at NewBritneyology) and among the people who replied was a wonderful girl who became my best friend, my fairy godmother and, one terrible night, the person who talked me out of suicide and stayed online with me till morning. That girl is the owner of NewBritneyology – she set it up, pays for it, and doesn’t interfere at all – ever. She’s very talented and used to write some pretty amazing Britney-related fan fiction, although she says she isn’t a fan now. But we became close through Britney, and without the kinds of people Britney draws to her, my life would have been very sad and very short.
Britneyology.com is set up… and closes down
Also among the great friends I made at The Music Refuge was Jason, who was a fan of the articles I posted there, and felt strongly that they needed a place of their own on the internet, where they could stand as a lasting resource for Britney fans (with a long attention span and high boredom threshold) who wanted to dig a little deeper. And thus was Britneyology.com born. What Jason designed and built wasn’t so much a blog as a fully-featured, fully-structured website – although, having said that, I had to write all of my posts in HTML! We built up a vast archive of articles over several years. But unfortunately, Jason had quite a few problems in his life, and the plans he had made for improvements to Britneyology came to nothing. And in the end he either forgot to pay the bills or was in no position to pay them, and the site closed down quite suddenly. By this point, I was writing new material for PoorBritney.com (probably one of the best Britney sites of all time) so I wasn’t TOO upset by the loss of Britneyology. But then PoorBritney closed down too! I realised I had to do something. NewBritneyology was the result. Fortunately, I had written most of the Britneyology and PoorBritney content offline and didn’t lose everything.