Britney Spears

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Britney Spears : biography

December 2, 1981 –

Reporter Ed Bumgardner commented her transition from teen pop start to adult sex symbol with her third studio album Britney "takes its cues from two other successful performers—Madonna and Janet Jackson—both of whom she brazenly rips off and both of whom, like Spears, are passable singers, at best." Critic Shane Harrison wrote: "From the minimalist thump and "Nasty" feel of "I’m a Slave 4 U" to the scattered quotes in "Boys", [Britney] feels like [Spears’s] attempt at ‘Control’."

Citing Jackson’s resolve to incorporate personal and social issues into her work and Madonna’s ability to constantly redefine the boundaries of socially acceptable material in the industry, Spears’s catalog ultimately pales in comparison, because "[w]hile Jackson and Madonna wrote their own music about subjects of importance, [Spears’s] music sounds like an upbeat version of either, ‘I want to grow up but the media won’t let me,’ or ‘Here kitty, kitty, I’m wearing my underwear outside of my leather pants’-type ballads." In contrast, Guy Blackman argues that although "no one would argue that Spears is some kind of pioneering pop auteur, there’s still a lot to like about her back catalogue. During her world-conquering peak, she was just about as cutting edge as you could get in the world of global pop superstardom. Spears didn’t just work with big names, she gave big names their names, and maintained her high currency in the world’s most fickle industry for years, when most aspiring starlets are lucky to manage months."

After meeting Spears face to face, Janet Jackson stated: "she said to me, ‘I’m such a big fan; I really admire you.’ That’s so flattering. Everyone gets inspiration from some place. And it’s awesome to see someone else coming up who’s dancing and singing, and seeing how all these kids relate to her. A lot of people put it down, but what she does is a positive thing." Madonna’s respect for Spears has also been a subject of observation. Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, authors of Madonna’s drowned worlds: new approaches to her cultural transformations, 1983–2003 (2004) note that the most well known cross-generational relationship exists between Spears and Madonna in which "the entertainment newsmedia almost became obsessed with their relationship of mutual admiration." The biographers also report "[s]ome observers of popular culture, however, feel that the comparisons between the two artist are meaningless and fail to recognize Madonna’s unique contribution: Madonna was never ‘just another pop star’ whereas Britney can more easily be seen as a standard manufactured pop act."

Life and career

1981–97: Early life and career beginnings

Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2, 1981, the second child of Lynne Irene (née Bridges) and James Parnell Spears. Her maternal grandmother, Lillian Portell, was English (born in London), and one of Spears’s maternal great-great-grandfathers was Maltese. Her siblings are Bryan James and Jamie Lynn. At age three, she started attending dance lessons in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, and was selected to perform as a solo artist at the annual recital. During her childhood, she also attended gymnastics and voice lessons, and won many state-level competitions and children’s talent shows. Spears made her local stage debut at age five, singing "What Child Is This?" at her kindergarten graduation. She said about her ambition as a child, "I was in my own world, […] I found out what I’m supposed to do at an early age". At age eight, Spears and her mother Lynne traveled to Atlanta for an audition in the 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club. Casting director Matt Casella rejected her for being too young to join the series at the time, but introduced her to Nancy Carson, a New York City talent agent. Carson was impressed with Spears’s vocals and suggested enrolling her at the Professional Performing Arts School; shortly after, Lynne and her daughters moved to a sublet apartment in New York. Spears was hired for her first professional role as the understudy for the lead role of Tina Denmark in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless!. She also appeared as a contestant on the popular television show Star Search and was cast in a number of commercials. In December 1992, she was finally cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, but returned to Kentwood after the show was canceled. She enrolled at Parklane Academy in nearby McComb, Mississippi. Although she made friends with most of her classmates, she compared the school to "the opening scene in Clueless with all the cliques. […] I was so bored. I was the point guard on the basketball team. I had my boyfriend, and I went to homecoming and Christmas formal. But I wanted more."