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The Rise of Britney Spears in the Late 90s and Her Lasting Impact on Pop Culture


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Britney Spears – She Drove the 90s ‘Crazy’

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 *** appeal began to overshadow her music.

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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.

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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. (www.90s411.com)

 

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Ultimate late '90s pop princess: Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?

 

Teen pop wasn't just about boy bands in the late '90s, especially after two divas burst onto the scene like a dynamite—Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The pop stars were constantly compared in their early days, but Christina had the powerhouse vocals and won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2000. Britney is regarded as the Princess of Pop, especially ever since "...Baby One More Time" became the best-selling album by a teenage solo artist. Who's the ultimate pop princess? ??

THE VOTES ARE IN!

  • #TeamBritney - 67.4%
  • #TeamXtina - 32.6%

 

"It's Britney *****!"

Britney quickly became an icon by cementing herself into pop culture with her very first hit and music video "...Baby One More Time" in late 1998. The video was set at a high school, with Britney is dressed in a private school girl uniform. She was so innocent but not-so-innocent, and that look defined her image. Just look at the Rolling Stone cover with Britney dressed in revealing pajamas (her bra, open top, and pajama shorts) on the phone while holding a Teletubby. See innocent, but not really. ?

Teen idols were huge in the '80s and '90s across entertainment: movies, TV, and music. But Britney took to the next level with her very first teen pop anthem, which topped the Billboard Hot 100, replacing Brandy's "Have You Ever?"

Her debut album of the same name topped the Billboard 200, selling an estimated 14 million units in the United States. Not only did the album become Diamond-certified, but "...Baby One More Time" became the best-selling album by a teen artist. Her follow-up album "Oops... I Did It Again" also became Diamond-certified and her second best-selling album.

Britney has had ups and downs in her career, especially in the mid-2000s, but has also gone on to become a dance-pop icon, garnering more #1 hits in the late '00s and early '10s.

Her longevity as a relevant pop icon is the reason why many consider Britney the Princess of Pop, alongside the Queen of Pop—Madonna. (www.thetylt.com) (7/1/17)

 

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There’s a Museum in Brooklyn Dedicated to 90s Pop Culture, THNK1994

 

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Nicole Ritchie, Paris Hilton, bejeweled tracksuits, Britney Spears’ meltdown… feeling nostalgic for the early 2000s yet? If so, you might want to attend the THNK1994 Museum’s “Nicole Richie’s 2007 Memorial Day BBQ” exhibition. With “Pop Culture Died In 2009,” a group that commemorates the early 2000s, the museum presents an inspired collection of memorabilia and imagery from and inspired by the first decade of the 21st century, all seen through the lens of—you guessed it—”Nicole Richie’s 2007 Memorial Day Barbecue.”

It all started Friday night at the museum’s flashy opening gala inviting people to wear their “finest BBQ attire,” and will be on display until September 10, 2017 at the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum in Brooklyn, which has landed in a new storefront following its first hidden, apartment exhibition in 2015 dedicated to the figure skaters.

The exhibit will present a historically-minded, curated collection of some of the 2000’s most iconic moments. Celebrities featured will include Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Mischa Barton, and many more.

In the summer of 2007, Nicole Richie actually did throw a barbecue. The invitations were leaked, and at the end, Mischa Barton was hospitalized. This exhibition will imagine what it might’ve been like if everyone had access to the leaked invitation. Now you too can witness the trashiest, most disastrous and incriminating relics of that remarkable era.

It will capture split-second, yet famous moments such as Britney, Paris, and Lindsay in a car and actress Winona Ryder in court. The exhibit will also include objects like a hand-knit alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet, an “IRL .gif of Janet Jackson,” and in the spirit of the event it’s honoring, a barbecue table with mini food.

The exhibit features work by Laura Collins, Derek Covington Smith, Tiny Stitchers, Lila Freeman, and Randy G, Natassha Kwbwill, along with many others. All work will be inspired by the glossy legends of the early 2000s.

Somewhat in line with this theme, last year, THNK 1994 held a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen exhibit. But this time, get your bedazzler out, put some Britney on, and head over to Brooklyn to honor this important period in American history! (There’s a Museum in Brooklyn Dedicated to 90s Pop Culture, THNK1994) (07/28/17)

THNK1994 is open everyday from 12pm-7pm at 1436 Atlantic Avenue, New York, NY  11211

 

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Britney Spears’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ Turns 15: The Making of an Iconic Music Video (10/23/13)

 

On its 15th anniversary, Kevin Fallon talks to the director of Britney Spears’s iconic first music video about what it was like to create a major pop-culture moment.

"Oh baby baby"

It’s been 15 years since Britney Spears leaned against a locker, gazed into a camera, and mouthed those three words. In one music video, the not-that-innocent 16-year-old in pigtails shimmied in her schoolgirl uniform, fast-tracking puberty for a nation of adolescent boys and crystallizing an iconic pop-culture moment.

Since the star-making “…Baby One More Time” debuted, Spears’s career has traveled well-documented peaks and valleys, but her first music video remains one of the most influential three minutes and 57 seconds from the turn-of-the-millennium. It simultaneously crowned a pop princess and canonized a *** goddess. It was the cataclysmic collision of spitfire upstart performer, brilliant pop song, and cheeky music video. It was the explosion of the long-burning pop music fireball that is Britney Spears.

What was it like to create such a significant moment in pop culture? To find out, we called up the “…Baby One More Time” music video director himself, Nigel ****, who not only helmed Spears’s ab-baring coming out, but three more of her most memorable videos: “Sometimes,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” and “Oops!…I Did it Again.”

In a candid, sprawling chat that would make any ‘90s kid giddy, we talked about whose idea it was to go for broke with that schoolgirl costume, the controversy that surrounded the video’s sexiness, what Spears was like as a not-yet-famous 16-year-old, and why what’s happened to her and her persona can be so frustrating.

 

It’s been 15 years. Isn’t that crazy?

It’s frightening. Absolutely frightening.

What was your first impression of her?

She was a very sweet girl. She was obviously 16 at the time. She was shy. It was a very brief conversation, really. I was a grown man and she was a young girl. It’s not like we were going to hang out and talk about things you would if you were the same age. [Laughs] For both of us it was some kind of test, if you like, to see if we’d get on. It was quite short, sharp, and quick. I think she was in a dance rehearsal, I seem to remember.

But it was the song that sold you on her and made you want to do this, right?

Completely. It was just a great song, very well-produced. I’ve always been a big fan of great pop singles, right from when I was a young boy. The first time I heard, I thought this was a cracking record. I thought the picture they supplied me of Britney, which was actually the first album sleeve was a bit saccharine, I suppose is the word.

Whose idea was it to make the video something so brilliantly simple: a girl in high school, dancing with her friends?

Well I came back to L.A. and wrote a treatment, which everybody soundly rejected. It didn’t even get 1 on the Richter Scale. And they said, “Well, Britney’s got an idea. Get on the phone with her.” At which point, I was a bit nonplussed, because you’re thinking, “Oh, I’m going to be taking orders from a 16-year-old now, is that what you’re all saying?” But the thing that I realized was that I was English, she was American. She was the age group that we were trying to make the video for. So you suddenly think perhaps she has a better understanding of her key audience than I do, so perhaps it might behoove me to just shut my mouth and listen. She said, you know, I want to be in a schoolroom with a bunch of cute boys and have a lot of dancing. So that was the kernel of the idea.

It’s surprising, because I feel like when a young pop star like Britney comes out with so much record label support, you assume that everything she does it controlled by puppet masters: her representation, record execs, all of that. It’s nice to hear that she came up with that idea herself.

I mean, at the time that I worked with her she was always coming up with ideas. They weren’t always good ones, necessarily, but she was shy about sharing them. As I said, my experience of life was quite different from Britney’s experience. So you go, you know what? I need to listen to what this person has to say. It might not all be good, but there’s something in there which would make it unique for her. I’ve worked with many artists in my life, and I’ve realized that it’s better if there’s something of them coming through the video rather than a lot of me. Because it is for them. I’m tailoring a suit for them, and they’re going to have to live with it.

The iconic part of the video, obviously, is the school outfit. Whose idea was that?

That was Britney’s again.

So she’s the one who wanted to wear that!?

Well, I directed the wardrobe person to go and get wardrobe that I felt and thought kids would wear at school. And, again, being a grown man, I didn’t spend my time hanging out in kids’ schools. But you drive around, you see kids coming back from school, catching the bus, and what not. And they all seemed to wear jeans and t-shirts and have backpacks on. So we got a whole bunch of stuff like that. Britney took one look at all this and said, “Well, wouldn’t I be wearing a schoolgirl outfit?” I sort of went, “uhh, I don’t know about that.” Both my producer and the lady from wardrobe thought it was OK.

Why didn’t you think it was a good idea?

I raised a red flag and said, “Let’s take a step back for a minute. Are we sure this is a good idea?” And, of course, then, being women, they saw a completely innocent version of it. Then we went with it.

So you were concerned about the *** factor, with the level of sexuality she was portraying?

You know, I hadn’t seen the performance she was going to give at that point. We were in dance rehearsals. At some level, perception is everything. If you choose to look at the video and say it’s a cute girl dancing, you know, a cutesy thing—she’s just having fun with her friends, then that’s what it is. If you choose to say turn down the lights and get out your Mac, your old raincoat, it can become something different.

There wasn’t any directive at her, or conversation behind the scenes, about “sexing it up,” then?

We certainly didn’t go in there and say, alright let’s amp it up and make it sexier. This is what came out the box and we shot it. It was not amped to be anything. A lot of extra baggage has been attached to it, on some level. Certainly when she walks out and she’s got her shirt attached at the waist—the thing that I thought was most interesting were the little pink thingies in her hair. That’s what I focused on. It was really, as the best things are, a collision of events.

But this was quite the controversial collision of events.

Certainly there was some controversy about it, and I took a huge amount of stick for it. But I stood by what we did. It was who she was at the time. It wasn’t pushed in any particular way.

It wasn’t thrust on her at all, then? She wasn’t uncomfortable with it?

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Because beyond “…Baby One More Time,” the first few videos of hers, which you directed most of, all had Britney wearing very ****** wardrobe: the tube top in “Crazy,” the red catsuit in “Oops!…I Did it Again.”

The next thing that happened after the video was made, she did a picture session for Rolling Stonewith David LaChapelle, which was actually shot in her house, I believe. And that was very ******. Then things got a bit crazy, and at that point a big effort was made by everybody—me included—to keep it under control a bit. From that point on, every video I did with her she wanted to get sexier and sexier. My argument to her was, look, you’ve got this audience now. You’re trying to accelerate your process along with them too fast. For the next year or two you can afford to be just a little bit more under control, and then perhaps you can go with it in that direction a bit later.

So she was enjoying all the attention she was getting for her sexuality?

I mean I’ve never had a daughter. I’ve never had a sister. But I’ve observed people who have kids, and the thing I’ve learned is that as they get into their late teens, as we all do, they start trying out things. They start pushing the limits: how short can I wear this dress? How low can I wear this neckline? You only have to drive past a queue of people waiting in line to get into a club now and they’re all dressed like hookers. So perhaps they won’t be like that when they grow up in another five years’ time, but that’s what everybody does. The difference is that most people are just going to a club. They’re not going in front of a bunch of cameras. When you’re going in front of a bunch cameras, you need to take a second look. Certainly, this opening salvo, so to speak, was within the acceptable limits, but I think a lot of people thrust a lot of perception onto it. It may have been subconsciously there, but they certainly pulled it out and made it front and center, I think.

How was she on camera at first? She did have some experience already, with The Mickey Mouse Club, but this was her first major music video.

She was great. To be honest, I didn’t really know about the Mickey Mouse background. The thing is, I’ve worked with many, many artists over the years, and you don’t know how they’re going to work until you do it. Sometimes the camera starts rolling and you get to the end of the first take and you go up and you go, “Great. Fantastic.” And inside you’re going, “Holy crap, this is going to be tough.” But with her, it was like, alright, we’re ready, let’s do this. And we did the first take, and it was wonderful. So I was like, OK, let’s move on. There was no feeling of, “Oh my god, I’m going to have to work really hard to get something out of this.” It was just: she’s got it. She knows what she’s doing. She’s taking direction. She was a very hard worker. I’m always impressed, every time I worked with her, how hard she worked. Of all the young stars of that era, she was the hardest working and the best prepared.

Did you have any sense when you were directing this that it even had the possibility of turning into something so iconic?

No. None.

But were you pleased with it?

I just felt good about the work and I thought it was quite special, and then I showed it to a bunch of people and they were completely unimpressed by it. I thought, oh, this is worrying, because I think it’s quite good, but I guess my peers think it’s ****. What am I going to do? Then it came out on a Friday, and by Tuesday morning, I’m a genius. So it’s interesting how perception changes. Of course, a lot of that perception is because it hit a target with people her age. It really took off.

To say the least. What’s your reaction to its cultural impact?

The thing that I feel is that some videos I made I’m very proud of because I feel they’re mine on some level. I feel that the world has taken the “…Baby One More Time” video, and it belongs to the world now. That sounds a bit grandiose, doesn’t it?

I think it’s absolutely true.

I’m quoted as saying, “Whatever happens, I made a little ripple in pop culture.” For that particular point, I’m proud of that, because I’m a huge fan of music and pop culture and the rest of it. So to be in that process and be part of something that rich and have a page in the big book of pop culture is something to be proud of, I think. Or maybe not [laughs]. But I was there. Let’s put it that way.

And 15 years later, she’s still doing it. Have you and Britney stayed in touch?

I haven’t. I haven’t seen her since we did “Oops!…I Did it Again.”

What do you think of the direction she’s taken over the years?

You know, in the middle period there when things were getting rocky for her, I was very upset. I mean, I just felt that—I literally, at one point, wanted to get in my car, of course I didn’t know where she lived, but drive there and stand at the gate and go, “**** off and leave her alone! Just go away! Just bugger off!” You’re part of the problem. You’re a big part of the problem. I felt it was very cruel what happened to her.

It’s nice, though, that you got to work with her before any of this circus surrounded her.

I think it’s still on my website, but when we did “Oops!…I Did Again,” I wrote a long screed about how things had changed for her, and how when we made “…Baby One More Time” she was just one of the young kids on the set dancing. She just happened to be the one in front of the camera. We were on the school grounds for three days and nobody gave us any mind at all. “Who’s the video for?” “Britney Spears.” “Oh,” and then people would just walk away. And then six months later that completely changed. That weekend when the video was released, on Thursday afternoon she could walk into a 7-Eleven and order a Slurpee and nobody would pay any attention, and then by Monday morning all of that was gone and she could never go back.

When you watch the video back now, is there a moment in it that makes you smile because it brings back a particular memory of the shoot?

The moment when she’s just standing in front of the lockers and she just looks at the camera. It was a gag, a technique, that I used to employ at the time. Look away, look at the camera. Look away, look at the camera. And she just does it without any—she’s not self-conscious about it at all. It was wonderful to be able to work with somebody that young and who had that facility and who wasn’t affected or fake. That’s just who she was. It’s a true reflection of the spirit of this young person as she was at the time: joyful, energetic, fun, and bubbly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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