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The Wall Street Journal : Will Britney Ever Take The Stage Again?


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A Britney Spears comeback is the kind of opportunity that has music-industry executives seeing dollar signs. But Ms. Spears, who has spent years battling for control over her life, has given few signs that she is ready to return to the stage or recording studio anytime soon.

The question of what Ms. Spears wants hangs over a hearing scheduled Wednesday, where a probate court will weigh the pop superstar’s petition to remove her father from the unusual conservatorship that has ruled her personal life and finances for the past 13 years. That court-approved legal arrangement, which governs everything from her daily moves to whether she can marry, has led to a public outcry that has, in turn, fueled renewed interest in the future of Ms. Spears’s career.

The conservatorship fight between Ms. Spears and her father, James P. Spears, has made the singer a symbol of women’s empowerment, one capable of attracting casual fans who might have ignored her previous nostalgia-fueled shows, music-business executives say.

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“The iron couldn’t be hotter to announce something,” says John Kellogg, an entertainment lawyer and program director for the Master of Arts in Music Business at Berklee College of Music’s online school. “Nobody has gotten this amount of publicity in quite a while.”

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be a turning point for Ms. Spears. Even if the conservatorship persists for some time longer, she would likely have more control over her activities and $60 million fortune with Mr. Spears out of the picture. Mr. Spears, who had said he would step down at some point from the conservatorship, filed a petition to end it earlier this month.

With more control, there are questions about Ms. Spears’s next career move. Even a limited return would be a music-industry milestone: Ms. Spears, a RCA Records artist, is one of the bestselling stars ever, having sold 33.8 million albums in the U.S., according to Billboard, fifth-most among female artists since 1991.

Some of her recent comments appear to leave the door open for live performances eventually.

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“I’m not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do or think,” according to a post on her Instagram account in July.

Yet Ms. Spears, who turns 40 in December, has also described feeling pressured to perform in the past and wanting to have a third child, according to her remarks before the probate court in June. On Instagram that same month, a post stated that she had no idea whether she will return to performing.

Larry Rudolph, Ms. Spears’s longtime manager, resigned in July, saying in a letter to the conservatorship that he had become “aware that Britney had been voicing her intention to officially retire.” Ms. Spears has yet to replace him, industry executives say.

Ms. Spears’s legal team didn’t make her available for an interview. Mathew Rosengart, her new lawyer, and Creative Artists Agency, her talent agency, declined to comment. Business manager Michael Kane and publicist Jeff Raymond didn’t respond to requests. James P. Spears’s legal team didn’t respond to requests.

Ms. Spears also recently became engaged to boyfriend Sam Asghari, according to her Instagram account. Her finances, which include cash assets of $2.7 million and noncash assets valued at more than $57 million, have improved since her conservatorship began in 2008, according to court filings.

The star has hit the brakes on a return before. In early 2019, she scrapped a planned Las Vegas residency, announcing an indefinite hiatus and citing her father’s health issues. That was “not the real reason behind it,” a music executive with knowledge of her decision-making says. “She [pulled] the plug because she literally couldn’t do it,” the executive says.

“I said, ‘I don’t wanna do [the residency]’ … I was getting really nervous,” Ms. Spears told a Los Angeles court in June about the 2019 show. “It was like lifting literally 200 pounds off of me when they said I don’t have to do the show anymore because it was really, really hard on myself and it was too much. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Performance issues have cropped up in the past. In 2013, for example, the Los Angeles Times criticized her previous “Piece of Me” residency at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, saying the star’s “presence felt so diminished.”

Older listeners associate Ms. Spears with early hits like “Oops!…I Did It Again.” Her debut 1999 album “…Baby One More Time” has sold over 14 million copies in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Later generations also have embraced the singer. While recent album sales haven’t matched her early highs, her midcareer and latest albums are unusually popular on streaming services for a veteran act. Ms. Spears has 12 songs with more than 100 million U.S. streams each that span the breadth of her career, according to MRC Data.

Music critics have come around, too. Ms. Spears’s latest album, 2016’s “Glory,” is her second best-reviewed album, according to review aggregator Metacritic. That appeal helped her “Piece of Me” residency, which ran from 2013 to 2017, to gross nearly $140 million, according to Billboard.

Las Vegas talent prices have risen in recent years, industry executives say. A residency makes more sense than a full-blown tour for Ms. Spears, since it allows performers a more normal lifestyle, Mr. Kellogg says.

Whether Ms. Spears will return to the recording studio is also unclear.

Ms. Spears remains in contract with RCA Records, and owes more music to the label, according to the music executive with knowledge of her decision-making. If she didn’t wish to record, she could negotiate an exit from her contract. Barring that, RCA would be wise to wait for Ms. Spears to make a move, rather than pressuring her, says Zach Scott Gainous, a Nashville-based entertainment attorney and artist manager. “Do they really want to be that villain?” he says. RCA declined to comment. RCA reissued “Glory” with additional tracks in 2020.

Should Ms. Spears retire publicly from performing and recording, she could do what many stars have done—unretire down the road, Mr. Gainous says. “It’s more likely she does something in the long run than nothing at all ever,” he says.

“I’ve worked my whole life,” Ms. Spears told the court in June. “I deserve to have a two- to three-year break and just, you know, do what I want to do.”

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Eww..that creep Jeff Raymond is still publicist? I hope the ENTIRE team from top to bottom are cleaned out and fired. 

Britney most likely wants to get married and have a baby and just rest and recover from this slavery and trauma she went through.

When and if she’s ready, we’ll be here 

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As much as I would LOVE to see her perform again, I think it is highly unlikely any time soon. When she is out of the conservatorship, she'll want to enjoy her freedom, get married and try having a baby. Maybe in the future she'll release her last B10 but I don't think she'll promote it or go on tours.

Whatever she decides, I am okay with it. She deserves having it her own way after so many years of not having a say about anything. :brityes_britney_yes_nodding:

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Of course I would love to see her come back to the stage and have full control over what she does but I just don’t think her heart is in it anymore. She’s had her career. She’s worked really hard for what she has. I don’t even blame her for being over it. She’s expressed many times that it’s her desire to retire and I completely understand. Just her being free and living her life away from these abusers makes me happy 

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yes we want new Britney music 

yes we missed her A LOT being on stage

but if as an individual you have at least one ounce of  human decency then you are as disgusted as everyone else after knowing all this information and after all these documentaries.

Guys i don't think I enjoy seeing her interviews anymore.. FF era ones specifically..

if she decides to come back we will know.. 

 

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I admit I really want new music and I'm kiiinda praying that rumour about a new album of unreleased songs is true, but she's gonna have so much to deal with even after she's free, I only want her to finally find some peace in her life and take all the time she needs to just heal. 

And I believe that healing will include being creative so I hope if she ever wants to make music again (which I honestly think she will) she does it in her own terms, with no pressure and no overexposure.

Wouldn't be surprised if she went into other creative paths like writing, etc, so I'm curious about the path she'll take in the next few years.

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3 minutes ago, Dirk said:

 

Uh, I would be so happy if she decides to put out new music by the end of next year

I think as long time fans, we are in a great dilemma. We want everything for her but deep down we want her to return to music with her full control over the choices we don't know what Britney will do after being free but as a fandom we really have seen it all. 

It's been a rollercoaster ride for us too, Britney didn't take any interest in her career after 2007 and now seen as a nostalgic act but deep down I want her to keep doing the things that made us fall in love with her but now the situation is too much to think off. 

I want her to see a peak like circus or femme fatale again, dominating the industry again working with artists again but then on the other side I also feel she might just want to retire now and live a peaceful life maybe but who knows what Britney might do, I first want to see her smile back again. 

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The iron couldn’t be hotter to announce something,” says John Kellogg, an entertainment lawyer and program director for the Master of Arts in Music Business at Berklee College of Music’s online school. “Nobody has gotten this amount of publicity in quite a while.”

LMFAO! Yeah, she will announce tomorrow that she will do a World Tour.. liek wtf? just give her time to enjoy her freedom..

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