This post features the one I wrote for Wellcome Collection’s blog, but with the unabridged intro I cut from it.
Ever since Britney Jean Spears erupted on the pop scene in the late ’90s, she smashed records and captured the public’s imagination. I still vividly remember her debut on TOTP when I was 15 and how my mind was blown. Crowned the Princess of Pop, her debut single “…Baby One More Time” reached number 1 in every country it charted and is still one of the best selling singles of all time.
Spears’ subsequent singles and albums were also hugely successful, earning awards and immortalising her in pop culture for ever. People seemed fascinated by Spears, even (or perhaps especially) if they weren’t fans of her or her music.
Being one of the most successful and high profile musicians on earth comes with a price. Along with the regular problems many of us deal with at one time or another (the loss of loved ones, relationship breakdowns, being a working parent), Spears had the world watching her every move, waiting for her to fail. In early 2007 Spears shaved her head in an LA hair salon, marking the beginning of a very public breakdown, graphically played out on the pages of tabloids and celebrity websites all over the globe.
Issy Beech recently wrote for Vice: “Everywhere you looked, you’d see Britney robbed of her privacy. Mocked, chased, insulted, embarrassed, harassed, and defamed. A violating upskirt photograph of her crotch made worldwide news for weeks. She was 26. And a mother of two. The world watched, and fed off her instability. They egged the madness on.”
Later that year, Spears released her fifth album “Blackout”. Despite what she was going through at the time, it was yet another success and is arguably her best body of work to date. Subsequent albums brought more success and broke more records (Spears is currently tied with Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson for the number of number of albums debuting at number one). And all while Spears was on the road to recovery, regaining control of her life and estate bit by bit.
Although her recent work has been commercially successful on the whole, its quality, spirit and impact have never quite matched her former glory. In part this may be due to the material as well as newcomers snapping at her heels, grasping for her crown. Last week’s release of Britney Spears’ ninth album, however (pleasingly titled “Glory”), is a return to form and the beginning of a new chapter.
Below is the post I wrote for Wellcome Collection’s blog.
How does a record breaking pop icon relate to a medical, art and science museum like Wellcome Collection? The link may (quite rightly) be tenuous, but as the singer’s ninth album is released today, our Web Editor Russell Dornan has trawled the collections in celebration, looking for any connections he could find (no matter how questionable!).
Ever since Britney Spears erupted on the pop scene in the late ’90s, she smashed records and captured the public’s imagination. I still remember her first appearance on TOTP when I was 15 and how my mind was blown. Crowned the Princess of Pop, her debut single “…Baby One More Time” reached number 1 in every country it charted and is still one of the best selling singles of all time.
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