Describe by Larry Busacca/WireImage
By Ilana Kaplan
An eponymous album marks a major moment in an artist’s career. For females, owning one’s work, body, and artistry can be especially highly effective, even political. All via Ladies’s History Month, MTV Information is highlighting these varieties of iconic statements from a few of the ideal artists on the globe. That is Self-Titled.
Several images have outlined Britney Spears for the duration of her career: debuting distressed in a (then) controversial, edgy Catholic college-lady outfit about how her loneliness is killing her; steamy in white, kissing Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Song Awards; distraught and battling her mental health and tabloid tradition as she beat a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella a few years later.
Nonetheless one particular scene stands out as a cultural reset for the star: when Spears carried out her raunchy hit “I’m a Slave 4 U” at the 2001 VMAs with an albino Burmese python named Banana draped around her neck. It may perhaps’ve been apt another awards demonstrate performance, but it became pop-music historical past. The space was hanging — a jungle of Spears’s bear making — featuring the singer and her washboard abs scantily clad in a green chiffon scarf-bra and gem-encrusted boy shorts that eventually helped fund the Halloween costume industry.
As the lead single of her self-titled album Britney, “I’m a Slave 4 U” was a hypnotic, hip-hop-infused anthem that touted a more mature sound than listeners had heard ahead of. Nonetheless it absolutely wasn’t apt a single: It symbolized a original era. Her VMAs rendition extra solidified it. The performance, appreciate the music, had energy. Gone had been the crimson-ribbon pigtails and cardigans: Spears was embracing her raw sexuality and also making a declarative response to the criticism she received for being too risqué. Whether or now not the public appreciated it or now not, the pop icon was growing up, and her liberated sound and provocative performances had been now going to match.
Spears’s MTV performance came apt two months ahead of she’d release Britney, her boundary-pushing third album that served as a primer for pop longevity. Britney pushed fashion boundaries and chanced on the artist toying with everything from rock and R&B to hip-hop and disco. For Spears, Britney was emblematic of her pop potential, and its coming-of-age narrative paralleled Janet Jackson’s 1986 reset Sustain watch over. The 12-track file flaunted her versatility via the retro-futuristic, R&B-laced “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys”; the electro-ballad “That’s Where You Take Me”; the defiant dance-pop jaunt “Overprotected”; and the fiery quilt of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’s anthemic “I Fancy Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Britney also allowed Spears to be seen as more than a performer. Whereas they weren’t singles, Spears co-wrote five of the album’s tracks: “Lonely,” “Anticipating,” “Cinderella,” “Let Me Be,” and “That’s Where You Take Me.” She partnered once again with hit producers Max Martin and partner Rami Yacoub, who helped her transition from her first two information to a more mature phase. It also proved she wasn’t afraid of edgier production, enlisting The Neptunes to assist acquire what may perhaps be two of the album’s hit singles (“I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys”).
Whereas Britney was contemporaneously written off as “a idea file about herself,” 20 years later, the album scans as an earnest depiction of a younger star coming of age beneath a microscope and attempting to abilities life on her bear terms. If 1999’s debut …Baby One Extra Time touted innocence and 2000’s observe-up Oops!…I Did It Again tackled the loneliness of fame, Britney grappled with wanting to have autonomy — over her body, life, and alternatives. Her emotions about the wish to stay freely and without judgment had been in plain peep. “All you folks gaze at me appreciate I’m a minute lady / Neatly, did you ever contemplate it’d be OK for me to step into this world?” Spears declares on “I’m a Slave 4 U.” “Overprotected” mirrored the crushing weight of fame and Spears’s need for normality — due in part to the overwhelming paparazzi. The Martin- and Dido-penned “I’m No longer a Girl, No longer But a Woman” mirrored the in-between state Spears chanced on herself in and the space she wished to search out it.
Nonetheless Spears was never really given that space. The Novel York Occasions’s fresh Hulu documentary Framing Britney Spears — which re-examines her career, the cruelty of the media, and contextualizes her conservatorship — recalled how Spears, now not rather 20 years mature when this album dropped, was met repeatedly with questions about her virginity and intercourse life. And Britney was a statement that required no extra questioning — a portrait of a younger lady reckoning with both adulthood and her sexuality. But this self-actualization was disregarded, and Spears was now not fully plagued perpetually by intimate questions but christened one in all pop tradition’s “Lolitas,” alongside Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Lindsay Lohan, and Christina Aguilera. Unfortunately, that defective sentiment overshadowed the pop star’s bear fable and haunted her career for the duration of her high-tail of self-discovery.
The narrative and release of Britney also lent itself to a visual factor. In early 2001, Spears and her team helped craft a script for a film where the singer would make her debut in a starring role. That script became 2002’s teen drama Crossroads, which followed three childhood chums Lucy (Spears), Equipment (Zoe Saldana), and Mimi (Taryn Manning), as they embarked on a road travel where Mimi may perhaps audition for a file label. The film was somewhat reflective of Spears’s bear high-tail of growing up and pursuing her pop-star dreams. It was also shaped by tracks from Britney that shaped a blossoming narrative. “I’m No longer a Girl, No longer But a Woman” can seem appreciate a schmaltzy ballad, but it was a formative moment for Spears and her onscreen character who read the music as a poem and later carried out it. It remains a metaphor about a younger woman at the peak of stardom who was bending and may perhaps break without the breathing room to develop up.
Twenty years because the release of Britney, the album is representative of the complexities of younger stardom. For the past 13 years, Spears has been stuck in an in-between state that recalls the sentiment of Britney, in a conservatorship that has controlled her life in ways she perhaps couldn’t have imagined back in 2001. In the context of the fresh Spears renaissance, the file is simultaneously a pop masterpiece, a plea for autonomy and respect, and a statement to the media. Her loneliness wasn’t killing her anymore, but the scrutiny surrounding her life and image was. Whereas Britney helped establish a foundation for Spears’s pop superstardom, it also mirrored the harrowing state of early 2000s media tradition, slut-shaming, and the way it suffocated younger females. Britney was a message we disregarded, and we must have known larger.