A Brave New Woman: Britney Spears
By Colleen Maree Quill
One of the most talked about women of her generation, Britney Spears is on the brink of releasing her fourth album, IN THE ZONE. Nay Sayers in the media predict that if this album does not sell well, Britney’s music career could be over. Britney’s last album ‘Britney’ sold 4 million copies and was hailed as a flop. In comparison, her former love, Justin Timberlake’s solo effort, Justified, has sold over 3 million and has been considered a huge success. Britney has graced the cover of Rolling Stone five times- 4 of those times alone. She has been nominated for Grammy’s, fawned over by Madonna, left both Colin Farrell and Fred Durst pining for her lush curves and was recently crowned one of Glamour magazine’s Women of The Year.
There are new articles and rumors circulating about Britney Spears on a daily basis all over the world. She blows off steam dancing and going out with her friends like any normal co-ed her age, the only difference is Britney getting vilified in the press the next day about it. In the last eighteen months Britney has stopped sweetly smiling over every obstacle thrown her way. When a photographer relentlessly harassed her in Mexico, she gave him the finger. She had to deal with a much publicized break up from Justin and her parents’ announcing they were getting a divorce in the same time span. If that wasn’t enough, Fred Durst who is questionably 9-11 years her senior depending on the source, continues in the light of his recent commercial failure with Limp Bizkit, to try to gain the spotlight by expressing heart break over Britney. Fred, please ‘Cry Me a River’ and take a lesson from the master of discretion, Ms. Spears herself.
Unlike Mandy Moore who recently stated she was feels she should refund the money to anyone who purchased her first album, Britney does not disown her earlier efforts because it’s made her who she is today as an artist. She told Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Primetime Live she would love to have a voice like friend Christina Aguilera or Whitney Houston. For the ultimate pop fans looking for Christina-like influences listen to “Get Your’s, Get Mine” off of Stripped, then Britney’s new tune ‘The Hook Up.’ Britney also discovers the beauty of enjoying the pleasures her mind comes up with in ‘The Touch of My Hand.’
What’s life like for this phenom living life under a microscope? I was thrown into a mix of journalists and online press to find out. Here’s the result.
How much of these songs represent you?
I think every song. I mean you have to go through experiences in your life and go through day-to-day things to be able to write songs and to be able to express yourself and have something to be inspired to write about. So I think every song is a representation of me and like an art form. But it’s not completely too personal. Sometimes I write about fictitious things. You know, like I’ll make up a story in my head about someone going through an issue in life and I’ll be in the studio and we’ll have chemistry with people and we’ll go from there. So I think all of the songs are a representation of me.
This album seems to span a mix of emotional highs and lows with up tempo dance tracks to like heartfelt ballads. Can you share with us both an emotional high and a low that you were going through while creating it?
Yes, I was going through a bunch of weird stuff. But I think, you know, everyone has that point in life where they go through this big transformation and it’s all on them. It’s all their journey. And sometimes you get overwhelmed with, you know, with being able to do whatever you want to do. And you’re just like ‘oh my gosh, what direction do I want to take? What path do I want to take?’ and, at the same time going through emotional stuff? So I think sometimes though when people are at that point in their lives that’s when they’re the most creative in a weird way kind of dark in way. And, I think sometimes when you are going through a lot of stuff, subconsciously you write about — you want to write about light stuff because that’s what you need at that point. So yes, this process is very cool because there was just — you know it was such an emotional journey doing the whole record. But it’s like therapy being able to put it out there right now, you know, seeing it and share it with people. And it’s like being able to release a lot of stuff.
With young hot shots like Avril Lavigne being hyped as anti-Britney’s, I’m wondering is there a Britney backlash? And in light of the new album, are you yourself in some ways an anti-Britney, in the sense that this CD represents a new you?
Well that was a very deep question. No. I think that I’m always going to be me, but like I think every day we change and express ourselves in different ways. So I’m not anti-Britney at all. I totally love everything that I’ve every done, you know. It’s not an egotistical thing but that was me at that moment in that time, and that’s what I believed in. So I definitely don’t regret the things that I did in the past.
And as far as, you know, Avril Lavigne’s and all of those girls like that, they all have their game and what they do. But at the end of the day we’re all one. We’re all the same. And, you know, when I see Avril Lavigne on TV or Gwen Stefani or Christina Aguilera, I take pieces from them but, you know, I don’t copy their music, but like I see emotions in their music that I’m like that inspires me. And instead of, you know, girls being like anti this or anti that, we should like just be around to support each other and to inspire each other at the end of the day. And just, you know, lift each other up, instead of being, you know, kind of, you know, competitive and anti this and anti that. That’s kind of shallow to me.
Britney, you talked about writing songs is therapeutic for you and a way to get you through the emotional periods and particularly in the lows. I’m wondering in those darker times, what else do you do besides write songs? Is it shopping or ice cream? Or what other outlets do you have?
I love stretching. I love doing yoga. I’m like a stretch-a-holic. And I read a lot of books. And I love to read. I love to paint and do art. Just, you know, activities like that. And swim as well.
Yes, hey, Britney I’m fascinated about all of the reading you talked so here’s your chance to play Oprah. What — some of the books you read recently and why you liked them.
I love “The Power of Now.” I love the book called “The Secret.” A book called “My Way, the Four Agreements.” Oh, my gosh I have a bunch of books. There was one that I really — and sometimes I read over them because it’s good for your soul, but I think one of my favorites is a (Kabbalah) book it’s called Taming Chaos, it’s kind of deep and dark, but I like those kind of like, you know, weird books like that. So that’s one of my favorites. So go get it.
Ruben or Clay. Which one do you like better?
You talked about — you co wrote nine of the songs on the record. Can you talk a little bit about your lyrical contributions? I was wondering if you made any musical contributions to those songs and what they were?
Well the main thing — like with “Everytime” I wrote the whole thing from scratch on the piano. Musically there was no track or anything. I was just at my house and I did the whole thing by myself. And then I went and I played it for (Guy Sigmouth) and I just basically told him exactly how I wanted the song to sound. And he was so amazing because there’s a lot of producers you tell them things and they don’t get it. And you’re like oh, that’s not the right way. He got it just right. He was amazing. And so that song specifically, you know, I did everything. But as far as like, you know, the other songs I would go in to the studio and they would play me just a bunch of different tracks. And I would pick a track that I liked. And then I would basically do the melodies and the words and they would do the tracks. And like if I heard sounds here or there,in my head that thought should be there, they would elaborate on. And if they wanted streams here, and more of a baseline here they would do it. So that’s kind of how it worked. But musically, I didn’t do a lot of the tracks. That’s something that I really want to probably learn on the next album. But for the most part I did most of the melody and just the words.
Did you set out to work with such an incredible diversity of producers and artists on this record like you ended up working with? And did you find that kind of liberating? Did it lead you places you didn’t expect?
Yes, it was really cool because I — you know I was based a lot of New York, but I flew to Miami to work with a bunch of different people. And it was a cool thing being able to meet different people and see their chemistry. And you learn a lot about yourself, when you write because you see what’s right for you. And you start seeing the kind of people that you’re drawn to because when you write a song, you have to have chemistry with that person. You have to and it’s really funny people I didn’t not expect to have any chemistry with, those are the people that I was like, you know, we wrote like four songs together. So it was a very interesting process.
Your career at the moment seems to be putting more emphasis on your sexuality and publicity stunts like the kiss with Madonna. Do you worry that people are going to lose site of the music and being known for stunts over your musical talent?
Well actually I can’t help that. You know, I’m just performing. It’s not me that’s making a big deal out of it, it’s you guys. I’m just really going out there doing my thing, and people are like, ‘do you think it’s, she’s trying to make this big publicity thing?’ No. I’m just doing my job. I’m performing. I’m doing my thing. I’m not the one putting it all over the papers. You know, so if you think it’s me trying to make a publicity stunt, hell no, I’m just doing my job. It’s you guys [the press] making a big deal out of it.
I just wanted to ask since you mentioned that you’ve grown up with your music, I wanted to ask what if you did see yourself as a role model? And what you thought of your pastor’s reaction to your image, how he was disappointed in an MSN article that came out recently.
In an article?
Yes, he said he was disappointed in you but he still loves you. And I was wondering what you thought of that?
Well, you know, what, you can’t go around pleasing everyone, you know what I mean. And, you know, that’s his opinion and that’s how he feels about things. I really don’t understand what exactly about my image that he’s taken aback with. You know, I’m just a person and I have to express myself that way I need to express myself. But, it was a little weird, I guess it was a little weird, but I don’t see exactly what he’s talking about. I don’t — I can’t, you know, relate to him on a level of, you know, there’s a lot of people that-he has his beliefs and his belief system and I have mine, right. But his belief system is Baptist, and this religion thing and the way he believes and stuff. And it’s like if you think about, religion is the thing that’s causing wars right now. And it’s like who’s to say who knows what he’s talking about.
In The Zone has clearly turned up the sensuality a notch compared to the Britney CD, what inspired you to be more open about the subject of sex and relationships this time around?
You know, I think I’m getting older. And I think it’s a natural thing to indulge in yourself and to, you know, have those thoughts to be with a person. And I think, you know, it’s an artist expression, you know, wanting to express yourself in that way and, you know, sharing it with the world. And, you know, I’m getting older. And I think I’m feeling a little bit freer and, you know, talking about certain subjects. So I think when I field that way, I love to share it with people.
In The Zone celebrates club life and having fun. But on the second half of the album, the songs ‘Shadow’ and ‘Everytime’ talk about the downsides of relationships when you’re living life in the fast lane. Do you ever get tired of short lived flirtations?
Actually, you know, that’s — I think those songs– it is a downside, but it’s reality. I think we all have those points in our lives, but you have to go through those to try to experience people. And to go through the motions to open up to different things and learn from those experiences to help you better yourself or something else. But I’m really trying to learn right now to be a little bit more open, and to try to go do the dating thing. People are trying to teach me and be like, you know, but it is a hard process, because, it’s just kind of like opening up to a different person. And you know, letting yourself go and being vulnerable which is hard for some people, I think.
Which songs on ‘In The Zone’ are the most personal to you?
I really love the vibe of “Touch of My Hand.” When I was in the studio it really came off as like such a natural process. And I love the subject that, you know, I’m touching on because no one’s really talked about some of those things in a lot of songs written lately because people are scared to go there and to express themselves in that way. And, you know, I think it’s an empowering thing for girls, you know.
And “Everytime” is just a really nice song because it’s just, you know, it’s kind of personal in a weird way. I just think the song — it’s one of the songs that when you hear, it’s like the kind of song when you go to heaven. It kind of takes you away. You know, it takes you in to a very cool consciousness I think.
Ms. Spears has left the building.