*This was written on Brit’s birthday but being published in light of the trainwreck movie on Saturday*
Today marks one of the most important national events of my life.
The birth of Britney Jean Spears.
What better way to honor a woman who has had such a profound impact on me by going down memory lane.
What makes Britney standout in comparison to Madonna, and really, in my opinion, makes her the true queen is that Britney did it all while growing up. Madonna had her critics, Madonna had her drama and her rumors. But Britney is one of the first pop girls to grow up in front of us.
There is something remarkable about Britney’s discography and personal history. One would imagine that a music career riddled with criticism for being built around an artificial voice, after shaving her head in 2007, an embarrassing VMA performance that I truly forget happened, and being put under conservatorship before age thirty would taint her legacy. But if anything it makes her that more beautiful.
Britney was my first pop star. I can’t say exactly when I first saw her perform but I do remember the blonde girl who dominated the Disney music scene. I remember that Oops!…I Did it Again was my JAM at age four, and that my Grandma took sympathy on me and brought Baby One More Time when my brother wouldn’t let me listen to the OIDIA cd that our Uncle gave him.
So began my fascination of Ms. Spears. It is crazy to think that I used to sit in my car seat and switch out the purple OIDIA disc and pink BOMT disc from my CD player. I wore OIDIA into the ground, to the point that the last few tracks skip.
Her 2000 VMA performance. The one that had parents up in arms that she was wearing a flesh toned, sequined outfit is still my favorite performance to this date.
Then came the Britney era. By then, I already had my Britney tour bus and Barbie doll. I had a fascination with belly button piercings and being blonde. I cried when a girl suggested that I couldn’t be Britney because I was Black.
My dad brought her Vegas special on HBO just for me, and I remember watching the tape over and over again. My parents let me watch Crossroads, (I didn’t know this would be the first time Shonda Rhimes would crush my spirits), I cried when she broke up with Justin.
I didn’t even know what virgins or lesbians were in 2003. I didn’t care though. Me Against the Music was (is) a BOP. She introduced me to Madonna. My dance teacher always played In The Zone in class.
When they said she got married (twice), I was a little confused. By then, Avril Lavigne was taking over the scene that was once ruled by pop queens. Then there was Jessica Simpson who was asking philosophical questions about tuna on MTV. I would catch glimpses of Chaotic when I got home late from sports practices or school events but typically the show was on way past my nine year old bedtime. I was excited when she got pregnant and had her first child.
Then things got weird. I remember the morning I woke up and my dad showed me the TMZ footage of her shaving her head. I remember watching her attack paparazzi with an umbrella. I remember reading that she had locked herself in her house with her children.
Like I said, I try to forget that 2007 VMA performance.
Blackout, was the first Britney album that I didn’t listen to. It’s the only album where my only familiarity were with the singles at the time. And Gimme More was such a deviation of what I knew that I couldn’t enjoy it. Piece of Me, however, stuck out to me because it gave me a glimpse of the spunky Britney that had informed the early molding of my self confidence.
But then, in late 2008 we got something I was ready for.
At this point I was a Taylor Swift stan. Britney was the ghost of my not so distant adolescent past. Her songs were the relics of a simpler time. But as I struggled through the trials of being a thirteen year old girl, I found comfort in the voices that made me fall in love with music. I went back to Christina, who has a story for another day. I went back to those pink and purple albums.
The woman who was singing about seeking someone named Amy was saving my life.
When Hold it Against and Till the World Ends dropped, and Femme Fatale came out when I started my freshman year of high school, I was so excited. Here she was, healthy, beautiful, back with new music. Music that people wanted to listen to. I remember being so excited for the new album that when my dad picked me up from school, with the CD in hand, I made him put it in the barely used CD player so I could listen. That year, I went to her tour. I screamed when a lady upgraded my seats from nosebleeds to respectable club level seats.
I sang every song.
When we were gifted with Britney Jean my senior year of high school, I almost fell out. By then, I had no shame in my Britney stan card. Anyone who knew me, knew that I would fight over my holy trinity of Britney, Beyonce and Christina. And while I Britney Jean wasn’t the juggernaut of her previous work, I was just happy that she was still here. Still making music.
Here I am, a twenty year old black girl, with tears in my eyes over a thirty something white woman, who posts mom memes on Instagram.
Britney is important to me. I love Bey. I love Christina. But there is something about Britney that is so comforting. I turned to Christina when I was struggling with loving myself. I turned to Beyonce when I found peace within myself. But Britney? My 20s are an era of decision making. Deciding who I want to be without the input of those around me. In this moment Britney’s music is what I need. Because in the underneath the sparkly crop tops, and hip gyrating, is woman who’s spent the last two decades chronicling what it’s like to grow up.
Being a young woman in this world is hard. Life is not easy when you’re a plain jane. Imagine breaking into adulthood when you’re the biggest pop star on the planet.
So when we use the memes about Britney surviving 2007, it’s not a joke. This woman should be applauded for what she’s accomplished.
Britney has been that driving force for most of my life. Every album takes me to this moment in my life. Whether it’s the little girl playing Barbies and trying to learn the Opps! choreo from a Darrin’s Dance Grooves tape in my basement or the fourteen year old feeling risque for posting lyrics to a song about threesomes.
On August 26th, I dropped everything when iTunes told me that I had new music from Britney Spears ready for download. I tweeted in stan glory with gifs and dedicated the entire weekend to one of America’s most influential pop stars.
So when I see clips of her smiling, awake, and interacting with her millions of fans who admire her, I’m almost moved to tears. I am unbelievably proud to have grown with an artist who undoubtedly changed the face of music forever.