Skip to content

October 25, 2011


Britney Spears

by admin
Cover of YM magazine, 2000

Cover of YM magazine, 2000

Contributor: Emily Garza

Last March as I was reading my little niece’s birthday wish list I began to experience what I thought was a mild heart attack. The list was deluged with what I considered to be acceptable presents for an eight-year-old girl. There was the typical Barbie, sneakers, clothes, a new bicycle and then there it was, “Miley Cyrus CD”. As I read that much-publicized name, images of hip thrusting, older boyfriends, and scandalous personal pictures ran through my mind. I quickly began going over in my head the much-needed lecture my niece was going to get. Then boom! It hit me, I had turned into my mother.  I was soon time-warped back to my seventh birthday party, when I unwrapped my most wanted gift, Britney Spears’ new album Baby One More Time. As soon as I saw what the cd was I looked up at my mother with a huge smile on my face and saw that there wasn’t one on hers. I guess it had slipped my mind how for the past month my mother had protested my Britney wish, so it shouldn’t have been to my surprise that she was less than happy when that wish was finally granted—by my father, to top it all off. It was 1999 and bubblegum pop had become more than a category of music, but a style, attitude, and way of life. The radio and television were flooded with young, bubbly, man-hungry teenage girls who were passing themselves off as musicians and there was one teen leading this dancing platinum blond pack, Britney Spears.

This Louisiana Lolita first hit the scene in 1999 at the tender age of seventeen with the release of her first album Baby One More Time, which would later go on to sell 13 million copies in the United States alone. [1] For her first single, also named “Baby One More Time”, Britney donned a suggestive schoolgirl outfit and danced around a high school singing lyrics like “the reason I breathe is you” and of course “hit me baby one more time”.

Overnight, the young girl from Kentwood, Louisiana had become a star.[2] Britney was a walking controversy, preaching strong morals and celibacy[3], yet her songs were filled with sexual innuendo and provocative messages. And she was not alone in this eroticization of young girls phenomenon—right beside her were Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, and former fellow Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera.[4] Almost instantly young girls, including myself, began mimicking their dance moves, lip-synching to their songs in the mirror, and wishing to be just like them. These teenagers were singlehandedly taking over the music industry, filling the void for teens who had missed out on Kurt Cobain[5] and the grunge movement[6]. American teenagers were in need of  fresh celebrities to look up to: cue the Poptarts. Despite the fact that it is fair to say the other starlets were just as guilty as Spears when it came to inappropriate behavior, she appeared to get the most flack for it. There seemed to be an unofficial consensus that out of all the tantalizing teens Britney Spears was the worst and was trying to brainwash the rest of us innocent impressionable girls into following her lead. Mothers did not particularly appreciate her overtly sexual lyrics or the multitude of halter tops she had in her closet. They didn’t like their daughters’ new role model to be a mischief-maker whose only problems in life were teenage boys. Britney’s songs and image threatened to destroy all the innocence that their daughters had left.

Not only was Britney Spears denounced by parents, but music critics as well. Music critics readily dismissed her as an artist and deemed her album unremarkable[7] and unoriginal. They had all seen her same song and dance done by a spunky singer that came around about fifteen years earlier: Madonna.[8] Because of Madonna’s success and innovation in the 1980s, Britney Spears just paled in comparison to the original Material Girl.[9] Britney’s music came off as heartless[10] and nothing more than a tune for listeners to bop their heads along to in the car. But her fans were adolescents who didn’t care who came before her or the content of her songs. To young girls Britney’s songs represented something they could look forward to when they got older and they admired her for who she was.

Needless to say I was one of those fans, and I think I turned out okay. In retrospect I definitely see where my mom’s disapproval came from.  Britney Spears was not the first or the last, obviously, to be a tabloid-splashed teen star. Madonna came before her and Miley after, but Britney will always remain the teen queen of the millennium. As long as there are girls wanting to grow up too soon and boys with enough room on their walls to hang posters, female teenage stars will always be a part of the American media.

[1] Rex Rutkoski, “Spears Through the Years: The 19-year-old princess of pop already exudes a surprising maturity.,” Cleveland Scene (Cleveland, Ohio, November 8, 2001).

[2] Geoff Boucher, “One More Time?; As the youth pop movement’s viability comes into question, Britney Spears hopes her next album lives up to the first.: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif., May 9, 2000), sec. Calendar; PART- F; PART-; Entertainment Desk.

[3] Lara Riscol, “Media: The Britney and Bob Challenge; Viagra, virginity, and the American Way,” Memphis Flyer (Memphis, Tenn., May 2, 2001).

[4] Steve Hochman, “POP MUSIC; Pop Eye; Teens May Get Their Own Summer Tours: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif., January 16, 2000), sec. Calendar; PART-; Calendar Desk.

[5] James M Crotty, “Nevermind the myth…here’s Kurt Cobain: Heavier than Heaven; A Biography of Kurt Cobain, by Charles Cross,” Santa Fe Reporter (Santa Fe, N.M., September 25, 2001).

[6] “Grunge: A Success Story” (New York, N.Y., November 15, 1992), sec. Styles.

[7] Natalie Nichols, “POP MUSIC; Record Rack; In Brief: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif., January 17, 1999), sec. Calendar; PART-; Calendar Desk.

[8] LOUISE ROUG and GINA PICCALO, “City of Angles; Morton Weighs In on Madonna: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif., November 14, 2001), sec. Southern California Living; View Desk.

[9] Elysa Gardner, “POP MUSIC; ALBUM REVIEW; *** 1/2 MADONNA, ‘Ray of Light,’ Warner Bros. / Maverick: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif., March 1, 1998), sec. Calendar; Calendar Desk.

[10] Robert Hilburn, “POP MUSIC REVIEW Madonna Pumps It Up With `Blond Ambition’: [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) (Los Angeles, Calif., May 14, 1990), sec. Calendar; PART-F; Entertainment Desk.

Read more from Moral Panics
1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Carin
    Nov 5 2011

    Quite enjoyable to read, especially because you are my cousin!!


Leave a comment to Carin Cancel reply


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments