The pop superstar still owns the charts and continues to captivate us.
A decade after her titillating debut in pigtails and a plaid Catholic school skirt, we find ourselves cheering on Britney Spears once again. There have been, of course, speed bumps in recent years - a divorce, feuds with family, a very public breakdown - but the past 12 months have witnessed a cautious yet emphatic comeback. With Circus, her triumphant 2008 album and subsequent world tour, Britney reasserted herself as a pop music ringleader, firmly in control of the spectacle. The album is the star’s fifth to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 - making her the youngest woman to accomplish that feat. And the nearly yearlong tour, with its elaborate $50 million extravaganza featuring DSquared2 costumes (nine outfit changes a night, including Britney as a trapeze artist, a magician’s assistant, and, somewhat perplexingly, a policewoman), was among the highest-grossing concert tours in the United States last year, rivaling those of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. With another greatest-hits record freshly arrived (and a new single, "3," which raced up the Billboard chart), we see flashes of vintage Brit, the one we love - blond, happy, and back on top.
This is no small turnabout. Rare is the artist who can pirouette from teen idolhood to a discerning adult audience; not even Madonna, Britney's idol, had to do that. But Britney was a teen pop princess who knew how to build an image (the virginal temptress) and sell it through videos (her 1999 breakout "...Baby One More Time") that nimbly walked the line between sweetness and provocation. Now, at 28, her sound is grittier (as in the throbby 2008 hit "Womanizer") and her lyrics reveal a confident sexuality. Britney may have sung "I'm not that innocent" on her 2000 single "Oops!... I Did It Again," but today, there's no argument, with frank lyrics such as those on "3": "Merrier the more/ Triple fun that way/ Twister on the floor."
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