The first time I heard Baby…One More Time I knew I had to have that crazy popular new Britney Spears CD. From that very first moment I put my newly purchased copy into my, now dated, CD player I was mesmerized. I fell instantly in love with Britney and her style. I have always been kind of a fan of pop music to some extent but she really solidified my interest in dancing in my bedroom to her music.
Over the years Spears’s popularity has wavered some but my adoration for her has not tapered off in the slightest. When I first learned of her mental breakdown a few years ago I was genuinely distraught. Not because a celebrity I never knew was hurting but as a person who grew up with her on my TV and radio I wanted her to continue to be there to provide me familiarity and comfort. As an empathetic individual who does try to care about people I realized her pain was real for her and she was in need of help. Fortunately she received the help she needed and continued to produce music.
Last summer I learned about the #FreeBritney movement and although I am a fan of her works, I don’t pry into her personal life. For that reason I wasn’t too thrilled to have people saying if you are a true fan you have to spread the word. I will define my level of fandom thank you very much. I never cared for that word “true fan” of anything, it’s disgusting and often arrogant and always dismissive of alternative points of view. As an outside in so many ways I can assure you I hold to many alternative perspectives.
It got me to thinking recently though with the rise of new acts like Lady Gaga or even Katy Perry rise to prominence it makes me wonder if Britney Spears still holds any weight in the music industry? I have no doubts if Madonna dropped a new album tomorrow it would make some noise and garner attention. Maybe not in the way she once did but I believe Madonna still impacts the music industry and continues to influence artists to this day. I am not so sure if this is the case any more with Britney Spears. It seems like of course I am fairly out of touch with the young people. Yet I know my 14-year-old niece is at least aware of Madonna and can sing some of her songs, at least the chorus, but she said Britney Who when I asked her if Britney Spears was still popular. This kind of worried me ever so slightly. Especially considering my sister, the child’s mother, had also been a fan growing up. It told me either Britney has lost some of her star power with the younger generation, or her the same with her mother who failed to pass on that admiration to her child. I can’t begin to identify the artists my niece listens to, she never talks to me about anything personal to her not even music.
Obviously I can’t use a single anecdotal account as any sort of evidence. Thus I continue to ponder. I know internet searches would be skewed. If I type in how popular is Britney Spears website results will obviously contain references to her name. As such I doubt that would provide an organic reflection of her continued influence. A simple Google search asking top 20 pop artists of all time does bring the name Britney Spears up so I suppose there is that.
One thing I wonder is in such a fragmented world of internet memes, social media, YouTube, Spotify, etc., who does a pop mega star today cut through the noise and find their way into the lives of the youth? I mean in the 90s and before we had radio feeding us our top music hits. Beginning in the 80s and into the early 2000s we had MTV pushing music videos and music related content into our lives. It was easy for a single act to be in front of our eyes and ears constantly. I do wonder how an artist today can achieve that same uniformity? I wonder because I see big names like Jay Z and Beyonce remaining popular and they both found their success before the internet. Do children today even listen to pop stations on the radio or do they go to pop radio stations on Spotify? I suppose it would be easier to find new acts this way but I imagine it would be harder for a single act to saturate our culture yet somehow they manage to do so.
This makes me wonder if Britney Spears herself would even be popular if she came out today. Based on the prominence of Lada Gaga I could imagine a young Madonna finding success in the current pop culture. I am not so sure of a Britney. Part of her appeal was she balanced conservative ideals with modernism and a hip, sexy attitude. She flaunted her sexuality but she also held onto her mostly kid-friendly image. Of course this led to controversies over the years but that is not new in the entertainment industry.
I will never forget the first time I danced with my classmates like fools to Oops…I did it again. The music she has provided for my own enjoyment over the years has been most appreciated. I only wonder if her popularity will be like Cher was to me growing up, this old woman holding onto relevance when the young kids weren’t having it. To that I am most curious which song from her catalog will be the one kids growing up now or in the near future will recognize from Britney Spears or will attach to her identity? For me, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves is the only Cher song I know by name without looking it up. Will Baby One More Time, Toxic, If U Seek Amy or some other song will be the one future generations remember most? I don’t have a single song that I think of instantly when I think Britney Spears, she has so many I enjoy. This makes it harder. When I asked my niece if she knew Madonna she said yes. When I asked her what songs she liked she said I don’t any just her name. I wonder if Britney Spears will live on even as just a name in the cultural lexicon? Only time will tell. If Doctor Who is to be believed she should be alright.