By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Stung by her racially confusing Grammy loss, Spears realigns herself with the Black Power movement -- even composing the score for the blaxploitation classic Shaft. "Shaft is a bad mutha...," she sings. "He even parks in handicapped spaces."Spears pursues the direction further with a trilogy of seminal R&B albums that includes Hot Buttered Britney, Soul Sister #1, and Black Coffee, White Cream. Her cultural ruse is uncovered during the infamous Stax-Watt concert where a stadium full of African-Americans nearly riots once they realize Britney is not black like them, but actually a little white girl from Kentucky.
Right: Gabba, gabba, oops! Beat on the Britney...one more time.
Spears tries to re-establish herself by assembling rock's first supergroup, Blind Faith No More. The lineup includes Steve Winwood, Rik Grech, and Ginger Baker. The band is later forced to include Italian crooner/Godfather star Al Martino after Britney awakens one morning to find the severed head of her dog, Cain, in her bed.Controversy is sparked when Blind Faith No More's eponymous debut hits stores bearing a cover with a nude Britney holding a shiny penis-looking thing. There's a widespread outcry for its removal from store shelves by parents, retailers, and the Phallic Object Defamation League.
Spears drops off the public radar after this debacle, going into an 18-month seclusion at her mansion in Twickenham. Her only public appearance during this time comes when she travels to the White House to meet with President Richard Nixon and accept an honorary badge as a government drug-buster. After meeting the president, Spears tells The Washington Post that she thinks Nixon is "such a hottie!"
David Bowie, fresh from resuscitating the careers of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, and Lulu, offers to produce Britney's next album, The Rise and Fall of Britney Spears and Those Melons of Hers, but she is put off by his orange hair and Zandra Rhodes leisure wear. She tells a confidante (OK, her mother), "Oh, Mom, if I did that, it'd be so tacky."
With her career flagging, Britney takes her act to Las Vegas. Her glitzy renditions of "Satisfaction" and "The Beat Goes On" win favor with booze-guzzling gamblers like Fred Silverman, president of programming for NBC. Silverman believes all Spears needs is a splashy comeback special to remind the world how potent the Britney magic still is.Unfortunately, Britney '74 is not the resounding success she needs. While Spears' fetching white karate outfit and no-apologies opening number "What U See (Is What U Get)" make her case quite eloquently, most critics complain they could've done without the shameless plugs for Peacock network series Manimal and Supertrain.
Infatuated with the burgeoning punk-rock movement in New York ("Well, like, the leather and everything, ohmigod!"), Britney combs her hair into severe bangs and joins a group playing every Sunday night at CBGB, the Ramones. Britney quits in a huff a year later when she realizes their song "Chinese Rock" is not about costume jewelry.Richard Hell later claims he got the inspiration for "Blank Generation" after being forced to talk to Spears for an hour when she corners him at Max's Kansas City.
Britney hits her low point with the release Drum Machine Music -- an eight-sided LP of nothing but cheesy backing beats. Even a laudatory 79,000-word essay by Lester Bangs on the pages of Creem magazine can't save the avant-garde project from commercial doom.
When the Sex Pistols' American visa is denied, Spears and her new backing combo, the I'm So Attractives, take their place performing on Saturday Night Live. Although record executives tell Spears to perform her single "Radio Sweathog," she brings the song to a dead halt after a few bars, saying, "I'm sorry, there's no reason for me to do this here," then counts off a fiery rendition of "E-Mail My Heart." This completely baffles show producers and the audience, as e-mail will not be invented for another 13 years.Later that year, things turn ugly on the road when Britney gets into a bar fight with members of Stephen Stills' road crew. A drunk Spears goes on to call Christina Aguilera "a blind, ignorant little bitch" -- which further baffles the public, as it will be another three years before Aguilera is even born.1978:
Jumping on the popular reggae bandwagon, Britney forms Burning Spears and records the album ...Baby, One More Spliff, Mon. Most observers condemn the move as a blatant and offensive rip-off of Jamaican culture -- and say she looks thoroughly ridiculous in dreadlocks.Though her flirtation with the genre is short, she manages to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts with the hit "Oops! I Shot the Sheriff."
Britney joins New Wave phenoms the Knack for a duet of "Good Girls Don't." When her management team (OK, her mother) objects to the line about Britney sitting on Doug Fieger's face, she's forever banned from dueting with any male singers -- except for the out-of-the-closet Elton John.A session with Neil Diamond to record "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" is canceled when he refuses to omit an offending verse about Britney sitting on his face. Understandably, the line is cut when Diamond records the song with his second choice, Barbra Streisand.