Known as the “Princess of Pop,” Britney Spears has been a force bigger than life. If you’re a millennial, you most probably grew up with her hits blasting on your speakers at home. You’ve seen her name and face in almost every magazine and newspaper you held. And you’ve probably sang along too, since you know her lyrics by heart.
Since she debuted her first-ever musical strike, “Baby One More Time,” Britney gave rise to a pop legend and raised the bar for every artist to follow. Her first two studio albums, which are both certified diamond in the US, were global successes and became two of the best-selling albums of all time. She also became the best-selling teenage artist of all time. “Britney Spears” has also become the most popular search term in Yahoo! between 2005 and 2008, and she was named as the Most Searched Person in the Guinness World Records book edition in 2007 and 2009.
Britney Spears has made a big impact on pop culture and here are the main reasons why:
She revived teen pop
Britney Spears was credited for being one of the driving forces behind the return of teen pop in the late ‘90s, earning her the title of “Princess of Pop.” Spears helped usher in a new era for the genre that became dormant in the decade that followed New Kids on the Block. She led an army of pop stars built on slick Max Martin productions, dance-heavy performances, and plenty of sexual innuendo. Spears became one of the most successful artists of all time, and a cautionary tale for a generation.
The visual presentation for her first hit and debut single “Baby One More Time” immediately sparked controversy. The tied-up shirt, Catholic school girl uniform she wore in the video made all eyes laid on her. Her barely-there outfit became the most infamous front page during the ‘90s. It paid off well, considering that many people still dig that video.
When she emerged with that song on 1998, no female artist affected the pop genre so profoundly since Madonna. She brought a new era of pop vocal stylings and performance that would influence countless artists to come.
Eventually, Spears’ sexy and coy vocals and dance-heavy, sexy performances brought about an inception of teenage sex appeal in the pop industry. Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera are just a few of young pop stars who were pitted against Spears using the same media image.
Her debut single “Baby One More Time” created millennial pop
“Baby One More Time” was the single that started it all. Released in 1998, this debut single brought about the so-called “Britney mania,” and the image of her dancing in a suggestive school girl uniform on a school hallway became one of the most iconic ‘90s moments. Her single has also become one of the greatest hits of the decade. After the release of her debut album of the same title, she swept most of the female category awards at the Billboard Music Awards in 1999.
Britney’s classic debut single ushered the era of millennial pop, influencing a generation to confess their loneliness. She attracted teens and adults alike, as she became a pop culture figure that seemed to articulate the same struggles they’re going through.
The song is not about love that’s easy, or about a lover that’s wronged you. It’s about how love is obsessive and terrifying – about accepting responsibility for your emotions and expressing regret on what should have done. But ultimately, it’s joyous and danceable, as so many iconic pop songs are.
Most people who existed in the ‘90s had lots of memories with the song. While most ‘90s era pop songs are best suited for the “I Love the ‘90s” playlists, “Baby One More Time” feels like it hasn’t aged a day. It may not sound like a 2021 pop production, but the piano riff still makes people rush to the dance floor. The lyrics are ingrained in people’s minds. The song is a karaoke classic. Britney’s schoolgirl costume is a Halloween staple. And every few months, another artist is covering the song or a celebrity is dancing or lip syncing to it.
Britney Spears’ pop stardom is the standard for the new generation of pop stars
On one interview, Britney mentioned that she has set the bar kind of high for herself, and that’s the reason why she never seemed to slow down. You can’t blame her, since her debut album is also her breakout album. Spears has been surprising the world with her extravagant music videos, remarkable TV performances, daring world tours, and an award-winning residency.
Spears’ batting average has remained high after her subsequent album releases, making her influence on pop music undeniable. From the good-girl-gone-bad narrative that she adapted and perfected from the original pop princess Madonna, to being the first artist to score the super pop producer Max Martin a Billboard number one single, Britney laid the groundwork for the modern-day pop landscape.
Spears’ version of pop super stardom has become the standard for contemporary pop artists of today. There would be no Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, or Hailee Steinfeld if Britney Spears did not push boundaries with her masterpieces.
She made career-defining moments in the VMAs
The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) has played an essential role in defining Britney’s career. In the franchise’s history, Britney contributed many iconic stage performances that made her one of the most celebrated performers.
One of her biggest performance on the VMAs was back in 2000 where she performed “Oops!… I Did it Again.” Appearing onstage in a Michael Jackson-esque suit in swag before stripping down to a flesh-colored sequined outfit, the 18-year-old pop princes wowed audience with her showmanship, talent, and energy. Her solo performance was the talk of the town and cemented her status as a global pop sensation.
Later on, at the 2001 VMAs, Britney flaunted her newfound sexuality onstage and danced with an albino Burmese python as an accessory, as she performed her single “I’m A Slave 4 U.”
She embodies the American consumer aesthetic
There’s a lot to unpack when we think of Britney as both an object of consumption and as a consumer. There’s a particularly maximalist American consumer aesthetic that has been a part of her identity, as she bragged on her 2003 song “Outrageous”: “Outrageous, my shopping spree.”
She also affected consumer attitudes of the public big time. She can be considered as the queen of the endorsement deal. As her career peaked in the dawn of the new millennium (the glory days of celebrity endorsements), so as endless brands snapping out endorsement deals with her. Her face and name has been connected to products like Pepsi, Polaroid, McDonald’s, Skechers, Got Milk?, Tommy Hilfiger, Candies, Sbarro, Herbal Essences, Apple Music, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Kohls, Starburst candy, Toyota, and more.
No other pop star has been quite ingrained in the world of American consumer culture, whether it’s teenage Britney on her Hair Zone Mall Tour, or twenty-something Britney driving aimlessly, stopping for drive-thru Frappuccino’s and Marlboro Menthols. She embodies the texture of the American shopping landscape, even as that landscape dissolves into irrelevance.
She is a tabloid fixture
Since her early years of stardom, Britney became a tabloid fixture and a constant paparazzi target. Upon launching her career, she was labeled as a teen idol. Along with typical pop star work, she carried the extra burden of embodying America’s contradicting sexual expectations for young women: they must dress sexy but virginal, convey you want it but never know that you want it, and tread as closely to the line of actual sex as possible but never cross it. And when she was featured in a 1999 cover of Rolling Stone magazine which she was seen lying on a bed, wearing an open top that reveals her bra, and holding a Teletubby – she got a lot of criticisms.
She entered showbiz generation that involved more tabloid frenzy than ever, and it’s something we’ve seen newcomers take on with the heightened surveillance of social media. But before Instagram and Twitter became another layer of the often-probed popstar persona, Spears was hounded by paparazzi with so much intensity that she can’t even go to the bathroom without having a handful of people with cameras chasing after her. Among other female singers of her era, her celebrity star power was only rivaled by Jennifer Lopez.
Britney also set the bar for adulthood transition that teen pop stars often struggle with. On her third album, the 2001’s Britney, she shed her innocent skin and became sharper, sexier, and singing about more grown-up stuff. The lead single “I’m a Slave 4 U” and its video was credited for distancing her from her wholesome bubblegum pop image. But it was the 2003 follow-up album In the Zone that completed her transitioning, turning her into Britney, the Adult Woman.
Britney’s erratic behavior and personal struggles during 2006 to 2008 were highly publicized, affecting both her public image and career. That time of her life was full of much-publicized personal issues that the media continuously captured. She made headlines over headlines at tabloids, making it become “the most public downfall of any star in history,” according to Rolling Stone.
Celebrity culture chewed Britney up and spat her out. Rather than considering it a cautionary tale for rising stars, they let Spears’ career and continued presence to be a positive motivation. But the fact that she weathered past controversy and still remain relevant is something that many pop stars won’t probably be able to do.
She redefined Las Vegas residencies as a retirement place for musicians
Britney has been credited with redefining Las Vegas residencies as a retirement place for musicians. Her debut concert residency Britney: Piece of Me paved the way for the Las Vegas residencies of other artists, such as Jennifer Lopez’s Jennifer Lopez: All I Have, Backstreet Boys’ Backstreet Boys: Larger than Life, and Bruno Mars’ Bruno Mars at Park MGM.