Britney Spears may have titled
her new single "Me Against The Music," but
she has rarely been more creatively in tune than she
is right now. "I feel like I've hit a great new
stride as an artist," she says with pride. "I've
worked hard, and I feel like I've grown on so many
In truth, "Me Against The Music" is hardly
about declaring war against grooves. "Actually,
it's about the intensity that people approach music
with," Britney shares. "It's about getting
totally lost in the music and pushing yourself to
the edge in every way you can imagine. I love thoroughly
immersing myself in music, and I wanted to capture
that intensity in a song."
Britney's musical intensity and her evolution from
a teen renegade into a provocative young woman are
undeniable throughout "In The Zone," her
fourth Jive Records collection. First and foremost,
the project shows her flexing notably strong and mature
songwriting muscles. She co-wrote 7 of the project's
12 sterling new compositions, collaborating with such
heavy hitters as Red Zone ("Me Against The Music,"
"The Hook Up"), The Matrix ("Shadow"),
Moby ("Early Mornin'"), and Cathy Dennis
("Toxic," "Showdown"). Also contributing
hit worthy material to the album is R. Kelly ("Outrageous"),
Ying-Yang Twins on (I Got That) Boom Boom.
Perhaps most significant is the appearance of pop
icon Madonna, who lends her voice to the single "Me
Against The Music." Collaborating with one of
her all-time greatest musical influences was a dream
come true for Britney. "The experience was beyond
words or description." she says. The two forged
what has become a powerful bond while rehearsing for
their now-notorious performance on the MTV Video Music
Awards this fall. "As we were working together,
there were moments when I simply could not believe
that I was standing there on stage next to her. It
was never even in the realm of fantasy for me."
The musical union of Britney and Madonna within the
taut, classic-funk groove of "Me Against The
Music" is quite real, though, and it reveals
each of them at their most kinetic and soulful. The
song's accompanying video clip, directed by Paul Hunter,
shows Madonna enticing Britney through a maze-like
underground club, only to disappear into thin air
when Britney gets close enough to touch her. The clip
is rife with symbolic gestures of Madonna passing
the baton pop power to Britney --- an image that the
young artist finds exciting, humbling, and perhaps
a bit premature.
"There is only one Madonna --- and there will
always only be one," she says. "My goal
is to have a career that is equally as special, but
one that is completely unique to who I am. I'm honored
by all that Madonna brought to this song. I really
love the flow we share --- both on the track and as
friends. I think you can feel the chemistry and positive
energy we shared. It's completely natural and relaxed."
The natural and relaxed vibe of "Me Against The
Music" is indicative of every note and beat comprises
"In The Zone," an album that runs the stylistic
gamut from streetwise hip-hop and electro-trance to
new-wave-etched rock and well-crafted pop. From top
to bottom, Britney effectively expands the parameters
of mainstream musical consciousness with songs that
lure listeners with infectious hooks, and then captivates
them with layers of clever lyrics and deft instrumentation.
"Putting this record together was an incredible
journey for me," Britney says. "I had the
freedom to explore and experiment with some of the
most exciting people in music. In the end, that allowed
me to make a record that is a pure reflection of where
I am right now."
What we learn from album highlights like the rambunctious
"(I Got That) Boom Boom," which features
the Ying Yang Twins, and "Everytime," a
stark, delicate collaboration with Guy Sigsworth,
is that Britney has grown into a fearless artist.
"Those songs are particularly special to me,
because neither of them sounds like anything I've
ever done before," she says. "'Boom Boom'
is so rough and edgy and fun, while 'Everytime' is
so raw and spare. It's me stripped to my core as a
singer and as a songwriter. It's as honest as I've
ever been in my music. I loved working with Guy on
that track. He made me feel comfortable and safe enough
to go the full distance, emotionally and as a performer."
Britney also has high praise for Moby, who worked
with her on the mid-tempo "Early Mornin.'"
"He's such a pure-hearted guy," she says.
"He's so cool. He played me a really cool track,
and I thought it was brilliant. It's turned out to
be one of my favorite songs on the album."
She describes "Early Mornin,'" which unfolds
with a deceptively insistent, easy-paced dance groove
as a day-after-the-party jam, which balances some
of the more assertive, dance floor-friendly cuts on
"In The Zone." "Some songs are generally
about going out and wanting to have a good time,"
she says. "One of the things I did while working
on this album was write about a lot things like going
out with my girlfriends, everyday experiences that
I was going through. 'Early Morning' is about just
going out and feeling bad the next day." Elsewhere
on "In The Zone," Britney shows her sultry
side, particularly on the steamy, turntable-ready
"Breathe On Me," a Mark Taylor production
that she characterizes as being "very vibe-y,
trance-y. It's about being with a guy and not even
having to really be with each other, but just the
intensity and the anxiety between not saying anything.
You don't even have to touch me, just breathe on me."
Among the more sensual songs on the album is "Touch
of My Hand," on which Britney seductively floats
her voice atop an arrangement of pillowy strings and
languid, Middle-Eastern-kissed guitar lines. "It's
tastefully done," she says of the track. "And
I think it's real. It's nice and it's real. It's whatever
your take is. Some people may think it's a little
much, but that's where I'm at with my life. ... It's
not freaky freaky, it's just a little freaky."
Stepping out on a creative limb has been the basis
for Britney's entire career. Dubbed by MTV as "one
of the last teenage pop superstars of the 20th century,"
Spears enjoyed her breakthrough success at the end
of 1998. She appeared in local dance revues and church
choirs as a young girl, and at the age of eight auditioned
for The Mickey Mouse Club. Although she was too young
to join the series, a producer on the show gave her
an introduction to a New York agent. She subsequently
spent three summers at the Professional Performing
Arts School Center. She also appeared in a number
of off-Broadway productions as a child actor, including
1991's "Ruthless." She returned to the Disney
Channel for a spot on The Mickey Mouse Club, where
she was featured for two years between the ages of
11 and 13. Her demo tape eventually landed in the
hands of a Jive Records executive who quickly signed
her to the label. She toured American venues for a
series of concerts sponsored by U.S. teen magazines,
eventually joining "N Sync on tour. It all added
up to 1999's wildly infectious "...Baby One More
Time" album to make its bow on the charts at
No. 1. The set not only spawned a smash hit with the
title tune, but also scored with the charming ballad
"Sometimes" and the funky "(You Drive
Me) Crazy." Before the album finished its impressive
worldwide attack of the charts, it garnered Britney
4 MTV Europe Awards, including best pop performer,
and 4 Billboard Music Awards, most notably female
artist of the year.
The massive demand for new Britney material was satisfied
when her 2000 sophomore collection, "Oops! ...
I Did It Again," was released to a Spears-starved
world in May. Once again, the title cut flooded radio
airwaves, as did the anthemic "Stronger"
and lovely "Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know."
She also racked up more awards that year by taking
home an American Music Award as favorite new artist,
a Billboard Music Award as album artist of the year,
and 2 Teen Choice Awards. Britney would later earn
Teen Choice Award honors in 2001 and 2003. Ever-prolific,
the artist returned in 2001 with "Britney,"
a spirited, assertive collection on which she began
to reveal her mettle as a tunesmith, not to mention
as a vocalist of increasingly soulful depth. She earned
high praise for the wickedly sultry "Slave 4
U," as well as for the forceful "Overprotected"
and the gentle "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman."
The album's was quickly followed by Britney's motion
picture debut, "Crossroads," which proved
that she has the talent and box-office pull to be
a multifaceted superstar. "One of the true joys
of my life and career has been trying out new things,"
Britney says. "I've loved every step of this
journey I'm on. I love singing and dancing and acting
and songwriting... it all energizes and inspires me."
It's that philosophy that has sent Britney "In
The Zone," a project that shows this ever-growing
and ever-exciting at her absolute best... or as she
would say, "for now." "I can't imagine
ever reaching the point where I've hit the wall,"
she concludes. "There's always something new
and challenging to tackle. I can't wait to see what