Britney Spears’s self-titled third album, Britney, launched a new era in her career. Released three and a half months prior to the premiere of Britney Spears’s movie debut Crossroads, Britney is all about coming of age and sexuality–something that was received with mixed reviews by the media. Like her first two albums …Baby One More Time and Oops!..I Did It Again, Britney is a pop album, but it included R&B and rock influences that took her sound in a new direction.
This album had Spears taking more control than she previously had when it came to songwriting; she’s a co-writer on five songs, as opposed to the one she co-wrote on her second album. These songs were “Lonely,” “Anticipating,” “Cinderella,” “Let Me Be,” and “That’s Where You Take Me,” none of which were American singles, but regardless are fairly solid tracks that are in a more mature vein than her previous songs. “It’s not my intention to leave my young fans. I just want an older generation to pick up on it as well. I couldn’t do … Baby One More Time number three. I had to change it up and pray people think that’s cool,” Spears said in an interview with Corey Moss of MTV. As a result of this, Britney was her most personal album to date and dealt with an important subject in her life: growing up in the spotlight.
From the schmaltzy to straight up dance pop, several of the tracks discuss Spears’ coming of age. “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” is a cheesy ballad that explores this weird in between time in her life, both as a song on the album and as a spoken-word poem in the movie Crossroads. The catchy “Overprotected, the track that is the most similar to her previous work, has her demanding her space as an adult with a dance beat and some attitude. Both “Let Me Be” and “What It’s Like to be Me” (very self-focused on this one) explore more of the same.
There are so many iconic moments from Spears’s career, and the release of Britney’s first single “I’m a Slave 4 U” is certainly one of them. Gone was the wide-eyed ingenue of …Baby One More Time and the cheerful flirt from Oops I Did It Again; the new Britney was older and all about a more mature image. “I’m a Slave 4 U” is all raw sexuality–to the point where heavy breathing is even incorporated into the auditory experience. It’s not surprising that Spears would want to make a declarative statement about her maturity; the media at the time was absolutely obsessed with her and ready to point out any risqué moment in her life.
There are a few outliers on the album. Spears covers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock’n’Roll,” infusing the hard rock song with a bit of pop feeling for both this album and the Crossroads soundtrack. Also included is the song “Anticipating,” a track full of disco feeling about lady friendships and dancing. This album had Spears taking some risks; while on a single-by-single basis it might not have been as successful, it certainly helped further transform her into the pop legend she is today. After all, who doesn’t remember her VMAs performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” with the snake?