The romantic pairing of certified Teen Idols Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake was a media dream made flesh, so to speak. How sweet, how fitting that these magnetic fresh faces on the cusp of adulthood would cling to one another for shelter and understanding against the gale force winds of celebrity, pop royalty sharing the fairytale magic of Love's First Kiss (or something, um, similar). Only the dwarfs were missing.
Best of all, the relationship was real, uncontrived, even the Disney angle genuine: Britney and Justin originally met in the early- '90s as preteen cast members of The New Mickey Mouse Club, fellow laborers in a juvenile showbiz factory that also employed Christina Aguilera, Felicity's Keri Russell, and Justin's future 'N Sync-mate JC Chasez.
But there was to be no happily ever after: they broke up after four years in the spring of 2002, fleeing the dream castle on separate but parallel paths. Justin and Britney — their first names are usually enough — are no longer together but they aren't far apart either: they still share the Jive record label, a similar urban-pop musical style, many of the same rabid fans, and neither is getting any uglier. Both are also seemingly all over the place, leapfrogging each other in the media spotlight.
Timberlake, 22, rocked large arenas all over North America this summer on tour with Aguilera on the strength of his smash 2002 solo album, Justified, which has sold seven million copies worldwide and yielded hits "Like I Love You," "Rock Your Body" and "Cry Me a River." Continuing his sabbatical from 'N Sync, Justin is now gearing up for a fall European tour by playing five intimate club and theater shows in the U.S., and he has his own television special airing on NBC on November 25.
Spears, 21, has a new single, "Me Against the Music," featuring her MTV Video Music Awards lip-lock partner Madonna, out in advance of her fourth album, In the Zone, due November 18. Britney was the steaming topless October 2 cover model for Rolling Stone, and oops, she did it again as the November cover for both Esquire (more steam) and Cosmo Girl (clothed and girlish) magazines.
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