"When you think about it, Britney Spears is an artist - a pop artist, in the truest sense." (Quote from Jenny Eliscu, a writer for Rolling Stone) []

Career beginnings, Artistic development
As early as her childhood years, Britney was determined to make it in the entertainment industry. She began signing at talent shows from a young age and, despite media reports, pushed her parents to help her pursue her career rather than them pushing her. After attending an arts school in New York, she acted on "The Mickey Mouse Club" for several years before it was canceled. At age 15, Spears was signed to Jive Records. Even as a newly signed artist, Britney made sure she had input into all of her music - she would review all the lyrics and production of the songs before recording them and would ask the producers and writers to make changes if she felt this was nescessary (such as changing "Born To Make You Happy" to be less sexual), she would also or ask the producers to change parts of the songs' instrumentation if she was unhappy with the way the songs sounded, showing that she has been more involved and had more input and control over her music from the start of her career than what she was commonly thought to have had. [] She also rebelled against her record label's ideas for her first music video, and instead came up with the entire concept of her music video for "Baby One More Time" herself, from the setting to the wardrobe. Britney did not do too much writing for her first album (aside from being the sole co-writer of one song on the album's import version titled "Autumn Goodbye"), but she was only starting out in her music career, and had already made several huge decisions that she knew would help to propel her to stardom instantly.

In 2000, Britney released her second album, "Oops!...I Did It Again". She first began attempting to seriously write on one song, "Dear Diary", on the album, which originally was presented to her as a different song. Britney, thinking of who her core fan base was (at the time) and being unhappy with the song's lyrics, then scheduled a meeting with the song's writers herself and changed many of the lyrics for the song to not be as 'dark'. This was only a start to Britney's involvement in writing her own music. In 2001, Britney's third album "Britney" was released, which (on the import version) had her co-write seven of the album's fifteen songs (Britney originally had written all but one song on the album, but the track listing was changed before release - she also wrote unreleased songs with collaborators such as The Neptunes and BT). Spears had also developed musically, with an album slightly edgier and more grown-up than her previous works. It was also notable that during her "Dream Within A Dream" tour, she performed four new songs live that she had written herself - "Mystic Man", "Weakness", "You Were My Home", and "My Love Was Always There". These songs were very jazz-inspired and Britney used her lower register while singing them. This was the beginning of Britney showing that she wanted to head in a more mature, artistic direction musically. In 2000 and 2001, Britney also began taking control of her TV specials for the first time, executive producing "Britney Spears: Your #1 Video Requests... And More!" as well as her 2001 HBO concert "Britney Spears Live From Las Vegas".

Artistic Achievements: Had input on lyrics of first album, increasingly began writing her own songs with each album, developed video concepts, executive produced TV concert specials, matured image and sound.

Writing Movie Script and Co-Authoring Books
In 2001, Britney began filming her first movie "Crossroads". From the beginning, Britney had an input on the script and even wrote parts of it and made changes to what she didn't agree with. Talking about developing the script, she said "[I created] the whole generalization of the girls going on the road trip and I had a lot of input to do with the characters and what each one was going through," Spears said. "The whole storyline as far as why Lucy was going and why Mimi was going, the writer came in and helped me elaborate on that a little bit. It was actually a combined effort between both of us." The script's co-writer Shonda Rhimes said "She specifically said that she wanted it to address real teen issues and things teenagers actually experience as opposed to being a fluffy take on what happens when you're a teenager". Britney not only came up with the storylines of the three main characters (which script writer Shonda Rimes elaborated on), but she also picked out all of her co-stars based on auditions they did. Other notable scenes Britney came up with on her own are the opening scenes. She also picked out a majority of the music that would be used throughout the movie and removed some of the profanity from the script to make the movie more suitable for all ages.

Artistic Achievements: Co-wrote entire script to "Crossroads" (with Shonda Rhimes), casted all characters, developed and removed scenes based on her own input.

Britney had also co-written three books from 1999 to 2002 - the first two, co-authored with her mother, were titled "Heart To Heart" (written about her life growing up and her early career) and "A Mother's Gift" (a teen drama). She also co-authored "Crossroads Diary" with her assistant, which documented her experiences filming her first movie. Although these books may have been geared more towards her younger fans at the time, it was another form of artistic development for Britney. Branching out into writing books also proved to be successful - her first two books were best-sellers on the New York Times list, which made Spears eligible to be considered a best-selling author, respectively.

Business Development
From mid-2002 onward, Britney began to expand her career into other fields such as producing. She wrote the book "Stages" with Sheryl Berk, which focused on her life while touring in 2002. She started work on producing the movie "Trading Paint" as well as an untitled romantic comedy, although plans for this were eventually canceled. She also started her production company, Britney Spears Productions, with her manager Larry Rudolph and "Crossroads" director. She also co-operated the companies Britney Brands, BritneyFilms, Britney Online, Britney Touring, Fairy Zone Productions, One More Time Music and Britney Television with her manager to manage the different aspects of her career. [] Britney uses these production companies for all aspects of here career, ranging from her concerts to her tour merchandise and fragrances, proving that she also was becoming a successful business woman in her own right.

Artistic Achievements: Authored three books, started and co-manages multiple production companies, planned work on developing two movies, co-wrote fourth book about her life while on tour.

"In The Zone" Era: More Writing, Production, and Artistic Involvement
In October 2002, after her "Dream Within A Dream" tour ended, Britney began recording her fourth album. Britney wanted this album to be different from her previous albums - she wanted it to have a much more mature sound and to do more writing. The result was "In The Zone", which is actually a term Britney and her manager used to describe her being focused (this was confirmed in Britney's first book). The meaning of the album was very fitting - Spears co-wrote 8 of the albums 12 tracks and one of the two bonus tracks found on the import versions. At the time, Britney also stated that she did not want to write lyrics that were dark or that were related with her personal life due to wanting to keep this private. Some people might think that in order to write an artistic song, it must have a dark or depressing theme, but the club-orientated sound of the songs was the main focus of the lyrics, which made Britney's writing work very well with the songs.

The album was also Britney's first album that completely separated her from her teen pop past and was adult pop. Both lyrically and musically, the album showed artistic growth - from Britney's writing, to the subject matter (which ranged from sex, to relations with married men, to masturbation, to heartbreak - more adult themes that Britney's previous music hadn't discussed). The songs were also more diverse than any of Britney's previous albums - it ranged from synth-pop ("Me Against The Music"), southern hip-hop ("I Got That (Boom Boom)"), eurotrance ("Breathe On Me"), trip-hop ("Early Mornin'"), Bollywood and electro-pop ("Toxic"), east-coast hip-hop ("Outrageous"), and reggae ("The Hook Up"), among other genres. The album also was Spears' first to have guest artists. Britney contacted both Madonna (appears on "Me Against The Music") and rappers the Ying Yang Twins ("I Got That (Boom Boom)") herself without input from her label to do collaborate with her. For the first time, Britney also co-produced some of her own material ("Me Against The Music" and "The Hook Up"). One particular artistic achievement was "Everytime", a piano ballad Spears wrote with one of her back up vocalists from her previous tour. Britney came up with the entire piano melody for the song herself, despite not given credit in the album credits for this. She played the piano melody to Guy Sigsworth, who then produced the song. Britney also took further control of the songs by now allowing her label to choose any of the singles this time around - even though she picked most of her singles in the past, she never had complete control over this. Rather than pleasing her record label by releasing "Outrageous" or "(I Got That) Boom Boom" as the first, second, or third singles from the album, Britney opted to choose songs that were still mainstream friendly, but more eclectic and mature than what she had previously released. Britney then created the concepts for the "Toxic" music video as well as the "Everytime" music video, although she revised her original concept of suicide to instead be about reincarnation.

Britney also again executive produced some of her TV specials, including the documentary and performance special "Britney Spears: In The Zone", [ ] which aired on ABC in November 2003, and the TV movie "Brave New Girl", which she not only executive produced but also co-wrote and cast the main character (the movie was based off a book she had co-written in 2002; she also named the movie after one of the songs on her album) []. Britney also came up with the name of her 2004 tour, "The Onyx Hotel Tour", as well as helping to design the sets and create the show's themes and costumes. When the concert aired on Showtime, she executive produced the special and was also revealed to be one of the show's two writers/creators (she also wrote the spoken parts of the tour, which can also be read in the "Onyx Hotel" tour book) [] .

Artistic Achievements: Co-wrote nearly entire fourth album, co-produced some of her songs, went against record label to release singles she chose, chose and asked guest artists to collaborate with her, developed concepts to music videos, executive produced three TV specials ("In The Zone" ABC Special, "Brave New Girl" TV Movie - also casted and co-wrote, "Britney Spears: Live in Miami" - also created/co-wrote). Also won her first Grammy for "Toxic" (for 'Best Dance Recording').

Late 2004 - 2005: Complete Artistic Control, Co-Directing, More Executive Producing
In summer 2004, Britney (along with Elizabeth Arden) helped to design the fragrance to her first perfume, "Curious", rather than allowing Elizabeth Arden to do it and just use Britney's name to promote it - "Elizabeth Arden worked directly with Britney Spears to develop the bottle and packaging for Curious by Britney Spears, according to Tamara Steele, vice president of fragrance at Elizabeth Arden. Spears wanted a look that was "young and fresh," Steele said." Britney also designed the bottle based on "antique perfume bottles with atomizers". [] She also helped to create the scents and packaging for her follow-up fragrances "Fantasy", "In Control Curious", "Midnight Fantasy," "Believe", and "Hidden Fantasy". A little known fact about her fragrances is she also came up with the titles to all of them and also created their tag lines (she also wrote the spoken pod casts on the web site for "Fantasy" and wrote the multiple tag lines for "Believe" that come with the album's packaging by herself, something that could have been done by the staff members at Elizabeth Arden instead, showing that Britney has involvement in everything in her career - even little things such as this that go completely unnoticed, she wants to come directly from her rather than having corporate people do it for her). After this, she released her first Greatest Hits album, which she named after the album's first single. The single, "My Prerogative", was a cover of a Bobby Brown song - however, Britney solely wrote additional lyrics to the beginning of the song, as well as changing lyrics throughout the song to be from her own (and a female's) perspective. She then wrote the theme song to her sister's TV show "Zoey 101", as well as one of the other new songs released on her Greatest Hits album.

After her marriage, Britney fired her manager Larry Rudolph for interfering with her personal life and career in ways she did not approve of. She quickly hired a new manager (who was in contact with Larry's management company), but began calling most of the shots in her career on her own. For the first time, Britney was completely free of the restraints of her old manager, which allowed her to experiment with her career and put it into her own hands. The first thing Britney planned to do was release her fifth studio album - in late December, she premiered a new song "Mona Lisa" on an LA radio station. The demo of the song was written primarily by Britney about the media constantly wanting Britney to fail while waiting for another popstar to take her place.

"She was taken under, drowning in her sea
Running like an angel, she was crying, and could not see
And see everyone's watching, as she starts to fall,
They want her to break down, and be a legend of her fall" - Lyrics from "Mona Lisa" (Written by Britney Spears, along with her drummer and keyboard player from her 2004 tour)

This song was from an album Britney started recording demos for in the spring of the same year while she was on tour. The album, titled "The Original Doll" (a reference to her clones that she was the original female popstar of the post-2000 generation) was worked on with the band from her "Onyx Hotel Tour" and was rumored to have a much more organic feel - and if "Mona Lisa" is any indication, much deeper lyrics from Spears. Her record label became very unhappy with Britney after she premiered the song on the radio due to the song and planned album being Britney's own personal project, rather than an album to satisfy market forces. Although the album was scrapped, it showed that Britney wanted to have a more artistic album written by her from her own perspective - a concept that many non-fans would dismiss due to it being from 'Britney Spears'. To date, none of other songs Britney recorded with her band for the album have been released.

Following this, Britney took control of other projects in her career. She completely re-designed her web site from how her record label had designed it and began writing on the 'Stream of Consciousness' section of her site rather than having her managers do it to communicate more directly and be more 'hands-on' with her fans. On one of the postings on her website, she began writing a script to "a musical which makes fun of the whole Hollywood scene, which is appropriately titled "Hollywood". She also stated she would like to direct the musical if it ever materialized (which, to date, it has not).

Although she almost always comes up with the concepts to her videos, she co-directed and choreographed one of her music videos for the first time for the song "Do Somethin'". Despite her label not wanting her to shoot a video for the song, Britney persisted so she could experiment with the directing process and also to give another video to her fans before she took a break from most aspects of her career. On her web site, she wrote "Co-directing this video was like an experimental project for me. I feel like being behind the camera is sometimes more satisfying than being in front of it. Working on this video was my first taste into behind the scenes work which I am excited about doing more of in the near future. When a woman directs, I think it just alters the entire feel of the movie, production or play in such a positive way."

In the spring of 2005, she also executive produced her reality show "Chaotic", which was a behind-the-scenes look into her 2004 "Onyx Hotel Tour" as well as her relationship and marriage with her now ex-husband. Most of the footage was shot by Spears herself on a camcorder - despite how low-budget this might have seemed for someone with Spears' level of fame, it showed how much Britney wanted the show to be from her point of view rather than from her handlers' or managers'. Admittedly, the show may have not been the best idea at the time, but she wanted to make a point for the show to present herself from a more 'real' perspective without the high-budget gloss that the public would expect to see from a pop star. Aside from executive producing the show, she also helped to design the show's DVD artwork.
Before her show premiered, Spears wrote a song about having a child two weeks prior to her knowing she was pregnant. The song and its music video, titled "Someday (I Will Understand)", premiered on the show's finale. The song was solely written by Britney and she was also credited as playing the piano in the song, showing more evidence of Britney's growth as an artist. In addition this, a few more songs were registered to ASCAP with Britney as a writer.

"Nothing seems to be the way, that it used to
Everything seems shallow, God give me truth, In me..."
"Don't you run too fast my dear, why don't you stop?
Stop and listen to your tears, they're all you've got." - Excerpts from "Someday (I Will Understand)", written by Britney Spears

Throughout the remainder of the year, Britney mainly focused on her family and her newborn son Sean Preston. She still persisted at managing her career mostly by herself, ranging from designing her own outfits for award show parties or appearances as well as outfits auctioned for charity. She also again expanded her writing skills with a poem written solely by her on her official web site. Things like this, often ridiculed or disregarded by most people, showed that Britney actually can write exceptionally well on her own. Even if the subject matter isn't what normally will be considered 'deep', what she wrote in this poem had meaning to her and was about the problems between her and her husband at the time.

"Remembrance of Who I Am"
No more chains, that you gave me.
Enough of pain, now I'm craving
Something sweet, so delight
How do you stand sleeping at night?

Silly patterns that we follow
You pull me in, I'm being swallowed -
By the ones you think you love
They pull you down, you can't see up above.

Manipulation is the key
They screw it in, because you're naive.

You come to me now, why do you bother?
Remember the Bible, the sins of the Father.
What you do, you pass down
No wonder why, I lost my crown.

You don't see me now, you ask yourself why
My crown is back, and it's way too high
For you to be in my presence, especially my son
You should bow down - I've only just begun.

The guilt you fed me, made me weak.
The voodoo you did, I couldn't speak.
You're awakening, the phone is ringing.
Resurrection of my soul, the fear I'm bringing.

What will you say, and what will you do?
She's not the same person that you're used to.
You trick me one, twice, now it's three.
Look who's smiling now - Damn, it's good to be me! - Written by Britney Spears (May 2006)

Artistic Achievements: Designed scents to fragrances (also titled fragrances and developed their tag lines), had additional lyrics to a cover of "My Prerogative" from her own perspective, titled greatest hits album, co-directed and choreographed video, took control of her web site from record label (redesigned and updated it herself), recorded and wrote more 'deep', stripped down album without record label's approval, executive produced and shot/directed scenes herself for reality show, released single solely written by herself (with instrumentation played by herself).

2006 - 2007: Working on Fifth studio album, Britney's Artistic Visions
In early 2006, she began working on her fifth album, scrapping the material she wrote and recorded throughout the previous year. Early songs made available through her official web site were "For My Sister", an acoustic ballad she wrote about watching her sister grow up, and "Rebellion", a hip-hop vibed song showcasing her stronger lower register. Britney also spent many sessions writing and recording with producers such as Jonathan 'J.R.' Rotem, Danja and Kara DioGaurdi throughout the summer.

"Be wary of others, the ones closest to you
The poison they feed you, and the voodoo that they do
But in rebellion, there's a sparkle of truth,
Don't just stand there, do what you got to do" - Lyrics from "Rebellion". Written by Spears, this song provided insight (from Britney's perspective) of Britney rebelling against what she was told to do by her managers and also from people close to her taking advantage of her.

After her divorce in late October 2006, Britney again began heavily recording for her next album. By this time, the music industry had changed - more than ever, demos were submitted to an artists label that only needed to be sung over by the artist. The same applied to Britney for the songs that actually made the album, however, her producers commented that she had a good amount of creative input on her songs despite not having co-writes on all of them for her fifth album. The album, titled "Blackout", featured only three co-writes from Spears, but one notable fact is she co-wrote an entire eight-verse 'rap' for the song "Everybody" but she did not receive credit on paper for this at all (this was confirmed by Jonathan 'J.R.' Rotem, the song's producer, during an interview with Ryan Seacrest). This gives speculation that Britney was more heavily involved with the writing process for this album than what was reported by the media at the time.

"Taking in every little thing I see
Triple tie dancing with the tab complete,
Little boys dancing Cause they feeling me,
Sweating cold, fretting, it's the place to be,
Come and sit with me, come and sit with me,
Sit back, you'll see it so beautifully,
Loving everybody, baby, is all you need -
Let go of the way things used to be..." - The lyrics that Britney wrote in "Everybody", showing that Spears excels at writing pop music when given the chance, even for club-orientated songs

In March 2007, after a brief stint in rehab, Britney managed plans to perform at select venues for a small tour throughout the spring of that year. The tour, known as the 'House of Blues' tour, had a very short setlist and only had six dates. However, Britney had actually created the "choreography and conceptualization" of the entire tour herself, showing that she wanted to have more control over her performances. [] The choreography from the tour was not as heavy as the dancing in her previous performances, but this was a good way for Spears to get used to being on stage again after being away from it for a few years.

In summer 2007, Britney shot the music video for her fifth album's first single "Gimme More". Although the released version only shows two scenes, many other scenes were shot with a very dark concept that Britney felt represented her at the time. The video's original concept was for the darker-haired brunette Britney to attend a funeral for the blonde haired Britney, which she wanted to represent as the death of her former self and image, and to reintroduce herself in a new way. One of the unreleased scenes also featured brunette Britney beating blonde Britney, who's tied to a chair, which is also meant to be representative of her killing off the image of her former self. Due to Spears' public rebellion and breakdown at the time, this concept very much fit her current situation and had a lot of significance to how the public viewed Britney based on what her former image had been. This concept was developed entirely by Britney herself - one of the set's cast members stated "Not many people know how long this music video has been in pre-production. The entire concept behind the music video, which I cannot talk about was entirely Britney's idea, and this is the first time that she has been involved in it as early as the story board process, all the way to the production design and the casting as well. The only thing I can say is that this video is about "rebirth". She also did all the choreography for it." [] The original video was not released due to problems with some of the scenes, however, this version of the video shows how involved Britney is in her career, even through the darkest times of her own personal life.

From August to October 2007, a CD of demos recorded for the "Blackout" album were leaked from a stolen demo CD. Writing credits from ASCAP revealed that Britney was in fact the writer of most of these leaked songs. Most notable of the songs were the ballads "Baby Boy" (registered as "Untitled Lullabye"), written with one co-writer about her failed relationship with her former husband, and "To Love, Let Go", produced by John Legend-collaborator Devo Springsteen. These songs not only had much stronger and deeper vocals than what the public is used to hearing from Spears, but lyrically they also showed her at her most vulnerable, being recorded in spring and summer 2007 during Britney's public breakdown with Britney as the song's primary writer. These two songs show that Britney has a much stronger voice (and can write songs with more meaning and variety) than what appears on her albums. In October 2007, the "Blackout" album was released, with Britney serving as the album's executive producer.

"The feeling of going down way too deep
Holding on so you won't lose your feet,
Sometimes you just gotta trust, you gotta take that leap, and let go"...
"These tears are overflowing, and never knowing why
All these years we've been hurting, we have to look inside
And try to let go" .... "To love, you gotta let go
If you really wanna love...you gotta let go." -Lyrics from "To Love, Let Go", written by Britney Spears, Devo Springsteen and Tom Craskey []

Throughout the end of 2007 and early 2008, Spears continued to publicly unravel and experience a breakdown for all the world to witness. More than any other celebrity, she had been exposed as a 'real' person rather than what is commonly viewed as a 'celebrity' in the public's eyes - something that, until now, only her fans had truly thought about her, despite her always being more 'real' and true to herself than the average star.
Spears also planned to re-release her "Blackout" album, with the plans for the album being managed by her, but this was canceled. She also planned to direct the video for her song "Radar", but she decided not to do this to release her sixth album a few months later instead.

Artistic Achievements: Began writing songs more personal to her with more meaningful lyrics (weren't used on album), co-wrote some of her "Blackout" album's material (as well as many of the unreleased songs from the album), executive producer for "Blackout" album, choreographed 'House of Blues' tour, created entire concept and involved in production process for original "Gimme More" music video (unreleased by record label), planned to direct video for "Radar" herself (canceled to release new album).

2008 - 2009: "Circus" Album and Return to Form
Throughout the remainder of 2008, Britney recorded her sixth studio album "Circus". She chose the album's first single, "Womanizer", and also came up with the video's entire concept. She also came up with the video concept to the album's second single "Circus" and again went against both her record label and management's decisions to release the song "If U Seek Amy" as the third single - she has also created the video treatment for this song. She also became more involved with the processes of remixes - she picked out all of the mixes that would be used for "Womanizer"'s CD single release rather than allowing her record label to do it (confirmed on her label's official site). Despite the album only having four co-writes from Britney, collaborators such as Nicole Morier said they wrote "nine to 10" songs with Britney that didn't make the final cut, which shows that the songs Britney has the most creative input on often are not mainstream enough to make her own albums. As of right now, Britney is being somewhat sidetracked and held back artistically due to her current personal and legal situations, as well as by recording a 'comeback' album in order to reclaim her status as the world's most infamous and sought-after popstar. Hopefully, Britney will show her full potential with her next album and will reveal a side of Britney that the public has never seen that her fans have always known existed.
Artistic Achievements: Co-wrote material on "Circus", chose all singles and developed concept for all videos from the album, involved in selecting remixes.

"Because my music - especially my live stuff - is very showy, a lot of people don't respect it as art.' 'Because I'm young, soft-spoken and nice to people, they go ahead and assume things.' 'But everything I have ever done - even my movie - I helped to write. I'm the complete opposite to a puppet.'" - Britney Spears []