Britney is the self-titled third studio album by American recording artist Britney Spears. It was released on October 31, 2001 by Jive Records. Looking to transition from the teen pop styles of her earlier albums ...Baby One More Time (1999) and Oops!... I Did It Again (2000), Spears began to embrace a maturer sound with her next studio effort. Its music incorporates elements of pop with dance-pop and R&B influences and occasionally dips into other genres as well like hip hop and rock; its lyrics address the subjects of reaching adulthood and sexuality. Contributions to its production came from a variety of collaborators, including Max Martin and Rami Yacoub. Spears herself assumed a more prominent role in the album's development, co-writing five of its tracks.
Upon its release, Britney received generally mixed reviews from music critics, who complimented the progression from Spears's earlier works, but criticized her increasingly provocative image. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 745,000 copies. Its success made Spears the first female artist to have her first three albums debut atop the chart, a record she would later break again with her fourth record In the Zone (2003). To promote the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour, which began in November 2001 and continued through July 2002. The album received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.
"This is the first album I have every really written and taken my time on, so when I actually listen to the whole album, it's just that much more special. I don't know if I'm the best songwriter in the world, but I had a lot of fun doing it and hopefully I will get better and grow."
Spears talks about her songwriting experience for Britney
When recording her follow-up record, Spears wanted an "older generation to pick up on it", adding that she "had to change it up and pray people think that's cool". She stated that she chose to self-title the album because the majority of its content describes who she is. Spears recorded twenty-three tracks for the release, several of which she co-wrote with the assistance of Brian Kierulf and Josh Schwartz. She added that personally writing the album and developing its concept made the project "that much more special", elaborating of her intentions to "get better and grow" as a songwriter.
Spears worked with a variety of collaborators, including pop colleagues Martin and her then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. She commented that that she initially felt "awkward" and "nervous" working with Timberlake, saying that she was accustomed to the process being "like work". Spears also worked with hip hop producers Rodney Jerkins and The Neptunes, who made the record "nastier and funkier". She additionally recorded songs with Missy Elliott and Timbaland, but their tracks never made the final track listing due to scheduling conflicts. Britney even planned to have a duet with Madonna although this wouldn't happen until the following year.
Spears's cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", made famous by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, infuses pop rock styles into the original hard rock rendition. "Cinderella" reflects on a girl who left her boyfriend after he failed to appreciate her efforts in the releationship. "Let Me Be" sees Spears ask to be trusted as an adult and be afforded her own opinions. "Bombastic Love" discusses a love where Spears feels that the romance will happen "exactly like in a movie". Similarly, the penultimate track "That's Where You Take Me" details the joy she gets from an emotionally fulfilling relationship, amid Middle Eastern chimes and a collage of electronic beats and drum programming. In some editions, "When I Found You" is the penultimate track. On the track, Britney tells she has found her "deepest love" in her soul mate who is essentially a reflection of herself. The album closes with "What It's Like to Be Me", which was co-written and co-produced by Spears's then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake; Spears sings that a man must "figure [her] out" to "be [her] man".
Staggered to fit the varying release dates of Crossroads internationally, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" was released as the theme song of the film and the third single for Britney in the US. The song charted at number two on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, an extension of the twenty-five songs that failed to make the Hot 100. It was met with more success internationally, peaked at number two in the UK. Spears's cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was released as the fourth European single. Consequentially, the song did not chart in the US, but reached number thirteen on the UK Singles Chart. "Anticipating" was released as the fifth single exclusively in France; it charted there, reaching number thirty-eight on the French Singles Chart. "Boys" served as the final single from the Britney era internationally; it peaked at number twenty-three on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, and reached number seven in the UK.
In November 2001, Spears began her Dream Within a Dream Tour in Columbus, Ohio; it ended in July 2002 in Dallas, Texas. A video released, titled Britney: The Videos, released on November 20, 2001, by Jive Records. Made available less than three weeks after Britney, The Videos included a selection of her earlier music videos, behind-the-scenes footage, commercials, and notable live performances. It peaked at number one on the US Top Music Videos chart on December 8, 2001.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, Britney received an average score of 58, which indicates "mixed or average reviews", based on 13 reviews. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly found Spears's increasingly provocative image to be unnatural, noting "virginal vamping in an awkward adolescence" and "a few tentative new moves".PopMatters ' Nikki Tranton complimented the production of the songs, but questioned if Spears was ready to establish herself as a grown woman in the music industry. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine agreed, writing that although "Britney, [the album], fills her role of guilty pleasure (the disc certainly satiates more than the stunted growth of last year's Oops!...I Did It Again), it's time for Spears to quit being such a cock-tease and cook something up that will satisfy the ever-vacillating hype-machine."
Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave a positive review, feeling that the album "strives to deepen [Spears's] persona" and proves she "will know what to do when the teen-pop phenomenon of 1999-2001 passes for good". Similarly, a reviewer from Billboard commented that the project was "a nicely varied, wholly satisfying collection". Chris Heat of Dotmusic praised Britney for "us[ing] this opportunity to take the odd risk and adds a welcome edge to her sound."NME 's Ted Kessler recognized the release as a "coming of age album" and joked that it "works best when making a good pop cheese and dance sandwich". By contrast, Stephen Thompson of The A.V. Club panned the album, opining that the music "just [isn't] catchy" and that "though neither a girl nor a woman, Spears inspires grown-up anger on her own". Craig Seymore of Spin recognized that she "sound[s] almost human," but criticized that "the rest of the record is as coldly anthemic as ever."
Britney debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 745,000 copies. In doing so, Spears became the first female to have her first three studio albums debut atop that chart. She also held the second-highest debut album sales of 2001, behind Celebrity by 'N Sync with 1.88 million units moved, though maintained the highest debut-week sales among female artists. After fluctuating within the top twenty of the chart in the following weeks, Britney sold 3.3 million copies by 2002.
*sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone
^ As of May 2012, the album has sold 4,400,000 copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan, with additional 588,000 sold at BMG Music Clubs.Nielsen SoundScan does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music Service, which were significantly popular in the 1990s.