The rebirth of Britney Spears

Gobbled up by her fame, rested in rehab. Has the hottest property in US pop got her life back on track?

Ever since she flounced on to television screens 10 years ago aged 16, pouting and twirling her schoolgirl's uniform, doomsayers have predicted the self-destruction of Britney Spears.

And it came to pass – or so it seemed. After 83 million record sales, two marriages, two divorces, two children, a lost custody battle, repeated psychiatric evaluations, tens of thousands of paparazzi, a nude magazine cover and the most globalised of breakdowns, the singer seemed finished, professionally – if not as meat for the snappers' lenses – come February 2008.

When her husband won custody of their children, Spears did not sleep for four days and was sectioned at the prestigious Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre. She was reported to be suffering from bipolar disorder, manic depression.

Sunday night, though, brought a return to what passes for comparative normality. Spears won three statuettes at the MTV Video Music Awards in an evening hailed as the "resurrection" of her pop career.

Early days: her first appearance since the sectioning amounted to little more than sporting a beauty pageant smile and reading cue cards too fast. There was no dancing or singing. Nevertheless: progress since her slurring lip-synching – barely worthy of the name, it was so unco-ordinated – a year ago at the same event. The 26-year-old singer thanked God, her children, and her record label for her apparent recovery.

Britney epitomises "celebrity": loving the attention, loathing the intrusion; helpless to stop it eventually turning and devouring.

The rise of Spears from small-town girl to global icon demonstrated the endless possibilities of the American Dream. Her fall from grace exposed its dark underside. There was no little public relief, then, at a Britney appearance free from intoxication – indeed, there was celebration amongst the camera clickers and shysters of the notorious "Britney Industry", which was valued at $150m a year to the Los Angeles economy, before it went into recession as picture agencies moved their photographers onto new projects. Guilt trip over.

After taking part in a comic sketch that kicked-off the headline-prone event, Spears returned to the MTV stage three times as "Piece of Me", a dance song about the incessant media scrutiny and sensationalism of her life, won the Best Video, Best Pop Video and Best Female Video gongs.

The MTV awards carry none of the prestige of rival events such as the Grammys or Ivor Novellos, but they are seen as a crucial barometer of American celebrity. By simply turning up, smiling sweetly, and not making a fool of herself, Spears earned a standing ovation. She appeared to be sober and in rude physical health – noted by the host, the British comedian Russell Brand.

She had previously been nominated for a "moonman" statue 16 times, but until Sunday evening's event had not won one. In unscripted victory speeches she announced herself "in shock right now" at the sudden adulation. Spears thanked "God first and foremost for just blessing me like this", her record label boss, Barry Wise, and manager, Larry Rudolf, "for always believing in me", and her "amazing fans out there for all of their support". She added: "This means a lot. Thank you so much. Thank you for all the love."

Spears offered no further insight into her emotional state, refusing later to talk to reporters. She disappointed fans who expected her to sing. However, her perfunctory appearance was played on near-constant loop by America's rolling television news channels yesterday, as the nation's anchors heralded her return to relative sanity.

Will Spears mind her return to the headlines? Though she has claimed to be scared by the attention, she has gone to extreme lengths to court it. She frequently afforded photographers chances to chronicle her erratic behaviour, which, among other things, included shaving her head with electric clippers and frequently appearing to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In a celebrity version of Stockholm syndrome, she even dated Adnan Ghalib, a British paparazzo who had courted her via text message.

Her recovery was masterminded by her father, James, and her lawyer, Andrew Wallete, under whose conservatorship (legal control) she was placed in February, giving the two men control of her assets. A restraining order was taken out on her former manager, Sam Lutfi.

Since then, she had succeeded in hiding, returning to the studio to start work on a sixth album.

On Sunday night, Brand hailed the "launch of a very new Britney Spears era", telling fans to "consider this the resurrection of Britney Spears" and venturing that "if there was a female Christ, it's Britney". And so the public soap opera resumes.

...but Russell Brand is not so lucky

With a fine disregard for the saccharine conventions of Hollywood, Russell Brand used his first major US gig to set back the cause of Anglo-American relations.

The comedian, who is virtually unknown across the Atlantic, left both his studio audience, and millions of TV viewers stunned, by calling George Bush a "retard" and urging America to elect Barack Obama "on behalf of the world".

"Some people, I think they're called racists, say America is not ready for a black president," he declared. "But I know America to be a forward-thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retard and cowboy fella be president for eight years?

"We were impressed... it was nice of you to let him have a go, because, in England, he wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors."

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'