She’s done the same show for years, her vocals are so-so and even her diehards don’t rate her dancing. Yet her UK tour, which hits the capital this week, is truly one of the biggest events of the year. What is it about Britney Spears that inspires such love and devotion? We hear from three Spears stans…
She’s seeing Britney five times this year, including all the London shows.
‘I’ve been a fan since “…Baby One More Time” came out when I was ten. The Spice Girls were coming to an end so I was looking for somewhere to place all of that obsession for a pop star. I’d just moved schools and remember coming in saying, “Guys, I’ve got the Britney album!” I guess she helped me make friends.
‘Since then, I don’t remember a time when I haven’t cared for Britney strongly. When I watch performances from her heyday, I’m like, “Wow. She was 17 years old and commanding the stage.” As a child, I found it really exciting, but now I can hardly comprehend it. Imagine being 17 and having that kind of power and remaining a really fucking nice person. No one has a bad word to say about Britney. She’s unproblematic to the max.
‘I know some people can be disparaging about her as an artist, but I genuinely think there’s a lot of goodwill towards Britney, too. The conversation around mental health has changed a lot in the last ten years so I think people feel bad about the way we gawped at her when she was going through tough times. Now we can see how hard being Britney Spears must have been. Or at least try to – because none of us knows what it’s like to be that famous.
‘I saw her in Vegas a few years ago and she’s clearly having fun on stage again. She’s not as incredible as she was in her heyday, but she still delivers a great show. And at the end of the day, no one rags on David Beckham because he can’t bend a ball like he used to. Why can’t we extend that goodwill to female pop stars? Britney Spears has earned her iconic status and still feels like a ray of sunshine.’
First saw Britney in 2004. That’s 14 years of solid Britney.
‘I’m not into comics, but Britney’s as close to a superhero as it gets for me. She’s like a god. She’s Godney. Pop stars don’t have that massive, “you-can’t-touch-this” stardom any more – maybe because she came out before social media? Britney uses Instagram now, but she’s kept her mystique because her posts are so off-the-wall. Why does she always use an apple emoji? Who knows – it’s Britney, bitch.
‘I’ve seen her live five times already, including twice in Las Vegas. While I was queuing for my meet-and-greet, security told us we could ask Britney any question we wanted, but under no circumstances whatsoever could we touch her. But before I went in, I panicked and instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Ronan,” I blurted out, “Hi, I’m Irish!” It threw her completely, so when the photographer told us to smile for the photo, I forgot the rules and instinctively put my hand on her waist. I thought I was going to get bundled out but Britney just said “It’s fine, it’s fine”, and we had a nice chat. Everyone later said I’d got the best photo from the whole meet-and-greet.
‘I’m seeing her twice on this tour and can’t wait. Her show is a celebration of who she is and her career. I can’t believe anyone going could be disappointed by it. I think there’s still a fascination around Britney’s troubled period and some people are shocked she made it through. When I saw her perform “Stronger” in Vegas, it made me really emotional because she’s done incredibly well to rebuild her career. Did anyone think ten years ago that she’d be looking and performing as well as she is now? These days I think Britney stands for nostalgia, strength and fun. She’s a human respite from 2018.’
Has paid for his own Britney meet-and-greet this year. No touching, Rhys.
‘I love Britney Spears because she’s unapologetic and doesn’t give a fuck. You go to a Britney show for the massive entertainment value, you don’t go to see her sing. If you want huge vocals, go see Celine Dion.
‘I’m seeing her twice on this tour and saw her three times in Las Vegas. This sounds cringey, but everyone’s there to have a good time. Even the less hardcore fans end up screaming their hearts out because it’s Britney Fucking Spears. That’s her legacy. That’s what defines her show.
‘I think gay men identify with Britney because of what she’s gone through and the fact she’s a bit of an outsider in the pop world now. She’s from a different era. So it’s incredible that she’s come back and proved she’s a force to be reckoned with again. She’s reinvented Las Vegas and brought in a younger crowd. I flew out there to see her for my twenty-first birthday and without Britney there is no way on earth I’d have gone to Vegas. I’ve spent at least £3,500 in Vegas because of Britney – and that’s not including flights. But it was worth it; I have no regrets.
‘I’m more realistic than some Britney fans – like, I don’t think every dance move she does is perfect and I wish she’d get a new costume designer. But when you’re at her show the small stuff doesn’t matter. She’s a living legend who inspires a heck lot of people. It’s just so electrifying watching her.’
Limited tickets are still available to see Britney Spears at the O2 Arena on Aug Fri 24-Sun Aug 26.
Check out more great live music happening this month in Time Out's August gig guide.